Now more than ever I can feel the aching of my heart for the time I have to spend on this earth separate from God. I’m tired of longing. I’m tired of desiring perfection and seeing myself fall short. The words of Paul resound every single day in my head, “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”
I am so weary of the world. I am so weary of the guilt that this world tries to force onto me. I am so weary of seeing myself fail over and over again to achieve the perfect life intended for me. I am weary.
In my weariness, however, I am happy to find peace. I am joyous to find peace in my failures, knowing that they are made perfect in Christ. I am joyous knowing that no matter what I do, it is not about my intention or the performance I have, but rather the glory of Christ that shines through. I find comfort knowing that when I fall short there is grace. That God teaches me about His grace in my guilt and shame. That God is quick to answer my hurting with embrace. That when I stand at the top of a mountain in a foreign country, it pails in comparison to the embrace of the Lord when I sit with Him after feeling guilty about how I treated another person or handled my ministry or offended someone. I am overwhelmed by my own depravity. I am overwhelmed by the fact that I cannot do anything right. And being overwhelmed by these two things means I am even more overwhelmed by the grace of God.
In the first chapter of Luke, a huge theme is humility. Mary is humble before Gabriel and before the Lord. Elizabeth humbly secludes herself for five months. Zechariah humbly sits in silence, praising God in his inmost thoughts for 10 months. But the thing is, this humility comes from a place of recognizing their own depravity. As I write this I feel the depravity.
I imagine myself standing before the Lord and feeling fear. Fear that He will strike me out because I understand there is no good thing within me. I cannot do what I desire to do; I cannot follow the Law perfectly; I cannot pray continually; I am hopeless in my pursuit of what is right and holy – and I know the consequence of that is being separated from the only truly Good thing – God. Romans 6:23 confirms that saying “For the wages of sin is death.” I am hopelessly deprave in front of the Holy God and that is really terrifying. That is the humility Mary, Elizabeth, and Zechariah approached the Lord with. That is the depravity I have been feeling these past few weeks.
My tendency is to try to overcome that depravity myself by working harder. I set stringent rules for myself: I won’t be addicted to coffee because I won’t drink it this week; I won’t cross emotional boundaries with friends and family because I’m going to limit my interactions and be intentional with my words; I will be a better ministry leader because I will address conflict and read my bible and talk to every guy I can. But I fail at my own stringent rules every single time. Sure, I don’t drink the coffee for a week, but I find something else to try and derive my energy on outside of time with God. Sure, I limit my interactions and I’m intentional with words, but words slip and my own longing sets in. Sure, I address conflict and read my bible, but the address of conflict is so riddled with pride and anger that I cannot listen to the other person and I seek the Word only to validate my own thoughts.
I hate this hopeless state we live in because my flesh tries so hard to indulge it. I try so hard to make it all perfect myself and it will never happen. I try so hard to fix the issues, make heaven on earth, join ministries, guard hearts, lead men and women, set boundaries, walk with the Lord, know the Word, and be humble that I miss the whole point. The Christian life is not about trying. The Christian life is about accepting.
We accept two things before we accept Christ: that we cannot be righteous, good, or perfect and because of that, we are hopeless and deserve to die. Those are necessary to humility. Just like Mary says that she was blessed because she was humble, we too become blessed in our lowly, humble state that comes from these two realizations. Matthew 5 states these are the blessed people – the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek, those hungry and thirsty for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted. In other words, it is the humble. We can only become these things in the realization of our broken nature and our consequential penalty.
This begs us to get rid of the fluffy, comfortable, apologizing gospel of apathy and embrace the offensive, unashamed, hard gospel of truth. This calls us to stop running away from hard things and instead to sit and feel the weight of this broken, deprave, and wicked world so we can understand the weight of grace given to us by Christ. I mean, come on y’all, read Ecclesiastes. The teacher literally shouts, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” over and over again. There is legitimately no hopefulness at all in the entirety of that book and the author sits in it for twelve whole chapters explaining the depravity of his situation. Yet, the author never seems to run away from the situation. He never yells, “This is all meaningless, but it’s okay I have God,” and it’s not because he doesn’t know God; it’s because his hard circumstances don’t make him doubt God anymore. He’s gotten past the lukewarmness of doubting the goodness of God during times that are difficult. He accepts God is good and this world is broken and that he has to live in it. He makes no effort to explain that. He makes no effort to make meaning out of the brokenness of the world.
Church, are you even willing to sit in brokenness for twelve chapters? Are you willing to even read twelve chapters that are all about our depravity? Are we too busy trying to make sense out of brokenness that we miss the treasure of grace found in the wretches of life? If we aren’t willing to be still and cease striving toward perfection rather than know God, are we really submitting to God?
Let us sit in our uncomfortable state of depravity so that we may know what David means when He says the Lord’s rod and staff bring him comfort.
Let the pressure of fear fall off.
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Let the pressure of performance fall off.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Let us not yearn to be God, and rather let us yearn to behold God.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)