Few authors alive or dead speak to me the way J.R. Miller does. In his book Self-Control, now long out of print, he has his readers imagine life without Christ. It’s a passage worth reading and worth reflecting on.
The relation between Christ and his friends is closer than any human relation. No one can say to any friend, “Without me you can do nothing.” The mother cannot say it to her child. It is a sore loss when the mother of a baby is taken away—but how sore a loss no words can explain. Even God cannot twice give a mother. No other one, however loving and tender in spirit, however gentle in care, however wise in guiding and helping the young life—can be to it all that its own mother could have been. Yet even the best and holiest mother cannot say to her child, “Without me you can do nothing.” The child, though so bereft, lives and may live nobly without a mother.
There are other earthly friendships that become so much to those to whom they are given that they seem to be indispensable. The trusting, clinging wife may say to her husband, who is being taken away from her: “I cannot live without you. If you leave me, I will die. I cannot face the cold winds—without your shelter. I cannot go on with the tasks, the cares, the struggles, the responsibilities, the sorrows of life—without your comradeship, your love, your cheer, your strong support, your brave confidence and wise guidance.” So it seems to her as she stands amid the wrecks of her hopes. But when he is gone—the strong man on whom she has leaned so confidingly, she takes up the duties of life, its cares, its trying experiences, its tasks, its battles—and goes on for long years with splendid faithfulness and great bravery. …
So we learn that no human life however close it has been is ever actually indispensable to another life. To no one, no human friend, can we say, “I cannot live without you.” The taking away of the human, reveals God.
But note what Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” As the vine is essential to the life of the branch, so is Christ essential to us. We cannot meet any of the serious experiences of life, without Christ. A wonderful change came upon the disciples as they lived with Christ, heard his teaching, let his influence into their lives. They were transformed. They never could have done anything without Christ.
Do without Christ! You do not know what Christ has been to you, even when you were not aware that he was your Friend. You think he has not been doing anything for you, when, in fact, he has been crowning you with loving kindness and tender mercies all your days. If we were to lose Christ today out of our life, if his name were utterly blotted out, his friendship and help taken utterly from our life—what a dark, sad world this would be for us! Think of going out tomorrow to your duty, struggle, danger, responsibility, without Christ, unable to find him in your need. Think of not having Christ in your day of sorrow! Think of dying without Christ!
But we do not have to do without Christ. Only by our own rejection, can we cut ourselves off from him.