So I saw myself headed down the wrong path in my heart and immediately put a stop to it, right? I wish. But not this time. Instead of humbling myself and clinging to the cross as my awareness of my weakness increased, my fleshly response was to avoid the Lord instead of running to him. I stopped praying. I didn’t read the Word. My heart resisted every word of encouragement that I heard taught from the pulpit. I was broken inside under the constant barrage of condemnation that was streaming through my mind. My thoughts went something like this: You’re still going to be battling the same sins 20 years from now. You’ll never overcome that sin. You will be a stumbling block to Emery believing in the truth of the Word because she will see your hypocrisy as you don’t live up to what you teach. You want to accomplish great things for the kingdom of God, but you aren’t going to because He doesn’t use broken, messy people like you. Look at so-and-so. They have it together. He will use them. But not you. Because, look at you… I was getting crippled by fear and condemnation. I was believing lies. I was believing them so hard that I didn’t even realize they were lies! Then, as I felt weighed down with my own guilt, doubts, and fears, I began turning that condemnation on others.
My thoughts and attitudes towards my interactions with those closest to me turned harsh, and I began assuming the worst about their motives. Not only was I doubting God’s ability to sanctify and grow me, then I was doubting his work in them as well. This was the tool that the Lord used to reveal what was going on in my heart as I began to realize that edifying relationships were being hindered by my lack of grace. It was easier for me to realize that I was condemning others before I was capable of acknowledging that this was coming from a heart flooded with self-condemnation. As Patrick noticed what was happening, he gently reminded me that a lack of granting love and grace to others is symptomatic of a heart that isn’t walking in Christ’s love and grace itself. My heart needed to be renewed by truth.
After weeks of battling, I finally came to my knees and acknowledged my desperate need for the Lord to lead me and humble my heart. Through the advent devotional I had committed to reading each day at the beginning of December, He brought me the exact truth I needed to hear. John Piper said, “The key that unlocks the treasure chest of God’s peace is faith in the promises of God. So Paul prays, ‘May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing’ (Romans 15:13).” There was peace and joy for me to be found in the promises of God. In case you ever find yourself struggling through similar issues I thought I’d share with you some of the promises of scriptures that took my eyes off of myself and onto sweet hope.
“For it is God who works in you, both to will and work for his good pleasure,” (Philippians 2:13).
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life,” (Romans 6:22).
“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory, O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain,” (1 Corinthians 15:54-58).
God IS working in us, even if He isn’t doing it on our timetable. He promises that He is sanctifying us and that our striving is not in vain. Our battles with sin will not go away until we are in Heaven with Christ, but until that day comes we can hold on to the hope that someday we will indeed be made perfect and live eternally in the presence of our holy, perfect God. Until then, we can entrust ourselves to the Lord and accept his abundant grace over our lives as we fail, and likely fail often. The gospel is made all the more amazing when we are able to look at ourselves, acknowledge our brokenness, and allow it to push us closer to Jesus.
Having walked through that spiritual trial (and knowing that I’ll likely have to walk through it again), I am left overwhelmed and grateful that I am not saved because of my works. I am thankful that God has prepared good works for me to do, but that when I accomplish them it will be through dependence on Him, 100% because of grace, instead of because of my own merits or abilities. Left to my own devices I am just a downright messy, broken individual. But there is healing and hope in the arms of my Savior.
“Come Thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace.”