Categories
grace

It’s OK to Give Yourself a Little Grace

You’re doing better than you think…

The criticism we heap on ourselves is often worse than any criticism we receive from others. We want to be the perfect husband or wife, the perfect parent, the perfect person. We long for the unattainable goal of perfection.

But we find ourselves making mistakes. We use bad judgement. We fail. And, sooner or later, we must face the truth: We aren’t perfect.

When someone else makes a mistake or fails, we are inclined to offer grace, understanding, and encouragement. But when we’re the ones who messed up, we can be very hard on ourselves. Instead of beating ourselves up, maybe we need to give ourselves a little grace.

It’s OK to analyze our mistakes. We can almost always learn something from a mistake or a failure. But it’s not OK to be so hard on ourselves that we doubt our worth, our purpose, or God’s love for us.

Romans 8:1 says, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” We are free from guilt. We are forgiven. No punishment awaits us. We have been set free—free from shame, free from guilt, and free from the tyranny of our own thoughts.

God’s love for us is unconditional. God loves us so much that he sent Jesus to die for us. He loves us so much that he calls us his children—his sons and daughters. We are heirs of God’s glory. God isn’t disappointed in us when we mess up. In fact, he isn’t even surprised. His grace, mercy, and love are abundant, and they don’t disappear in the midst of our mistakes.

In God’s hands, our mistakes and failures do not equal defeat. They are just another step on our journey. “The steps of the God-pursuing ones follow firmly in the footsteps of the Lord, and God delights in every step they take to follow him. If they stumble badly, they will still survive, for the Lord lifts them up with his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24). We may fall down, but we won’t stay down. We may stumble badly, but God himself will lift us up with his strong hand.

Friend, you’re not perfect, but you’re perfectly loved. Your mistakes and failures don’t define you. You have permission to give yourself a little grace. You’re doing better than you think. Let go of those things that are behind. The past is past. Instead, reach for your future, confident of God’s love, goodness, and faithfulness.

Dear God, I’m amazed at your great love and forgiveness. Thank you for forgiving my sins, mistakes, and failures. Help me forgive myself. Give me wisdom to learn from my past and then to let it go. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
grace

A Word for the Weary

“So, no one will ever be able to boast, for salvation is never a reward for good works or human striving.” (Ephesians 2:9)

Remember the story of Sleeping Beauty? She was cursed and put into a deep sleep. What did she do to wake herself up? Trick question: She did nothing! Eventually she was awakened by, “true love’s kiss,” given to her by a prince. The curse wasn’t lifted through Sleeping Beauty’s effort, but because of what the prince did for her.

Just like Sleeping Beauty, we were under a curse, spiritually lifeless, with no ability to save ourselves. And, like Sleeping Beauty, we were rescued by the action of someone else. But, unlike Sleeping Beauty, we often fall into the sticky trap of striving—trying to earn God’s favor by good deeds and hard work.

Striving wearies us but gets us nowhere. We can never do enough to earn our salvation, but we can wear ourselves out trying to do more and more, hoping for approval from people or from God.

Why do we keep striving to earn the grace we have been given as a gift? Here are three possible reasons:

  1. We compare ourselves to others. “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else” (Galatians 6:4). Since everyone’s journey is unique, with unique experiences, gifting, and calling, comparison is impossible. The Bible tells us to focus on our own lives and take pride in our journey, instead of comparing ourselves to someone else.
  • We won approval in the past by performance. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Many people “earned” love and approval by obeying rules and performing well. We may be tempted to apply that attitude to our relationship with God. But God loves us just as much when we when we mess up big time as he does when we execute flawlessly.
  • It’s easier to keep a set of rules than to do what God really wants from us. “I give you a new commandment: Love each other just as much as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Y’all, loving people is hard! Following a set of rules is sometimes easier than loving everybody unconditionally, the way God loves us. But God is more interested in our hearts than our actions. He wants to change us from the inside out.

God has given us permission to cease striving. We can stop trying to earn his favor, and we don’t have to impress one another or try to make ourselves feel more valuable because of our accomplishments.

Jesus promised his yoke would be easy and his burden light. He said we would find refreshment and rest in him. If you’re feeling the weight of earning God’s love, set that burden down. Rest confidently in his love. You don’t have to earn your place at his table. Your seat is already reserved. Take a deep breath…and relax!

Dear God, I know my salvation is a gift from your heart of mercy and grace. When I think I’m not doing enough to please you, remind me of your unconditional love. I don’t have to earn your love. Regardless of how well I think I’m doing or how badly I think I have messed up, you just keep on loving me. Help me rest in your love. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
grace

Glorious Grace

“But God still loved us with such great love. He is so rich in compassion and mercy. Even when we were dead and doomed in our many sins, he united us into the very life of Christ and saved us by his wonderful grace! (Ephesians 2:4-5)

I am not naturally a good person. Nobody, by nature, is good. Sure, we try to make ourselves think we are good compared to the “bad people” we see around us. We have an unrealistic view of our goodness, like a drove of pigs in a filthy pigpen comparing themselves to each other and feeling clean because some other pig is dirtier.

Psalm 36:1-2 says, “They have no fear of God at all. In their blind conceit, they cannot see how wicked they really are.” When we think we’re pretty good, we’re still wicked at heart. The money we give to the homeless doesn’t change it. Working with underprivileged children doesn’t change it. No effort of our own can make us “good.”

 “You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil …All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature…” (Ephesians 2:2-3). Two forces push us toward sin—the influence of the devil and our own natural inclinations.

Whether we make a wreck of our lives, leaving pain and problems everywhere we turn, or live so-called moral lives, making good decisions and helping other people, we are still tainted by sinfulness.  Unless we turn to God it doesn’t matter if we live a “bad” life or a “good” life. Either way, we are spiritually dead, headed for trouble in this life and doom in the next. Nothing we do on our own remedies our plight.

We are born with terminal sinfulness. That’s the bad news. The good news is—there’s a cure.

Ephesians 2:4 begins, “But God…” Don’t you love those two words? But God…did not leave us spiritually dead and doomed in our sin.

In his book, “Ephesians for You,” Richard Coekin gives this illustration of our dramatic rescue:

Imagine yourself as a decaying corpse…trussed up in chains inside a coffin…headed inexorably to the flames of the crematorium. Suddenly, as your coffin is engulfed by flames, someone leaps into the flames, smashes open the coffin, and despite the horrific burns that scar him forever, retrieves your corpse, breathes life into your body, washes you and clothes you in his own clothes, tenderly carries you to his chauffeur-driven Bentley and takes you home to his father’s presidential palace to stay in his rooms and feast at his table, enjoying the hospitality of his father forever.

That’s our story—the story of glorious grace. Those of us who have been so gloriously rescued should never view it as mundane or ordinary. We should never live a day without expressing sincere gratitude for what God did for us. I am so humbled and thankful for his grace. Isn’t it absolutely glorious?

Heavenly Father, I cannot express how thankful I am for your glorious grace. Forgive me for any time I thought I was good enough on my own. I know that my so-called righteousness is like filthy rags in your sight. I didn’t deserve your love and mercy, but you wrapped me in them anyway. Your grace still amazes me. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus’s name, amen.

(Today’s Reading: Ephesians 2:1-6)