Yesterday I saw an article in BBC news reported that Adolf Merckle, a 74 year-old German billionaire, took his own life after losing over 600 million dollars last year alone. It seems that he lost everything he held dear: power, prestige, influence, the high regard of peers, etc. In losing everything, he despaired to the point that his own death seemed like the best option. With the US losing over half million jobs last month alone (raising the unemployment rate to a staggering 7.2%) I've been wondering a lot about the meaning of loss.
This brings me to the paradox found in Jesus' teachings when he says: "Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life will gain it." This phrase occurs 4 times in the synoptic gospels and once in John. It seems to be central to Jesus' teaching. It should be said that he is not talking about martyrdom, or death as a consequence of a noble war. He is instead talking about the death of the self and the loss of all that one holds dear. This is explicitly found in the parable of the seed of grain when Jesus says, "unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."
One must beg the question, how is life to be found by losing it?
In losing our power, prestige, influence, celebrity, etc. we lose everything that has meaning to us. We lose all the devices that we've constructed as substitutes for God so that all we have left is God. As St. Paul said, "Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (II Cor. 1:9)"
When we have nothing left to hold on to, we find God. This is not some God of fanciful dreams, but rather is a God who himself lost everything for our sake. Death and loss is not a sinking into nothingness, but God is one who meets us in our death.