I’ve bought into a lie. In fact, I’m in so deep I don’t even feel comfortable calling it a lie. Referring to it as an “overzealous good intention” sound better… but a bold-faced, absolutely-wrong lie? That’s a little strong – but that’s exactly what it is. It’s come from many sources and has been so pervasive that I haven’t even considered that it is a lie until recently. Those are the most insidious ones to spot and to change because you’ve been told them so often that they become part of your mind, your lenses for seeing the world – in short they become invisible.
But over the past few years intense dissatisfaction and frustration has forced me to take a good look at my expectations and beliefs and make some serious adjustments in my thinking. I’m sure you’ve all heard the “come to God and you’ll be happy, healthy, and wealthy” speech. It’s a belief based on the faulty assumption that we can pursue the god of comfort under the guise of pledging allegiance to the God of the universe. That one is easy to spot. The one I’m referring to is a more “spiritual” version and one I’ve been indoctrinated to believe since birth. It’s “come to God and everything you dislike about yourself will change, you’ll be better, you won’t hurt or struggle, you won’t cave to temptation, and you’ll be filled with love all the time.”
I’ve heard this message in churches ever since I was small. But I’ve also heard it in mainstream media and society. Every time a news story breaks about a Christian who’s made a mistake, the media is unforgiving. “He claims he’s a Christian – I can’t believe he’d do that”. Or “She’s a Christian but she’s no different from the rest of us.” There seems to be a universal expectation that surrendering one’s life to God automatically results in moral superiority. But that’s not really the message of the Gospel. For the past several years I’ve been so burdened with this that some days I could barely function. I’ve seen the depravity in my own heart in a way I never have before, I’ve worked so hard to be a “better person” to prove my faith is genuine, and I’ve beat myself up until my soul is a bruised mess over my inability to have what I thought were the hallmarks of a successful Christian life. In fact, I’ve doubted that I could even have the spirit of Christ in my heart if I struggle so much. And I’m tired, hurt, and frustrated that I don’t feel filled with the spirit of joy, peace, and love that I thought I should. Shouldn’t selfishness be a thing of the past when I’ve claimed to be a Christ-follower? Shouldn’t I stop feeling impatient towards people? Should I feel like I love God? These questions overwhelmed me to a point where I even stopped talking to God for a long time because I knew He wasn’t fooled – He saw my fear, my dreams and nightmares, and I was convinced I was invisible to Him because I clearly wasn’t living and feeling like a Christian should.
And then this summer, I did a Bible study at my church with Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book Good News for Weary Women. This book unpacked everything that I’ve been feeling, told me I was not alone, and lovingly redirected my thoughts and frustrations back to God. That’s how I’ve come to see that what I’ve thought about the Christian life is a lie – because it caused me to doubt what God had promised in His Word. It caused me to turn away from God instead of running to Him. See, the truth always makes you turn toward God and want to be in relationship with Him. I’ve been slowly internalizing the freeing truth of the Gospel – that I don’t have to do a single thing to earn God’s smile because He’s already given it. The good news is I don’t have to prove my self-worth, but can rejoice that He has provided His own. His righteousness covers my life because I know mine doesn’t. The Christian life isn’t about acquiring a list of character traits, it’s about leaning on Christ for His grace because I know I can’t acquire them. They are His to instill in me as I walk close to Him and learn to love and cherish Him. I’m learning to see my struggles not as a sign that I don’t have relationship with Christ, but as an indication that I do. As I’ve read Scripture since this summer, over and over I’ve seen that a faithful life in Christ is marked with struggle and that has given me hope. Faithfulness isn’t measured by how often we fall down, but by how quick we get up and run back to our Father’s arms. As we mature in following Christ, we don’t fall down less, we just run back quicker. For years I’ve been consumed with failure and fear because I haven’t loved God like I knew I should – and that’s been because all this time I’ve been fixated on me and my shortcomings. Now I’ve been meditating on what God has done for me and what He has promised to do and my perspective is changing. The good news of Christ is that He has accomplished everything we need for this life and for eternity; we can stop working and start enjoying the fruits of what He has done. His love is sufficient to carry me down life’s path- I don’t need my effort anymore.
Blessings to you,