Thanks for prayers for the weekend – it’s good to be back!
Here’s one of the talks I gave.
This weekend we’ve been thinking about how what we see in ourselves and what God sees in us, can be completely different – like two pieces of a jigsaw that won’t fit. This evening, you’ve been hearing a bit about what that looks like in my story.
You may feel like you don’t know who you are, that you’re scared or ugly or worthless – but you’re not on your own. We all see ourselves wrongly. And we’ve all made mistakes. But the Lord offers us a fresh start and fresh hope in Him.
I don’t know about you, but growing up I always loved a good fairy story. Not the Disney kind where underneath her glasses the princess was always stunningly beautiful – no, the real-life sort who reads Grazia, gets spots and throws up on the prince’s shoes. Now, given that it’s getting late on a Saturday, I thought I’d tuck us in with just such a story. But we’re all a bit old for fairies, so this one is true.
Let me introduce you to my friend Alice. Alice is seven.
Alice lives in a lovely house with a lovely brother and mum and dad and pony and they all love each other very much.
Now, like I said, this isn’t a fairy story. So we might need to make a few changes. When Alice was seven, there was a recession. And her dad lost his job.
This made mum and dad very sad. They started arguing – with each other and with Alice and Alfie.
They had to sell the nice house
And Alice’s pony.
When they moved to a smaller house, Alice missed all of her old friends. Mum and dad kept arguing and dad would often disappear for long periods of time. When he came back he couldn’t walk straight and he shouted and would push mummy. He shouted at Alice too and told her she was fat and stupid. Afterwards he always said sorry, but Alice remembered what he said. And when she looked in the mirror, she started to see someone who was really ugly too.
Alice really wanted people to like her. She wanted to feel special. She was scared and lonely and confused and she felt like her life was a huge mess.
When the boys at school showed her attention, it felt really good. But she didn’t know how to say no to them either, and sometimes things went too far. Especially after a few drinks. She had lots of boyfriends all at the same time, and when she was with them, she felt a bit better, but afterwards, much worse. So she dropped out of school. And she left home. But she still had lots of boyfriends and they weren’t very nice to her. And she had to pay for her own drinks now and the rent.
Alice didn’t know how to cope. Sometimes when she was on her own, she would do things to hurt herself. She stopped eating and started drinking more. Then she lost her job. She couldn’t afford to pay the rent, so she started living on the streets. It was cold and she couldn’t even get washed. So she keep drinking to help her forget. When she looked in the mirror now, she saw someone she didn’t recognise. Someone ugly and smelly and frightened and alone. She was a long way from that happy seven year old.
If you were Alice, how would you be feeling?
- She was Hurt by the things she’d done to herself. Her drinking. Sleeping around.
- She was Hurt by the things that other people had done to her. Her dad, her boyfriends, the friends who’d let her down.
- She was Lonely
- She felt Worthless
- She was Tired of living
- She was Confused
- She hated herself
Does any of this sound familiar? My story isn’t the same as Alice’s, but I can relate to all these things. Maybe you can too.
But you know, Alice’s story doesn’t end there – and neither does ours. And tomorrow, we’ll find out how the story finishes. But there’s someone else who understands how Alice feels. Someone who uniquely understands how You feel. Because, whilst I can sympathise with bits of your story, I haven’t walked in your shoes. But Jesus has. Every kind of pain you’ve experienced, He did too. That’s partly why He came to earth as a man – to live and to die, for us.
Listen to this description of Jesus from Isaiah:
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance
nothing to attract us to him.
3 He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows[a] that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.
You see, not only does Jesus know us. He knows our suffering, our sadness, our hurts. Because He’s suffered in exactly the same way that we do. He’s walked in our shoes. Are you lonely? Tired? Bullied? Depressed? So was He. Jesus understands and Jesus cares.
When I look at the cross, I see something wonderful. I see that Jesus understands how it feels to be like me, to be broken.
And you know what, that’s also us.
We’re sick. We’re weak. We’re sorrowful.
And there’s another word to describe us in verse 5. It talks about “sins.” You see we don’t just hurt ourselves or other people. We’ve crossed the line with God by doing the things He’s told us not to, and not doing the things He’s said we should. That’s our sins.
And sin is like the red wine stain on the white table cloth. We try to clean it up ourselves, but we only make it worse. It’s all the stuff we’ve done wrong in our lives. And it’s the way we feel afterwards – that we are dirty, unacceptable, ugly, shameful.
But what happens to all this mess? Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t clean it up ourselves. And Jesus knows this. So He does something really amazing. He takes all the dirt onto Himself:
Our sin and pain and shame can feel like they will crush us. They make us want to cover up, to cut or starve ourselves – to pay for them ourselves. And we can’t make things better, no-matter what we try. But that’s not the end. Jesus takes our sins for us. He is crushed in our place.