There are moments in life when everything you truly are is laid bare. They leave you open to attack, insecure about details of your being once thought sacrosanct. I don't relish those moments. I'd much rather stay ensconced in safe illusions of my immutable good character than examine myself for who I am.
It would be easy just to ignore my faults and continue on blithely into adulthood. After all, my friends accept me for who I am, warts included. And who's to say that I'll ever improve? Maybe I'm meant to struggle this way for the rest of my life. Maybe I'll never find an answer.
So often the one whose opinion I seek the least is the one whose opinion matters the most. Hopefully, you know the one I'm talking about. If you don't, you should. I can't tell you how many times He's cut through (metaphorically speaking) the fog in front of me when I most needed to see.
Recently, I went through I time of severe doubt, depression, and general self-hatred. Naturally, I sought earthly sources of comfort to bandage the wounds I'd opened in my soul. Naturally, none of them worked for any sustained period of time, but that didn't stop me from returning to those sources of comfort over and over in search of what was right in front of me.
"Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'" (Mark 8:34)
Carry a cross? Really? That's not what I signed up for. I thought that was your job.
"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13)
Wait, now you want me to work? Sorry Lord, I'm a Protestant. Saved by grace through faith, remember?
But that's not even the real kicker.
"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)
Okay, now you're just spouting nonsense. You can't possibly expect that kind of thing.
"Someone told him, 'Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.' He replied, 'My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice." (Luke 8:20-21)
Everything I needed to know had already been given to me in written form. What's more, I had read what had been given to me. All that remained was to shoulder my cross. But how? Paul had the same quandary.
"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." (Romans 7:15)
Here was the crux of my problem: I had been focusing too much on how helpless I was, and too little on what kind of help I had. I was by no means alone in this battle against my flesh.
"I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)
"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." (II Timothy 1:7)
I should note here that I'm not trying to encourage a doctrine of salvation through works. I fully believe that we are saved through the grace of God, and that works are simply a sign of saving faith. Neither am I trying to encourage legalism. I'm just trying to point out through my own experience how many of us have forgotten the power we've been given to do what is right.
"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'" (Luke 14:28-30)
Jesus has made it clear that following Him is not easy, that discipleship costs something. We must never forget that we have been brought from darkness into light, and that we have been made sons and daughters of God, instead of slaves to sin.