Tag Archives: failure

Understanding joy

20 Dec

Yesterday in church, it dawned on me that I have been viewing my sins, failures, weaknesses and such as bigger than the Cross. I have been prevented from being joyful because while the gospel indeed is incredible, my sins and failures are still there. And in an effort to maintain mindfulness of my sinfulness, I have been living in light of my pathetic-ness, rather than in the light of the gospel of Christ’s sufficiency.

I had an idea of an illustration for this. I actually drew it and if our printer/scanner was working, I would totally scan it and insert it into this post but alas, I’ll just have to describe it. The first picture is entitled “My perception of my sin” and it’s a giant boulder and peeking around the top and sides, you can vaguely see a cross in the background. The second picture is entitled “Reality of my sin in the gospel” and it’s a giant cross, with a tiny little pebble in front of it. The gospel – Christ’s atoning death and resurrection motivated by love for me – is so much bigger than my sin, shortcomings, and failed attempts at being who God says I am.

When I stop looking at myself, I can see the lie of “You have nothing to be joyful about” for what it is. No, in my sinfulness and failures, I don’t have much to be joyful about. But when I turn and look at Jesus, I see that I have everything in the world to be joyful about. Christ is so much bigger than me! Christ’s sufficiency is enough for all of my lack. I don’t have to go through life bemoaning how much I suck. I can focus on my victorious life in Christ. The hard, tough, icky stuff doesn’t go away overnight but I can view myself as a conqueror of my old nature in Christ.

That’s something else I realized – I have been thinking that sanctification is something I need to do. I need to sanctify myself. That’s part of being a Christian, right – crucifying the old self and its fleshly desires? But 1 Thessalonians 5 says that God is the One who sanctifies us – “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” I have been taking the responsibility of my holiness upon myself. What a task!! No wonder I have felt overwhelmed and completely incapable!! How can one who is unholy make oneself holy? Answer: They can’t. Only Another Who is holy can make me holy.

I still feel slightly confused but I am thrilled that God has shown me that I can be completely, utterly, 110% joyful in Christ, not because I’ve achieved anything or reached my goal, but because of what Christ has done for me. The gospel is the reason for our joy. And even our sin and failures should not take that away from us.

Seeing through the lies

5 Nov

This week started off rough. I was still struggling with not liking my job and feeling too disinterested and exhausted to do anything besides eke out some work and then read or watch TV. Naturally, I felt guilty at this lack of productivity – “just one more way I suck,” I thought.

After women’s group on Wednesday, I drove home crying. I just couldn’t understand why I felt so tired and lethargic. Why I couldn’t even muster up the strength to hope in God or have faith that things would get better. I had hit rock bottom and couldn’t do anything but stay there, calling out to God for Him to rescue me.

Well, no surprise, He did. Yesterday morning, I read Philippians 3:12-14 where Paul talks about not being perfect but pressing on, forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what lies ahead. I realized that I have been drowning in discouragement and despair because I have been focusing on my failures, resulting in either feelings of defeat or self-pity.

I have been believing lies in pretty much every area of my life:

When I see something I haven’t done, Satan takes that failure and says “See? You’ll never change. You just suck too much.”

He uses my stress to say “See? You can’t handle this. It’d be easier to just give up and watch TV all day instead.”

Satan takes my desire for rest and relaxation, turns it into feelings of laziness and says  “See? This is all you’re good at. Look at how much other people accomplish – you’re pathetic.”

Satan takes my spirit’s desire for Christ-likeness and says “Don’t even try. It’ll never happen. You’re incapable of living that way.”

Satan takes any glimmer of hope or joy and snuffs it out saying “That doesn’t make any difference – look at all the other areas in your life right now that suck. You have absolutely no reason to be happy or hopeful.”

And even after recognizing this yesterday morning, and feeling hopeful that I can finally combat these negative emotions because I know the root and cause of them, Satan says “You can’t fight this. You’re too weak, too tired, too pathetic. You disgust me.”

These lies are so subtle because they’re based in truth. I am incapable of changing and being like Christ in and of myself. I have failed to live the life I feel God has called me to. But I can’t stay there and focus on that. I have to move on, to focus on what I can now be in Christ, what He makes me capable of.

These are some of the truths I am using to combat these lies:

1. I am not hopeless or without hope – GOD is my hope.

2. I am indeed powerless to change myself but GOD IS NOT – He is for me and is working in me according to His perfect will.

3. My past failures have nothing to say about my present worth or future potential – only the CROSS of Christ does.

4. I am free to enjoy life and find joy in God and His blessings because I am freed from my sin and failures. “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

These truths have helped me see that when I snap at Travis, instead of beating myself up and lamenting that I’ll never be a good wife, I need to turn to God in prayer, acknowledge that I sinned and ask Him to give me grace to be a better wife.  I need to have faith in God to make me be who He says I can be in His Son, and not dwell on all the ways I don’t measure up. I can find motivation and energy to fight against sin and for joy in the victory that Christ has already won against sin and death. I am fighting a winning battle. There is guaranteed victory, and even guaranteed progress.

I am still working through the implications of these truths and I’m sure I won’t be completely free from the temptation to believe the lies for a while. They had pervaded practically every facet of my life. But Christ dwells in my heart through faith so I have confidence that He will give me the grace to believe His truths and to fight for joy.

Defined by God

1 Jun

I had a rough weekend. I was at a timing event on Saturday and the whole morning of setup went really well. When the race started, I felt really good about how things were going. Then athletes started crossing the finish line and I realized we were missing quite a few of their chips. But there was no time to fix it. We were also having problems with the PA system and the announcer function (which we almost always have problems with).

Amazingly, though, Megan and I made it through and I recovered most of the athletes’ finish times using our manual backup system. We packed up the car and got on the road back to Denver.

I got my computer out in the car to work on posting the results. When I opened the results file, though, I was shocked. The results were absolutely horrible. We were missing splits left and right. Something had happened with the timing equipment at the transition area. What was I going to do?

After talking to my boss, Brent, I spent the rest of the 8-hour car ride home fixing the splits that I could. Then I spent another 3.5 hours on Sunday morning. After finally getting the results posted, I braced myself for all of the scathing emails I would receive from athletes.

I still got those but I also got one from the race director (he had actually sent it to Brent, who forwarded it to me with no comment). The race director was very unhappy – with how the PA system had worked, how the announcer function had worked (or more, had NOT worked), and most of all, with the lack of splits. He told Brent that he felt like he was paying for second stringers and that the timing team at his race seemed very inexperienced. But the email wasn’t in a mean tone and I really can’t blame Greg for being frustrated at the situation. All of the stuff he mentioned happened and I could only do my best with the situation.

But I’d be lying if I said that his comments didn’t bother me. No one likes to hear that someone is disappointed and dissatisfied with their performance. I have definitely looked at, thought out, and analyzed this past race from every possible angle. In hindsight (which is always 20/20), there are a few things I should have done differently. And as I’ve learned over the past 3 months, in this business, little mistakes can cost you big. They did for me on Saturday.

As I got in the word this morning, I was reminded of Bethlehem Baptist Church’s mantra: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. In the midst of this tough work situation, where my reputation and work performance have clearly been questioned, I can be most satisfied in God by remembering that I am valuable and precious because God says I am. I don’t have to look to this world for validation and I am not defined by what I do wrong – or right. I am defined by Who died for me and what He says about me.

Because of God’s grace, I feel very blessed right now to have the Christian community and loving husband I do. I will make it through this and I will have learned and grown as a result. Trial by fire.

Can we give anything to Christ?

6 Apr

In light of my revelation the other day, I found this article by John Piper (you can find it here and I have pasted it below). He says it so much better than me, but these have been my realizations the other day and this morning while reading Romans 8:33-34.

Can we give anything to Christ?

When the psalmist cried out, “What shall I render to the Lord for all of his benefits to me?” the reply was, “I will lift the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:12-13). So, translating that into Christmas: Jesus gives us the gift of himself and we ask, “Now what can I render to Jesus for all the benefits of his fellowship?” Answer: Ask him for his help. That’s the gift he wants.

The reason Christ wants this is because he always wants to get the glory while we get the benefit. Glory comes to him when we depend on him rather than try to enrich him. If we come to him with gifts—as though he needed something—then we put him in the position of a needy person, and we’re the benefactors. He always wants to be the one who is infinitely self-sufficient. Therefore the only gifts that we can bring Jesus are gifts of praise, thanks, longing, and neediness.

A fountain is not glorified by us hauling buckets of dirty water up the mountain and pouring them in. A fountain—a spring in a mountain—is glorified, rather, by us lying down at the edge of the stream, putting our face in, drinking our fill, and getting up and saying, “Ah!” That’s called worship. Then we take a bucket, dip it in, walk down the hill to the people in the valley who don’t know that the spring exists, and we say, “Taste this! It’s right up there, and his name is Jesus!” The kind of gift that the fountain wants is drinkers, because then he looks truly overflowing, rich, and self-sufficient. And that’s exactly what he wants to look like.

______________

Hebrews 4:14-16 says, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Together with Romans 8:33-34, this verse shows that our response to having the Father on our side and the Son interceding for us should be…asking for more grace and mercy! Not service, sacrifice, or payment but lifting up the cup of salvation and calling upon the name of the Lord.

In my quest to overcome my sins and failures, I have been striving for self-sufficiency. I thought I should be able to get to a point where I felt like I finally had it all together. I am realizing more and more that I will NEVER get to that point–and that itself is a mercy from God. For if I did get to that point, I would have no need for God. Like Piper writes in his article, “Glory comes to him when we depend on him rather than try to enrich him. If we come to him with gifts—as though he needed something—then we put him in the position of a needy person, and we’re the benefactors. He always wants to be the one who is infinitely self-sufficient. Therefore the only gifts that we can bring Jesus are gifts of praise, thanks, longing, and neediness.” I only have to bring Jesus praise, thanks, longing and neediness.

I can do that.

Fail.

1 Apr

Have you ever seen the funny pictures on icanhascheezburger or failblog.org that just have the one liner “Fail.”

Here’s one if you don’t know what I’m talking about:

A puppy chewed the book corner…the book’s title is The Art of Raising a Puppy.

Fail.

I think these things are hilarious.

Sometimes I feel like you could take a picture of me and put the same one-liner on it: Fail. Especially when it comes to the Christian life.

I realized yesterday as I was praying in the morning (or at least what was my half-hearted pathetic attempt at praying) that I am hung up on what I consider to be the qualifications or requirements of the Christian life.  I keep thinking that a “good Christian,” one that is relying upon God and desiring to be like Christ, one who is full of zeal and passion and energy, will do things like spending hours in the Word and prayer daily, volunteer in their community, serve at church, care for the elderly and sick, share the gospel with every person they come in contact with, exude joy and confidence in Christ 24/7, and always react out of self-control and gentleness. And since I’m not doing any of those, or at least not to the caliber I imagine this ideal Christian does, I am worthless. I am not living my life like a Christian. Instead, I am wasting my life.

This is how I feel.

So you can imagine that I feel like one big FAIL. The picture of me could show a glimpse of the Bible, with the values and ideals that I claim to be my own, and then show what my real behavior is like: instead of being selfless and humble, I am selfish and proud. Instead of being gentle and kind, I am agressive and inconsiderate. Instead of living in the truth of God’s love, I look to the world for the definition of my self-worth…and the basis of my self-loathing.

I also realized yesterday that I have a hard time dealing with failure. In that I don’t deal with it. Instead, I shut down, go on autopilot, with a constant cry of self-pity and desperation in my heart. I get overwhelmed at what a failure I am. Instead of feeling like I am just failing in one area of my life and that I can work on it with the Spirit’s help, I feel like my entire life is one big FAIL and I am collapsing under its weight.

Grace would seem to be the answer. God doesn’t require perfection from us, because He knows we are incapable of it. But here’s the other thing that hangs me up: grace leaves me with my life as it is. If I accept that I am a failure and God loves me anyway because of grace, if I accept that I don’t “have to” do anything to earn His favor, doesn’t that mean that I accept my life as it is?

But then, if I am discontent with my life because I think it doesn’t meet God’s standards, and yet He tells me that there no longer are standards because I am clothed in Christs’ righteousness, what happens to the basis of my discontent? Is it not based on lies? Is it not based on self-imposed rules and obligations? Am I not drowning in a sea of my own making?

I am waiting for God to save me from myself, waiting for Him to sweep down and set me on the solid rock of the life I want to have. But instead, I feel like I’m at the bottom of a well, able to see the light of day but having absolutely no ability to get to it. God must lower the bucket for me to climb out.

Clarity and Hope

17 Jan

I’ve been wanting to blog for the past couple of days but I’ve been [shocker] busy at work and [bigger shocker] busy outside of work this week. So here I am on a nice little Saturday, taking time to read the Bible, pray, and blog.

[Side note/Update: My resolutions for this year are going well. I did create a little reward system for meeting my goals each week and so far, I’ve been doing really well. The hardest thing has been to exercise 6 days a week (my body isn’t used to it) but other than that, I have been consistent in getting in the Word and praying daily as well as memorizing one verse a week. We won’t talk about eating… 🙂 I’m not expecting complete consistency there.]

Saturdays are my favorite day of the week. That’s why I would love to be a writer by vocation: every day could be a Saturday (except Sunday because I’d still have to go to church in the morning). But I love being able to get up early (today I got up at 7:30…I’ve been trying to get up relatively close to when I get up for work so that I don’t mess up my sleep cycle on the weekends) and eat breakfast, read the Bible, pray…just be very relaxed. It reminds me a lot of college. Every day was like this…I loved it back then too.

Anywho…can you tell I’m more upbeat today than I have been in some of my recent posts? (I was being a total Debbie Downer…but I was also being honest.) The reason for my mood/outlook change is that God has been faithful in giving me insight into the past few months.

I was living in my failures and sinfulness. Even though I “knew” I was forgiven, I was still carrying them around as my personal burden. Especially in my marriage. I saw my sin affecting Travis and I was terrified that I was going to ruin our marriage, drive him away–that’d we’d wake up one day in 15 years and realize we no longer knew each other at all…and that we’d be able to trace it back to something I did or said that set the ball in motion.

I was also hating myself. For sinning again and again. For (from my perspective) never learning or advancing. For being a coward and a hypocrite.

But this past week, I remembered that there are many stories in the Bible that depict God using sin or using people in spite of their sin to accomplish His purposes. That means I can’t thwart God’s will or purposes by my sin. That means He can make our marriage thrive even despite my constant threats to kill it. I was making my sin and failures all about me…when nothing is all about me. It’s all about Him. And HE is so much BIGGER than my sin. Who am I to think that my failures will deter Him from His will?

I also realized that I have been holding myself back from God. I felt like a failure and a pathetic sinner who would never learn. When reminded of God’s love,  a tiny voice inside me said, “Yeah but, I’m still doing X and struggling with Y. God’s love is great but first I want to stop doing all these things that I hate.” Silly girl, it’s God’s love that enables you stop doing all those things you hate.

BarlowGirl’s song “I Need You to Love Me” sums up my realizations well:

Why? Why are you still here with me?
Didn’t you see what I’ve done?
In my shame I want to run,
And hide myself.
Yeah, but it’s here I see the truth,
I don’t deserve you.

But I need you to love me,
And I, I won’t keep my heart from you this time.
And I’ll stop this pretending that I can,
Somehow deserve what I already have
I need you to love me

I, I have wasted so much time
Pushing you away from me.
I just never saw how you
Could cherish me.
Cause you’re a God who has all things,
And still you want me.

Your love makes me forget what I have been.
Your love makes me see who I really am.
Your love makes me forget what I have been.

My favorite line of that song is “Cause you’re a God who has all things, and still you want me.” Me, a sinner. Me, a girl trapped in self-pity. Me, an unremarkable person. You want me. You want me. You want me. How powerful each of those 3 little words is.

I have also been reading “God Has a Dream for Your Life” by Sheila Walsh. It’s a good book. Very easy reading. There are 2 passages that stand out to me regarding the whole questioning-life-and-purpose thing I’ve been going through for the past 6 months or so.

On discovering who I am and what God’s will for me is:

“So what are we to make of this God-given promise that if we delight ourselves in him, he will give us the desires of our heart? I love what C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity: ‘Your real self will not come as long as we are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him.’

“My own journey has taken me away from trying so hard to find the will of God for my life. It has taken me to the place of brokenness and letting go of everything I thought I needed. I found peace and purpose as I lay exhausted at the feet of the Lion of Judah. It took me many years to understand that God wanted my heart, not my schedule.”

God wants my heart, not my fine-tuned plans for aiding His kingdom. He wants me to be who I really am in Christ, not try to be someone I’m not.

On my desire to write but feeling it’s prideful to want to do so:

“Don’t turn your light down just because it seems to burn brighter than the one who stands beside you. Let it shine and hold it high. The liberating truth is that none of this is about you anyway–it is all about God. If God has given you a voice to sing, then sing out for him. If God has given you the gift of mercy, then pour out that mercy in Jesus’ name whether anyone gets it or not. If God has given you a heart to serve, then serve with your whole heart even if no one stops to say thank you. If God has given you the ability to teach, then teach with vision and passion.

“Whatever God has placed in you, use it.”

I’m planning on starting my weekly writing retreats (to Panera, Starbuck’s, or a cute local coffee shop if I find one) this week on Tuesday. I have a lot of books on writing to read, old journals to review, and a long way to go. But it’s my dream and I’m going to pursue until God slams the door in my face. At least I’ll know that I have been faithful in using the gifts God has given me.