Over the years I’ve heard a few testimonies. I’ve given them myself – and they can be powerful encouragements. But sometimes, I wonder…what am I celebrating? The individual’s personal change – or the God who brought such change about?
And what happens to those who don’t experience such change? Who aren’t ‘zapped’? If I struggle – and I’m not transformed – what does this say about God? Or about me? That I lack faith? That He lacks power? This weakness and constant struggle feels wrong: if God wants good for me, how can it look like this?
Here’s a comment I received recently from a church leader:
‘I don’t know how I can become deeper with God.. every book says that when you finally realise God’s love and grace, you can finally get better. I realised those things and believed those things along time ago… I just can’t apply them. I feel like a fake leading a church and its young people with such a constant secret. ‘
‘every book says that when you finally realise God’s love and grace, you can finally get better’
Is this true? Is this the gospel?
Does God rescue us from suffering – or comfort us in it?
Does the same Lord who worked miracles in the gospels, still perform these today? And if so – what about me?
I’ve been a healthy weight now for many years. But I’m still a perfectionist; I still think in black and white; I still want control.
I no longer count things or obsessively wash. But I still get stressed by disorder and change.
I’m not paralysed by depression. But there are still days when I struggle to get out of bed.
If I expect a certain kind of rescue, then instead of being helped I feel like I’ve been harmed. Instead of being pointed to Jesus; I look back to myself. Grace becomes law: some truth I’m not learning, a bit that I’ve missed. These are the things I tell myself:
‘I’ve just got to get…God’s love
I’ve just to get…my identity in Jesus
I’ve just got to get…that Jesus is bigger’
In any other context, we call ‘I just need to’ legalism. But even being ‘gospel-centred’ can be turned into law.
And it’s not that the law is bad: the law is good – and true. I do need to get my identity and God’s love and sovereignty…but I can’t do it myself. That’s religion. But as the law condemns me, the gospel, apart from the law, points me away from myself to Jesus. I can’t overcome my own suffering; I don’t learn from my mistakes; my trials have not been a stepping-stone to self-knowledge and strength. But what I could not do for myself, Jesus did in my place. He really got God’s love. He really found His identity in God. He really appreciated the bigness and beauty of His Father.
And yet He also died on the cross to take my sin. Jesus didn’t die simply to fix my eating disorder or my drug addiction or my lack of self-esteem. He dies because I’m totally stuffed and every inch of me needs redeeming. He dies because I don’t get His love and grace – and I can’t apply it to my own life. I can’t do any of it; that’s why He dies. That’s why the gospel is good news: I can’t – but He can. And He does; not in the way I expect. Not in the way I want. But He’s done it. Really.
“But I don’t feel it!” He’s died for that too.
And more than that… the doubt, the sadness, the weakness and the struggle – He’s in it. And the freedom, the beauty and the joy you crave – He’ll bring it.
It’s all His doing. Not ours.