It’s a new year – everyone is making a list of things they want to change, like every year before, which usually means that by the end of next week, the list-makers will say “I tried” and continue on as usual. I’m not a fan of resolutions. I haven’t made a list in years because I know that I won’t keep them if that’s all I do – list things.
Instead, four years ago, I started journaling at the beginning of every year, listing spiritual goals for myself. For me, this has served as a tangible form of accountability for myself so that I can check on my own spiritual goals later and celebrate the ways God has answered those prayers.
But it’s Day 2 of 2012 and I still haven’t journaled. And it’s because there is a burden which is crippling me.
There’s something I’ve realized about myself lately that dissatisfies me. It affects my entire perspective on life and it eats away at me daily. I’ve known for a while that it’s been a problem, but I wasn’t able to identify it and name it until a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been wrestling with it and trying to figure out how to change it.
I have come to realize that in spite of my faith and deepening, closer walk with Christ, I am living a guilt-driven life. It is a tension that eats at me not only daily, but hour-by-hour, minute by minute. No matter what activity I am engaged in, I feel guilty – all the time – and therefore, I am neglecting the freedom which Christ so warmly invites me into as a child of God. Not only does He invite us to freedom, He boldly declares that we have already been free.
“For FREEDOM Christ has set us FREE; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
There are three things that stand out to me in this passage:
1. Christ set us free for the purpose of freedom. As simple as that sounds, it is such a profound thought. There is no hidden motive in this – God truly wants us to be free from burdens, sorrows, tribulations, heartache, suffering, and guilt. He wants us to be free from self-dependence and the impossibility of self-sufficiency. He doesn’t wants us to be slaves any longer!
2. In response, I must stand firm in the freedom which was purchased for me, at no cost of my own, so that I may live freely in hope, joy, and love.
3. To neglect this freedom, to continue to live in guilt, is to not only deny this precious gift of freedom but also willingly submit myself to the burden of slavery – to my sins, to my shortcomings, to my imperfections, and to my humanity when instead, God wants to impart His divinity and perfection onto me in the form of the righteousness God clothed me with when I was sanctified by the blood of Christ.
I have felt physically sick at times under the weight of this guilt. I have lost sleep over this guilt, I have shed tears, I have felt the strain in relationships, and most importantly, I have allowed my guilt to keep me from coming to God and laying it all down at the foot of the cross.
The other night, I came home and sobbed for over an hour and poured out my heart on the pages of my journal. I want to share an excerpt from that entry:
Lately, I feel like I can’t breathe. I feel suffocated by technology, tasks, meetings, appointments, and guilt. So many people and things are vying for my attention and if I spend too much time on one and not enough on the other, I feel guilty. Example: If I am doing schoolwork and not work for my job, I feel guilty. Example: If I’m writing a paper and not enjoying time with friends, I feel guilty. Example: If I’m spending time with friends and not with my family, I feel guilty. Example: If I sleep in and wake up to an overloaded inbox, I feel guilty. Example: If I go shopping and buy myself something, I feel guilty…I don’t understand why I’m living with so much guilt and shame…I know it’s holding me back. I can physically feel it. And I desire freedom…I want so badly to be free but I keep shackling myself to guilt.
From there, my entry turned into a prayer:
My Lord, my sweet Lord – please turn my eyes away from myself and onto the beautiful face of Christ. For it is in You alone that I live, and move, and have my being. Teach me who that is – who I am in You. May I be found in You. Restore this broken, hurting self and transform me, God. Know me, God. Healer – cleanse me from the inside out. Take this broken body and spirit and restore me to new heights. Be glorified in my pain. Be strength in my weakness. Be clarity in my misunderstanding. Be hope in my doubt and light in my darkness.
Teach me to triumph, God, for You are TRIUMPHANT. Teach me to glory, Lord, for You are GLORIOUS. Teach me to be holy, Father, for You are HOLY.
The entry went on for three more pages as I poured out specific hurts to God and prayed for intervention.
I realize that I am at a crossroads. Rather than remain enslaved to a guilt-ridden life, I want to embrace a grace-filled life. It is ridiculous to be so mentally divided that I cannot enjoy time with the people I love without feeling like I need to be working on a task. It is absurd to think that I am neglecting the people I love when I spend time working on stuff for my job. And it is insane to feel guilty for sleeping in when I am mentally and physically drained.
I’m sure there are practical steps which will help me make better decisions and therefore limit some of the extra, unneeded stress and chaos in my life. However, I think that most of this guilt would vanish if I looked first to my Savior, Redeemer, and Lord – the Author and Perfecter of my faith – rather than dwelt on the limitations of my own frail life.
I was recently humbled by the passage in James which says,
What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
I need to stop taking myself so seriously. When my pride swells and I am overwhelmed by everything, I need to stop and remember that I am nothing but a mist. I am devoid of purpose without Christ. I can never be saved by my technology, education, social status, or church involvement. These things to not define me or add value to my life.
My God, the one who sacrificed His priceless only Son for my costly freedom, is the only one who assigns value to my life. And He says that I should not submit to slavery – that I should not let my guilt lord over me – but should instead rest in the promise of FREEDOM in Christ.
So I’m holding onto this promise:
So if he Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Isn’t that a beautiful promise? Believe it, Christian. We are to live in the light of His glorious grace!
So what about you? Is there anything that you feel is holding you back from fully embracing God’s grace and living in the freedom to which we have been called?
I would sincerely love to hear what God is doing in your heart and how He may be convicting and sharpening you.
I want to leave you with this verse which offers me peace and encouragement, guilt-free:
Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
May it be so – that you can rest in the Lord – that you can have a conversation with the Lord, and that we can continue to sharpen each other as God teaches us about who we are in light of Who He is.