Lately I’ve been feeling pretty beaten down. I’ve had what is probably the worst 11 month stretch I’ve ever had to go through. It’s tested me, stretched me, and brought me to the end of myself time and time again. I think the hardest thing about it was that there was seemingly no end.
I’m still in the midst of quite a few of these difficulties (job situation, no car, financial strain), but I finally feel–for the first time in a long time–that I’m turning a corner. I’ve been coming to realize that my frustration stemmed from my belief that God owes me something. I mean, I’m going to church, leading in the capacities I am able, leading a small group, reading my Bible.. that must warrant some sort of special grace to me, right??
Not so much.
In reading through John Piper’s Daily Devotional, today’s content really resonated in a special way with me. For the first time in quite a while I’ve been able to see that God owe’s me nothing, and that’s been incredibly freeing. I’ve been able to come to terms with the spiritual state of my soul and where I would be without Christ’s (perfect! willing!!) intervention.
In short, this changes everything.
I’ll let Piper do the rest of the topic with this framework in mind.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
A vague, bad feeling that you are a crummy person is not the same as conviction for sin. Feeling rotten is not the same as repentance.
This morning I began to pray, and felt unworthy to be talking to the Creator of the universe. It was a vague sense of unworthiness. So I told him so. Now what?
Nothing changed until I began to get specific about my sins. Crummy feelings can be useful if they lead to conviction for sins. Vague feelings of being a bad person are not very helpful.
The fog of unworthiness needs to take shape into clear dark pillars of disobedience. Then you can point to them and repent and ask for forgiveness and take aim to blow them up.
So I began to call to mind the commands I frequently break. These are the ones that came to mind.
- Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Not 95%, but 100%. (Matthew 22:37)
- Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Be as eager for things to go well for him as you are for things to go well for you. (Matthew 22:39)
- Do all things without grumbling. No grumbling—inside or outside. (Philippians 2:14)
- Cast all your anxieties on him—so you are not being weighed down by it anymore. (1 Peter 5:7)
- Only say things that give grace to others—especially those closest to you. (Ephesians 4:29)
- Redeem the time. Don’t fritter or dawdle. (Ephesians 5:16)
So much for any pretensions to great holiness! I’m undone.
But now it is specific. I look it in the eye. I’m not whining about feeling crummy. I’m apologizing to Christ for not keeping all that he commanded.
I’m broken and I’m angry at my sin. I want to kill it, not me. I’m not suicidal. I’m a sin hater and a sin murderer. (“Put to death what is earthly in you” Colossians 3:5. “Put to death the deeds of the body” Romans 8:13.)
In this conflict, I hear the promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Peace rises.
Prayer feels possible and right and powerful again.