Dying to Live

April 4, 2023  - By Gretchen Saffles

Dying to Live - an article from Well-Watered Women

[This article is an excerpt from chapter 4 of The Well-Watered Woman. This Thursday, April 6, marks two years since the launch of the book, and to celebrate God's faithfulness, all things The Well-Watered Woman are on sale this week! Shop the Book Anniversary Collection in the Well-Watered Co.] 


I’ve always tried to look polished and put together, as if I have things under control. But if you were to peel back the layers, you’d see a different story. Even though I was a follower of Christ, I trudged through deep insecurities, fearing I would never be enough. I sought to make a name for myself by accomplishing more and being the best at what I set out to do. But it wasn’t long before I realized that trying so hard in life only left me weary, exhausted, and unfulfilled.

I know what it’s like to chase after what the world defines as the “good life” and come up with nothing. And I know what it’s like to chase after Jesus and discover that he truly is everything. The Christian life is about both dying and living. It’s about receiving the gospel and preaching it to ourselves and others over and over again. Lilias Trotter, a nineteenth-century missionary to Algeria, wisely said, “Death becomes a beginning instead of an ending, for it becomes the means of liberating a fresh life.”1

A Chance to Die

We are dying to live—dying to grow, dying to flourish, dying to embrace joy and experience true pleasure. We ache to grasp what truly matters and live fully. But we often misunderstand what the good life really is and end up wasting our time, energy, and resources on what’s fleeting. In reality, however, it’s only when we surrender all to God that we can live fully and experience life that will last forever. The secret to abundance is this: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Following Jesus leads to our own crucifixion—the death of our sinful nature—but it doesn’t end there. This is just the beginning. Amy Carmichael, a missionary to southern India, is said to have described dying to live like this: “I saw that the chance to die, to be crucified with Christ, was not a morbid thing, but the very gateway to Life.”2 In my own life, I’ve experienced the true joy that comes from laying aside my personal preferences to place others before myself. Viewing motherhood, ministry, marriage, and the ordinary events of life as a “chance to die” transforms moments of drudgery into moments of delight. God didn’t create us to serve ourselves but to serve him through serving others. Jesus shows us through his own actions that death is the way to life in him.

The Path to Life

God often displays his eternal truths through his creation, and one of these truths is that death leads to life. Outside my window, crimson leaves drift slowly from their branches to the ground below. These colorful leaves, dancing in the crisp breeze, are dying the most beautiful death as they surrender to the rhythms of nature. As winter approaches, the trees become bare and the ground yields no produce. But we wait with hope in winter, knowing spring will come again and new life will bud on these barren branches. The old life has to pass away before the new life can begin.

The cycle of life and death in nature reveals the secret to flourishing: it’s through death that we embrace true life. Death is not a delay; it’s the path to life. Though the physical eye can’t see what’s happening beneath the surface, new life is budding.

But what does this really mean on a practical level? Why would we lay down our rights instead of fighting for what we deserve? Why would we choose to give up what the world says will make us happy to heed the call of being happy in Christ? As countercultural as this idea is, it’s the secret to the Christian life—to life that is abundant, fruitful, and free. Those who gladly take up their cross, deny their sin nature, and follow Jesus are the ones who truly live. And this happens in even the most ordinary, mundane moments of life.

Dying to Self

When you stand in line at the grocery store only to have someone cut in front of you at the last moment—die to yourself. Take a deep breath, surrender your time to Christ, and pray for the person who is now in front of you.

When you look in the mirror with disdain and want to bask in self-pity—die to yourself. By God’s grace, remember that though the outward self is wasting away, the inner self is being renewed day by day (see 2 Cor. 4:16). Outward appearance is not what’s most important; it’s our hearts that reflect true beauty (see 1 Pet. 3:3–4).

When your children are up in the middle of the night and won’t go to sleep—die to yourself. Love them like Christ loves you (see John 13:34). He never sleeps, and he’s there to listen to your anxieties and calm your soul (see Ps. 121:3–4).

When your husband doesn’t hang up his clothes, leaving them in a crumpled heap on the floor again—die to yourself. Surrender your grumbling to God, knowing that Christ cleaned up the mess of your sin by shedding his blood (see Phil. 2:14).

When your dreams are crushed and your life looks dismal—die to yourself. Hand the broken pieces of your heart to the one who can mend it and create beauty from brokenness. Even when a dream seems to be crushed, God may be raising up something better for his glory, whether or not it looks like what you expected.

Living for God’s Glory

Dying to yourself doesn’t mean missing out on true life; it means embracing life as it was always meant to be—worshiping God, serving others, and living for his glory. Dying to yourself isn’t the loss of who you are as a person; it’s discovering who you were meant to be—a servant, a sacrifice, and a recipient of God’s grace. 

The life of the well-watered woman is one of dying to live. Dying to self, sin, and shame; living in Christ. Dying to fear, worry, and selfish ambition; living in peace, joy, and purpose. Dying to this world; living for eternity. The gospel song can be heard loudest in the mess and the mundane, in the dirt of daily life. God wastes nothing.

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  1. Lilias Trotter, Parables of the Cross (The Project Gutenberg: 2007), e-book.
  2. Elisabeth Elliot, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael (Ada, MI: Revell, 1987), 15.

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