It’s the number one arrow the enemy shoots at me. It’s the number one trap he sets out and somehow I am always stumbling back into it.
Like quicksand, it pulls me in slowly. Inch by inch I get sucked down, a little closer to being buried alive. I know death is imminent, but I can’t seem to get out. If only I could just break free.
“You should have been stronger”, he snarls. “God is displeased with you.” That snake has been hissing in our ears since the beginning of creation and like Eve with the fruit we bite right into it and believe his lies.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of being pushed around by this bully. I’m sick of feeling paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake. I’m sick of crying my eyes dry, wondering if God still loves me, wondering how I am supposed to accomplish the next task, wondering how I will ever please God.
When the weight of weakness becomes so heavy that we simply cannot go on, we have to remember the freedom of grace. Christ died on the cross for us so that we have access to this freedom. We are never meant to go back to the chains of guilt or shame. We are always to be walking in freedom and confidence, knowing that God’s grace is sufficient for us and that His love never fails.
“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)
But what about rebellion God? If I don’t complete the task you’ve set in front of me am I disobeying you? Am I walking towards the consequences of a rebellious heart?
I was asking Him these questions a couple weeks ago, struggling with the guilt of canceling a commitment I had made to God. He had called me to speak at a women’s retreat, but weeks prior I went into preterm labor. My whole world was shaken up. My body and my mind were hanging by threads.
Dealing with anxiety and depression in my past, this one trip to the hospital turned my “manageable” mental illness into a ticking time bomb. I was playing Minecraft with each day, tiptoeing carefully hoping that I wouldn’t click the wrong box and implode.
The joy of the Lord is my strength. I will not be shaken. These verses rang in my ears as my body ached and trembled.
Why can’t I feel this joy? Why am I so shaken? Is my faith really that weak? I must not be a good Christian. Good Christians are strong and joyful no matter what.
I had reached such a bottom that I knew speaking at a retreat could no longer be the priority. I needed to take care of my body and mind, but I also wanted to follow through on what I felt God called me to do.
It’s in those darkest pits where the enemy’s whispers ring loudest. Those questions and doubts circled me like a ring-around-the-rosy game – me in the middle, watching them swirl and swirl into a dizzying blur.
You should be stronger. You are being rebellious. If you really had faith you would push through and stay true to your commitment. You don’t have what it takes to truly follow God.
I decided to take a walk and clear my head. I strapped my son in the stroller and pushed him around our neighborhood. Staring at the bright blue sky and the budding trees, I started having a conversation with God.
I told Him I loved Him and wanted so badly to do His will. I told Him how bad I was struggling and how I didn’t know what to do. He spoke the most clearly to me than He has ever done before. He said, “Weakness is not the same as rebellion.”
Thoughts of David came to mind. A man that God said was after His own heart, even though he stumbled into sin after sin. Then I thought of Job. He was considered blameless, righteous, and full of integrity, even though She continually questioned God in his struggles. Both these men experienced weakness and yet God still loved them and saw beauty in them.
Is that it? Is that what weakness and struggle bring to our lives? A reminder that God is full of everlasting love, mercy, and grace regardless of our lacks?
We can be weak and fail without actually being rebellious. God knows our hearts and He sees the difference between the person who’s got their middle finger up to Him and the person who simply cannot move forward because of their human weakness. In fact, if God does not allow His strength to manifest in us enough to get us through, then there is no way we could continue on anyways.
“Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5b)
We of course never want to shluff off sin knowing God will forgive anyways. We never want to take advantage of His grace and love. But, if we have tried our very best and have the right heart towards God, then we can give ourselves a little break.
Grace is how we are saved, not works, and when we put the pressure on ourselves to perform, to be stronger, to be better, to be braver, to have more faith, we are actually living under pride and calling it faithfulness. We’re forgetting that we need God’s grace today as much as we did when we were saved. We are never the ones who have what it takes to complete the race. It is only through God’s Spirit within us that we we are fueled to keep going.
God doesn’t need us to be strong, He needs us to be humble. He wants us to recognize our weakness and need for Him. He wants us to press in to Him for help and work with whatever He gives or allows.
Even if our weakness causes us to fail or trip up, even if it causes us to sin, God gets all the glory because it shines a light on His love, His grace, and His mercy. It waves a big banner proclaiming His goodness and leads the victory march against sin and death.
As the enemy comes after us and tries tying us down with guilt and shame we can say a loud firm “NOT TODAY SATAN” and continue walking in the freedom God has for us. Through our weakness, Satan is put in his place again, because he sees that our God is still and always will be for us.
“The joyful news for anyone who desires to be rid of the consequences of past poor choices is that the Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion. Whereas the Lord warns that unrepented rebellion will bring punishment, when the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy.” (Elder Richard G. Scott, “Personal Strength Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ”, 2013)