The country is still digging out from the blizzard of 2011, as is most of Southwest Missouri. Most of our lives have been touched in one way or another by this weather phenomenon, with more to come this week. We canceled services at Ebenezer this past Sunday but, barring another foot or more of snow, we plan to be back Sunday morning at 11 a.m. singing hymns of praise and hearing God’s Word. I hope you will plan to join us or one of our area’s congregations as we serve the Risen Lord together!
Whomever you cheered for, the Super Bowl XVX is now a memory. I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed that my home team, the Steelers, didn’t make the cut, but then again, what is important is that they got there and did what they could. In fact, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, still won in that one of its own, Mike McCarthy, the coach of the Green Bay Packers, was the winning coach. McCarthy grew up in the Greenfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh, just about a mile or so from my husband. So I guess we “Pittsburghers” can take heart in that fact! (And hey, since many of you are from “Greenfield,” I guess that covers you, too!)
A friend confided recently that she felt like a failure. Many of us struggle with feeling less than adequate at the tasks we have performed or continue to work through, especially we Type A personalities who tend to be perfectionistic. In our minds we criticize our successes and enlarge our failures, continually berating ourselves, often in exaggerated terms. I well remember my mother telling me, when I was trying to help her by ironing my baby sister’s clothing, “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all!” Granted, she wanted my sister’s clothes to look nice, but she also was repeating a phrase she had learned from her father, one that haunted her, and me, for much of our lives.
So when we are beset by this overwhelming urge to just quit, sit down, and “scratch our boils” like Job, we need something else to help us objectively measure our value and worth, to pull us up out of the depression and name-calling and give us hope once again. Read these verses along with me and meditate on them. Let their truths sink down into your spirit, where God can restore your hope and joy.
First, I suppose it is important to consider just what I have failed at. Have I sinned outwardly by choosing to do that which I know is wrong? Is my “failure” a lapse in judgment, making a bad choice? Paul tells us that sin came into this world by one man’s choice—Adam, and forgiveness by one man—Jesus Christ.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). What an important spiritual truth—all have sinned. All have fallen short. The first thing you can do is to remind yourself that you are no different from anyone else in this world. Granted, the narrow and first application of this verse relates to sin, to making choices that defy God’s will. Yet, I can also take solace in knowing not only that “falling short” isn’t limited just to me, but also that my failure isn’t the ultimate issue, but rather the enduring grace given me by Christ’s sacrifice. There is nothing I have done that the grace of Christ cannot or will not wash away when I bring that to God.
You might tell me that you know all about grace and God’s forgiveness, but that you continue to make bad choices, continue to fall into the same problems you had previously. Second, I believe it is important to recognize that even the great apostle Paul shared in this malady.
“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:21-25).
You see, our finite, limited, earthly bodies and minds draw us downward toward those things that we can touch, see, hear, etc. We are limited by our need for security, for comfort, and for companionship. We make choices based on our personality needs and our physical needs and wants. Does that make our choices correct? No, we do sin against God by choosing the wrong things. We are guilty of walking a path other than the one God has chosen. And yet, as Paul testifies, although we are “wretched,” in Christ we can find hope, and help, to become more than we are.
I could write all day on this topic, having experienced God’s grace in many such areas, but space limits. Let me close with this:
If you are feeling despondent today, hopeless because you feel you cannot overcome those temptations that are plaguing you, please take heart and don’t give up.
If you are despairing because a person in your circle keeps reminding you that you have failed, that you aren’t what you, but especially they, wanted you to be, stop and think a minute about what God’s opinion might be.
If you are ready to give up because you feel you can’t go on, embarrassed by what seems like a multitude of failures in your life, please remind yourself that in Christ there is no sin or failure, but only forgiveness and restoration—new life.
If you are downcast not because of a “sin” issue, but because you are not what you want to be, because you hoped to be so much more, please remember that God made you for a purpose and that God’s purposes are possible to achieve, but only with God’s help. Don’t get ahead of the plan. That, in itself, becomes sin, as we let our thinking eclipse that which God has provided.
My friends, let God’s Word take first place, reminding yourself that God’s opinion is what matters, and that the eternal truths are those we should be taking to heart. Reach out to God with your heartbreak, and your failures, and you might just find that what you thought was a weakness is a strength that can be used for God’s glory.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church