It’s easy to look at God and ask Him why He won’t just take all of the difficulty away. It’s easy to see things as being uselessly confusing and pointlessly circular when nothing seems to make sense. You know the truth. You know what to hold onto. But you also know that you’re dead center in a tornado with winds trying to tear you away.
But then God’s way with His children is almost never to just take things away. Can He do that? You bet. But His desire is for our growth, for our testing by fire, for our strengthening in Him, for our courage, for our completeness by Him, and these things never come by walking through the park. Often, they come through spending a long time in a valley of fire.
Satan keeps plugging in the lie of “you have to work to keep His love” and “if you’re not doing this, this, and this, then He’s not pleased with you and no longer loves you; He’ll take away His protection of you and will punish you harshly.” And honestly, this lie has been the hardest to fight as of late because a certain amount of pride has sneaked into my heart and planted itself in there in the form of planning, talking to people, and several other things.
And I of course wonder when on earth I’m going to get it.
If maintaining my salvation were up to me, I would still be going to hell, and Christ’s final work on the cross and His resurrection would’ve been all for naught. If my salvation were in any way based on what I could do to please God, if my living in Him had anything to do with what checklist I could complete in order to keep myself in line, then I’d fail and fail eternally and completely. And I’ll never, ever, be in a position where this is untrue. I have always fallen short of pleasing God by what I do, and I will continue to constantly fall short of being perfect in my behavior if that’s what I’m focusing on. When Christ redeemed me, when He extended His grace to me, He didn’t say “I’m being gracious to you, but…” nor did He say, “believe in Me and do all of these things and then I might accept you.” He asked me to come to Him. He asked me to just give Him everything: my doubts, my desires, my fears, my temptations, my uncertainties, my unforgiveness, my bitterness, my misunderstanding, my dreams, and my nightmares. He asked me to trust Him with everything, fall into Him, and understand that He is.
“And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (15:8-10)
I can’t fulfill the Law. No one ever could. The purpose of the Law was to show that man can’t please God through the Law. Period. I will never, ever be good enough. I’ll never study enough, never work hard enough, never be kind enough, never say ‘thank you’ enough to be able to win or earn God’s forgiveness, favor, and love. That’s why Christ’s work was so absolutely necessary for me to be saved, because I was completely incapable of saving myself.
So why on earth am I still trying to be good enough? I mean, I’ve been set free! I’ve been brought out of one heck of a pit to live in the light of what Christ has done. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose…” (Ephesians 1:7-9a). What in the world am I doing? Christ’s work was final, unconditional, perfect, and complete. I don’t have to keep doing things to make sure I’m all right. I have been saved. Period. Done. Over with. And the finality of this salvation extends to His forgiveness of my sins past, present, and future. And now I get to walk through the rest of my life in His victory over death, over sin, over Satan.
I think my unfamiliarity with the difficulties of ministry, the newness of being responsible for other believers and having concern and a heavy desire and burden for their growth has gone right to my head, and here I’m wondering like a doofus why on earth it’s so difficult to fight off the attacks of the enemy. “Gone right to my head” meaning that if I fail, if my classmates don’t come to Christ, if all we ever do is discuss the Bible and none of them ever trust it, if they happily remain in the in-between of knowing the Gospel and somehow walk away from it unchanged, which makes my heart ache, then I am unworthy to fall before Christ in broken submission and great desire to love and know Him and be more like Him.
I’ve been wondering how on earth God would prepare me to minister to women, or how to minister to anyone, honestly, how I’d ever be able to write Bible studies, how on earth I would ever really know how to love people.
Well, I should know by now that He answers prayer, and that when I ask Him to prepare me for whatever He has called me to do, then He’s going to do it. So of course this means going through a very long period of running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to do things on my own and hoping though not truly believing I’d be enough and that I’m totally clever and eloquent enough to bring people to Him and love my brothers and sisters in Christ and all that that entails. And then, when I’m done being a complete stooge-face and I realize that I’m depending on my own abilities instead of on the One I’m living for in the first place, things become much easier 🙂 Well, not easier as you’re thinking of it: life is not suddenly sunshine and rainbows and all the happiness in the world is now mine to wield. But things are much less circular, and life is forward momentum in Christ, never to plateau or climax until the day I die.
I mean, He’s the One who saved me, He’s the One who died for me, He’s the One who heals me, has healed me, continues to heal me, He’s the One who made me complete, and He’s the One who knows me inside and out, my past, present, and future, my desires and my doubts, everything. He’s the One who asked me to trust Him. He’s the One who told me I could lean on Him and cast all my cares on Him, because He cares for me. He made every single one of these decisions concerning me without my help. Why don’t I just stop, cooperate, and let Him do what He wants? Is my own pride and stubbornness really that important? I think not.
Watchman Nee, in his book Sit, Walk, Stand, says “For Christianity begins not with a big DO, but with a big DONE. Thus Ephesians opens with the statement that God has ‘blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ’ (1:3) and we are invited (emphasis mine) at the very outset to sit down and enjoy what God has done for us; not to set out to try and attain it for ourselves.”
Sometimes it’s really easy to see something that needs to be done, a heart that needs to be healed, a challenge that needs to be faced and say to God, “I really appreciate what You did for me back in the day, but I got this now.” And it’s like, what? What makes me think I’m anymore capable of handling things now that I really couldn’t even begin to handle then?
Well, I’m older. Yeah, so I’ve learned how to make mistakes with much more grace and should know by now that Christ’s life will light my way, if I’d just get out of the way and stop trying to do things by myself. Yes, of course I’m growing up, but God and His word transcend time and phases in life and levels of responsibility. God is too infinitely creative and too divinely clever to write me a Love Letter that exists only as a bound copy of pretty words.
No. The Bible, the book of His very word made to provide me with everything I need to follow Him, everything I need for life, is, yes, a Love Letter, but it’s also a Sword, a Book of Prayer, a Masterpiece, Living, an Introduction to Someone I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to understand, and with whom I’ll be in a relationship that never bores, never grows old, never lacks something new to bring me back to Him and to bring about some new understanding of His character, some new love for Him, some new admiration of who He is.
God is God, and I am not. He is enough for me, but I am not enough for everyone else. The future is not mine to behold, and the present not mine to control. I don’t have to worry about these things, about planning out my life and understanding everything. It’s up to Him. This is a relief to me! Because I remember when I would obsessively try to plan every single facet of the future and have a complete meltdown when things wouldn’t go my way. But when I finally got it that it was God’s life and not mine, that when I let go of what I wanted and made Him my desire, then I could stop trying to plan everything and just trust that He knows what He’s doing. Just because I’m now in several situations where thinking about the future is necessary, I still need to remember that God’s in control of the future and I am not. I can plan all I want, but ultimately, He’s the one whose plan I’m going to follow, and I want to be ready to follow it. I don’t want to be bogged down by everything I want to happen and totally miss out on what He wants for me.
I guess that’s why He made us for living day by day 🙂
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”