This year, for thanksgiving, I could write that I’m thankful – and there are many things I am thankful for but, to be honest – to share my heart and expose my soul, I have to tell you that parts of this year have been hard.
It hasn’t been tragic or gut wrenching like other experiences in my life but it has been more of a slow ache in my heart that, truly, I was sure I had moved on from. A wound that I thought I was ok with. A hurt that I thought I had overcome.
Hurt is hard and, honestly, after losing my brother, I didn’t think that any other hurt would compare and, while that’s true, I think I have underestimated the damaging effect of fear.
The effect of multiple, smaller hurts. Hurts that perhaps we shake off and brush aside or even laugh about but hurts that all seem to add up in a way that is catastrophically damaging to our concept of self if left untouched, if left unhealed.
And, tonight, as we were singing ‘Who Am I’ by Casting Crowns and ‘No Longer Slaves,’ alongside youth that we came here to serve and to love as they spoke about what they have learned at a recent spiritual retreat, I was unable to contain the emotion in my heart as I tried to sing lines like, ‘I’m no longer a slave to sin. I am a child of God.’
I realized that I have been drowning in fear and that it has stolen so much of joy and peace as it has taken up residence in my heart.
I have forgotten the heart of the gospel. The fact that me, a sinner condemned to death, has ALREADY BEEN forgiven by Him, the God of the universe through the incredible sacrifice of His one and only Son. That there is no glory in my attempted perfection and avoidance of failure. I have already failed (at being perfect) and I HAVE ALREADY been justified even though I was owed condemnation.
All that is done. Finished. Written.
What I am experiencing when I experience fear is the attack of the enemy trying to paralyze me to the point where I can’t or won’t lay hold of the promises that have already been fulfilled for me in Christ.
He exists – spreading lies, causing me to question my worth, question my value and my usefulness – all the while knowing that I am not worthy, valued or useful based on my own works but that I am absolutely worthy, valued and useful because of the imputed righteousness I have been gifted with by Christ.
He knows and yet he taunts and plots and heaps on discouragement after discouragement so clearly targeted at the one area of weakness that will paralyze most effectively. An area that is different for everyone and an area, for me, that is wounded from various experiences of the past year. An area that is raw and exposed and in need of healing. He targets this area and, in my distracted, fearful and paralyzed state, he is able to turn my attention away from the One who can heal this wound, the One who can remind me that I am no longer a slave to fear but that I am a child of God, the One who has never left me but who sits with me in my hurt and so desperately wants to soothe and heal it.
And do you know what? That healing, that act of stepping away from fear and stepping towards the existing, ever-present gift of God’s healing presence and loving heart – that is what brings Him glory. That is what brings us peace and that is what I have moved away from when I should have been walking towards it.
It hasn’t been conscious, it hasn’t been intentional but it has happened and, I am prayerfully asking God that it stop. I am asking Him to heal the wounds of my heart and I am asking Him to drive out my fear with His perfect love.
I am asking to move forward and to experience release from paralyzing fear. I am asking Him to remind me of who I am in Him. To encourage me in the promises I’ve already received. To empower me with the presence of His Holy Spirit and to enable me by His power and His strength – His perfection, His grace. Everything that depends entirely on who He is and not on what I can do. Everything that is completely reliable and infallible so that my imperfect self who will falter and who will fail does not have to feel crushed under a presumption of perfection or an expectation of excellence but rather rest in an understanding of unconditional and inexplicable love.
God has already won this battle. He is more powerful than any attack of the enemy that He has allowed and He already knew that my heart was breaking, even when I had pushed the emotions down so deep that I had no awareness of their evident effect. He is the healer, my Savior and my God and I will run to Him because I am His child. No additional explanation required. No crushing guilt or condemnation necessary just the ability to listen to the truth of the Gospel EVERY DAY so that I can stand against these lies and, in doing so, take this imperfect, fallible jar of clay and let His perfect love shine through it, bringing Him the glory and revealing the incredible gift it is to be a child of God.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my inheritance. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my Father.
J.I. Packer: “[N]obody can produce new evidence of your depravity that will make God change his mind. For God justified you with (so to speak) his eyes open. He knew the worst about you at the time when he accepted you for Jesus’ sake; and the verdict which he passed then was, and is, final.” (Knowing God, 273)
J.I. Packer: “Do I as a Christian understand myself? Do I know my own real identity? My own real destiny? I am a child of God, God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Saviour is my brother; every Christian is my brother too. Say it over and over again to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as you wait for the bus, any time when your mind is free, and ask God that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it is all utterly and completely true. For this is the Christians secret of the Christian life, of a God-honouring life.” (Knowing God)
C. H. Spurgeon: “If heaven were by merit, it would never be heaven to me, for if I were in it I should say, “I am sure I am here by mistake; I am sure this is not my place; I have no claim to it.” But if it be of grace and not of works, then we may walk into heaven with boldness.” (Sermons, 6.354.)