A thousand times I've failed, still your mercy remains...
God answers the mess of life with one word: “grace.”
– Max Lucado
I am a Christian – by no means am I a perfect one (and I highly doubt that there is such a thing as a perfect Christian!) – but I do strive to be a Christ-follower and to live for Jesus with all I have. I grew up in a Christian home and I made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour at a very young age – I think I was about five years old when my mother lead me to Christ – and from that day to this, I wish I could tell you that everything in my life and Christian walk with God has been perfect, but if I told you that, I would be lying to you…BIG TIME!!!
The truth of the matter is that my walk with God has had more than it’s fair share of trials, tests and tensions. There have been prolonged periods of time where I have felt like walking away from God and abandoning my faith. There have been times when I have been so violently angry with God to the point where I have even sworn as I prayed. I know something of what it feels like to think that God has abandoned, forsaken and totally left you to sink in the deep and turbulent waters that is life and I know the hopelessness a heart can feel when you think that the current trial and hardship you are going through is because God has it in for you and He is now choosing to punish you by unleashing all His pent-up rage at your past sins and mistakes. There have been times in my life where I have felt hurt and even betrayed by God because He didn’t come through as I thought He should – I mean, He promised to never leave me nor forsake me, so why am I sitting here and going through this hardship alone? God, can you not see how this is too much for me to bear all on my own? God, can you really not make this craziness stop?!
I understand something of how conflicting it can be to feel like you long to connect with God on a deeper level and to have a richer and fuller understanding and experience of Him while simultaneously feeling like He is so far out there and so unattainable because of your past mistakes and failures.
Why would God want to have anything to do with a loser like me?
Choosing to walk with God and live for God is definitely not for the faint of heart! You would think that I would get it by now seeing as how a lot of the Bible is filled with stories of people who have chosen to follow God and live for Him at great cost and inconvenience to themselves. You’d think that after roughly 25 years of being a Christian, I would get this by now, but sadly, I miss the mark more often than I should. I still expect a life of comfort and of ease and of things being straight-forward and easy! I cannot tell you how greatly it vexes me when things don’t go according to plan. When things start to go wrong, I am sad to report to you that the natural leaning of my heart is for me to try and find a way for me to fix the problems with my own strength, intelligence and discernment. I will do all I can to wrack my brain for possible solutions to my problems. I resolve to simply work harder, push harder, dig in my heels a bit more and stand my ground until…until my strength gives out and my resolve loses steam and I come crashing down to the ground in a sad and sorry attempt at human resolve and tenacity. In my brokenness and tears and when I am absolutely at my wit’s end, that is when I come crawling back to God -broken, bruised, defeated and deflated.
Why am I so slow at running to Him?
Why am I so terrible at acknowledging my desperate need of Him?
Why am I so defiant in thinking that I can do it all on my own?
It’s not like I don’t already know the truth – that I absolutely suck at fixing my own problems and much less at fixing me?
Good God, why am I so stubborn?
Over the years, I have wrestled with trying to balance my human need for God and my very strong desire to be self-sufficient. I try very hard to try and walk with a humble awareness of my real and desperate need of God while also trying to put one foot in front of the other and get by. It is a fine line to try and walk, I can tell you that. There is a very delicate balance between learning to walk and trust in God while also trying to be wise and mature and exercise my own discretion and intelligence in the day to day matters that affect my life. But as I write this, I begin to ask myself, “Why am I so desperate to have a God-box and a me-box in my life?” Why do I feel the need to keep those two things separate? Why do I think to myself that there are some things that God should obviously be a part of there are some things that are up to me to figure out and run? Why do I fail to realise, time and time again, that God cannot be confined to just one part of my life because He is too big for that? When will I finally realise that God knows it all and wants to be a part of it all – especially the messy parts of my life!
You see, I think that so often, the temptation – at least for me anyways – can be to try and make myself more pleasing and more acceptable to God before He can love me and accept me. I need to work on bettering myself first, and then I can come to God…
The only problem is that this notion is so ludicrous to the point of being almost laughable. The equivalent would be like going to your family doctor when you are in good health and saying, “See, Doctor? Look at how healthy I am! Look at how well I am doing without your help! Now, write me a prescription so that I can take home and never use.”
I’m no doctor, but I’m fairly sure that no doctor would take you seriously…
The point that I am trying to make here is this: Your perfect record does not interest God but your need for Him does. God is not interested in how many times you haven’t sworn, haven’t told a white lie, haven’t this or haven’t that. God does not care about how many times you get it right, He just cares that you cling to Him and seek Him no matter what.
I think that so often when it comes to approaching God, we tend to want to make things a little more complicated than they really are. I think we (or maybe it is just me) want to feel like we have done something to earn God’s favour or love or forgiveness. Something in us rebels at the thought of not being unworthy and not being good enough and have to completely rely on the goodness, mercy and grace of Someone else. We are taught from a young age that there is no such thing as a free lunch so to think that there is loving and gracious God who totally loves us, totally adores, and totally and freely absolves us of all sin and guilt and shame if we would but ask for it…
That borders on being almost offensive.
Number one, it’s offensive because we are told that we have deeply offended God and should be punished for our sins. That’s an uncomfortable thought to entertain because no one likes to think of themselves as a bad guy. I mean, sure, one can readily acknowledge that they are not perfect, but it is a harder pill to swallow when you have to entertain the thought that those failings that you readily acknowledge merit death.
Like seriously? It was just a little white lie and now you mean to tell me that I ought to die for it? Come one!
See what I mean….offensive!
Number two, it’s offensive because it touches a very sensitive nerve and that is that there is nothing I can do to make right this offense, so I must, therefore, accept that the Person (God) who I have offended has made a way for me to be reconciled to them if I should so choose.
Are you kidding me! So, not only have I offended the King of the universe but He – at great cost to Himself – carved out a way for me to make peace with Him and He offers this reconciliation to me? For free! Yes.
No, surely, there has to be a way for me to be able to pay Him back? Nope.
So, I must just accept His forgiveness for free and there is nothing I can do to either contribute or give to make my mistake against Him any better? No.
I know, right…it sounds crazy! To be forgiven for having made a mistake without having done anything to “earn” that forgiveness is almost infuriating and…well…offensive.
But here’s the deal, that is the truth. The Bible tells us in the book of Romans 3 vs 23-24 that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” So in a nutshell, all of us have messed up and each one of us fails to reach the mark and standard that God has set. Each one of us – no matter how good we try to be on our best of days – is still a miserable and hopeless failure. Each and every one of us!
Now, if you are still reading up to this point, thank you! Thank you for not having scrolled away from the page after reading all that I have written and for feeling like there is no hope or encouragement to be found in this post. I know that most of what I have written down hasn’t been the most exciting thing to read…at least not up until this.
But this is where the narrative changes.
Yes, we all mess up and none of us deserves God’s love and favour and forgiveness, and the story would be quite a bleak one if it were to end there – but thankfully, it doesn’t! The story doesn’t end there because Jesus steps into the narrative. He sees all of our mess and all of our mistakes, and He takes it upon Himself to change things. He refuses to leave us in the mess that our sins and failures so often lead us to and He chooses to wipe the slate clean. He chooses to restore us and make us whole!
Because He loves us! If you have ever been exposed to Christianity before, then there is a chance that you have probably heard of the verse John 3vs16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that anyone who believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” What I love about this verse is that it pretty much sums things up. God loves you and He chose to send His Son so that He can rescue you from the mess of your life. He chose to send Christ into the mess so that He can heal and restore you!
It’s crazy, right?
Because when you think of it, you can’t help but wonder, “Who would willingly want to step in someone else’s self-created chaos in order to help them fix it? I mean, it’s not my mess, so why should it be my problem?” But when faced with that question, “I feel like God answers, “Even though this may be your mess, I am willing to step into it and help you make it right because I love you!” That divine love blows me away every time I take a moment to think about it!
It blows me away because I know that at least for me, one of the greatest longings of my heart is to be truly seen for who I am – warts and all – and to be loved anyway. To be seen with all of my strengths and all of my weaknesses and to be loved regardless of the fact that I have a smart mouth, a track record that’s far from impressive and a past that has some shameful moments in it is truly a love that my heart has always longed for! To know that my biggest mistakes and failures have not disqualified me from being a person worth loving is a thought that not only warms my heart but almost brings me to tears! And to think that God offers everyone this love makes me think that we would be foolish not to let such a God and such a love penetrate our heart because what God offers each and every one of us is perfect love!
Love without reserve. Love without condition and love without end!
This is what Christ makes available to all of us! The question is, will you allow Christ into your mess? Will you let Him love you and enter into the brokenness of your life in order to make you whole? Will you accept His wholeness in exchange for your broken pieces? Will you accept Him?