Friday, March 14, 2014

Faithful Fridays ~ We are Free to Struggle.

How are you all this fine Friday?  :)  I hope you've had a great week!  :)

Faithful Fridays is a weekly linky party hosted on my blog. I made it so that Christians could have one special day out of the week (Friday) to share something from their Christian walk on their blog. If you'd like to participate, write your post, grab the button from the Faithful Fridays page on my blog (so that it will link back here), and come link up at the bottom of this post! :)


I was able to volunteer at Winter Jam last week with my family, working as a rep for Holt International and their child sponsorship program.  I was an "aisle runner" and it was a really great experience--I loved it!  :)  I also got to sit in on the concert, and one group that was there was Tenth Avenue North.  I've always loved these guys, but that night, they were just amazing.

You might have heard their song "The Struggle."  They performed it at Winter Jam, and it really just hit me in the head (in a good way :)).  

We all struggle.  Sometimes no struggles seem to be apparent in our lives, and sometimes the struggle that's going on seems like all we can see.   Sometimes it seems like we're doing just fine and we don't really need God's help with much of anything, and sometimes His shield of protection around us is the only thread that's keeping us hanging on.

Whatever place you're in right now as far as struggles, I think we can all agree that struggles tend to stink.  They produce fear, worry, shame, anxiety, guilt, sorrow, and all the other things that come with having something come between us and God.  Struggles make me feel like there's a big wedge between the two of us, and like He's not with me anymore--or maybe it's that I'm not with Him.  

But here's the deal:  The Bible says in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (or, "God's glorious standard).  God is perfect.  He is love.  He is good.  He is truth.  There is no sin in Him, no room for mistakes, no lies.  That's who He IS.  

And because of our sin, we're not perfect.  Far from it.  We sin against and hurt God all the time, and He knows that.  He knows we aren't perfect.  And that's the whole reason why He sent His Son to take on our sin and imperfection, to break down that wall that separated us from God's love and forgiveness and presence.  When that veil in the temple, which signified the veil between us and God, split open, we were no longer held to our sin.  

"Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit.  At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.  The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened.  The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead."
-Matthew 27:50-51

We were reconciled to God, redeemed and set free, at the moment that Jesus took on that sin, and when He rose again, alive and victorious over sin and death.  But we still struggle, don't we?  Of course.  We still have sin in us, it's just that each time we bring ourselves to God and ask Him to forgive us and cleanse us, He takes all that sin away and we're made blameless, spotless, pure, and clean.  And that's a wonderful, wonderful thing.

But sometimes I feel like my struggles are just too much.  Time after time, I have to keep coming back to God with them, asking Him for help and forgiveness and strength, and I start feeling like I'm just a total failure.  Why do I keep struggling with this?  Why can't I just drop it?  Why isn't God setting me free?  Why can't I do better?  

Our struggles result from sin, guys.  Sometimes struggles are things like addictions to alcohol or drugs.  Sometimes our struggles are caring too much about what others think of us, trying to conform to their standards.  Sometimes our struggles are temptations to sin, like lying or stealing.  Sometimes our struggles have to do with relationships, like obeying our parents, listening to them, and having a good attitude with them, or problems with holding up a friendship.  And sometimes our struggles have to do with deeper spiritual issues--thoughts, doubts, pride.  And I guess where things like temptation to sin and addictions are easy to identify as sin, things like impure thoughts, doubting who God is and if you really want to follow Jesus, or if you can trust Him, and having a prideful and vain attitude toward God are not always easy to see or call sin.  I've found myself in the place before where I'm asking God why He "gave me this."  "I can't deal with this.  I know you can take it away!  Just do it!"  

But sin is simply rebellion against God, saying that you're not going to follow His way.  He made the laws of the universe, and yet we dare to disobey Him.  We turn our backs to Him in pride and doubt toward Him.  These thoughts and doubts and deeper issues are just as much temptation to sin as the urge to lie or steal or be deceitful.  

God doesn't give us sin.  It's against His nature.  It's in us--God didn't put it there, and He didn't give us these struggles.  

"When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.'  For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.  Don't be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
-James 1:14-17

"So," you say.  "It's just that I'm messed up."  Well, yeah.  I mean, we all are!  I'm just as messed up as the next person, no matter how apparent or unapparent, "big" or "small" his or her struggles may be.  We all struggle with different things, and that's the whole reason why we need grace, and why God is so amazing to offer it.  Sin personally hurts Him and goes against His mighty word, and yet, when we come to Him and ask forgiveness, He gives it.  When we ask Him to take away our sin, He does, and He casts it as far as the east is from the west.  It's no longer in His mind.  And when we ask Him for strength, He gives it to us. 

Hebrews 4:16

"For 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
-Romans 10:13

God never said that we wouldn't struggle after we were forgiven.  It's not that He can't take away our struggles.  He can.  It's that sin still exists, and it's part of our human nature.  That's the way it is.  Sin still exists, but He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.  God said His grace would be sufficient for us.  Tenth Avenue North's song "The Struggle" says,

Hallelujah, we are free to struggle!
We're not struggling to be free!
Your blood bought and makes us children.
Children, drop your chains and sing!

So why, Lord, do I still fail, 
Do I wear thin?
Why do I still give in to temptation?
On my own, I am bankrupt,
I don't trust You or take You at Your word,
What You've promised.

Hallelujah, we are free to struggle! 
We're not struggling to be free!
Your blood bought and makes us children.
Children, drop your chains and sing!

We will still struggle with sin.  But Jesus has already set us free.  We're already covered by His love, and He's fighting for us.  We don't have to feel guilty or be afraid that we'll give in to our struggles.  All we have to do is trustingly ask for His help and His strength, and He's eager to give it.  

"If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father.  He loves to help.  You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it.  Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.  People who 'worry their prayers' are like wind-whipped waves.  Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open."
-James 1:5-8

That night at Winter Jam, Mike Donehey of Tenth Avenue North said, "We are free to struggle, because when we fall, we fall into an ocean of grace and His love."  He also said, "The only thing that keeps you from Jesus is thinking you don't need Him.  You're never to weak to be redeemed." 

It's kind of like when you have a moment of panic and start worrying about something, and then another switch flicks on in your brain and reminds you of some reason why you don't have to worry about it--maybe you thought you left some chores undone at your house and you're going to get into trouble for it, but then you remember that your mom said she'd do it for you.  Or you wake up thinking you're late and you've overslept, and then remember that whatever you had to get up early for was cancelled, and you can lay back and be at rest.  

God's love for us is a safety net.  He's the one who does for us what we can't do on our own.  He's the one who gives us rest.  He's the one who sets us free and fights for us, on our behalf.  He's the one who makes us more than conquerors through Him.  He was the only one that could conquer sin, and He conquered it so that His strength could be given to us in our struggles.

We're already covered by His love.  He's fighting for us.  He's just waiting for us to call on Him for strength, even if we have to keep coming back to Him for more when the struggles with sin get harder.  He's there, and He'll never leave.  We're free to struggle, because He's already won the battle Himself, and He'll never let the struggles overcome us when we depend on Him and His strength.


God bless you guys and have a great weekend!  :)
Joy :)


Jazzmin said...

Amazing. I think God knew I needed to hear this. Thank you for this post! I definitely relate to feeling like a failure sometimes because I keep coming to God with the "same old" problems. But reading this is an incredible reminder to me. I am in love with the words you heard at Winter Jam, as well: "We are free to struggle, because when we fall, we fall into an ocean of grace and His love." Beautiful.

Have a blessed day!

~Jazzmin :)

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