Is it possible for you to impress God? I mean really set yourself apart in his eyes with your good works. Can you do that?
Well, let me tell you something, I’ve tried. Dang, I’ve tried. I can’t count how many boxes I’ve checked just to follow the rules and be a good girl worthy of blessings. On the outside it looks real nice, but on the inside, it leaves me wondering if I’ve done enough. Then, in my classic human form, I fail to check a box. I screw up. I sin. Then begins the litany of thoughts of unworthiness. Ultimately, I wind up in a place of fear. I become afraid God is disappointed with me, and in his disappointment he will punish me.
Does anyone else play this cat and mouse game of good works and fear? Checking boxes and unworthiness. Earning blessings and dodging punishment.
I do it. A lot, actually. My sincere offerings to God soon turn into a daily obligation, and if I don’t do it, I feel guilty. That guilt tells me bad things are going to happen to me. And ultimately the fear of something bad happening to me deepens my commitment to a daily obligation and lessens my sincere offering to God. I know God is not impressed, so what do I do? I try harder.
Is God impressed by my guilt? Is he disappointed in my guilt? Is he more likely to bless me when I am sincere, and more likely to withdraw his blessings when my motives are selfish?
Do you ever ask these questions? Seriously, here’s a peak into my mind. I offer this with a risk of judgment from people who perhaps have their spiritual life in better order, but judge away if you feel the need. Here’s the truth. This past weekend, I was sick. I straight up didn’t feel good. On Saturday morning, I rolled straight from the bed and onto the couch. I skipped an important part of my morning. I didn’t pray. The pillow was laying on the floor beside my bed as it always is, but my knees didn’t hit it. At the end of the day when I saw the pillow still laying on the floor as my prompt to pray, I not only felt guilt, but I felt fear. What if something terrible happened to one of my children that day because I didn’t pray over them?
Again, this is me trying to earn God’s blessings, provision and protection. I earn it with my faithfulness. I earn it with my good works. And if I fail to do good, then I fear punishment. If God is not impressed by me, will he be disappointed in me? If God is disappointed in me, does he turn his back on me?
I’m naturally a doer, a worker, an achiever. And guess what … God needs absolutely NONE of that from me. None. My head knows that, but my heart is still trying to catch on.
Anyone else on this same journey? Anyone else trying to earn God’s approval and check all the boxes so you qualify for his blessings? Is there anyone showing up today, listening to a daily devotional, because there’s a box you gotta check. In the beginning it was because you sincerely wanted to grow closer to God, but it has somehow warped into an obligation, which when met, you become worthy. When unmet, you feel guilty. And that guilt leads to fear.
But, Ephesians 2: 8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
It is GRACE that saves me, not my works. I have done absolutely nothing to earn God’s goodness in my life, it is purely a gift that comes through faith. And if I can’t earn it, that also means I can’t “un-earn” it.
I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that. I’m not quite there yet. But I know this much, God is working on me with this one. He’s digging through the layers of performance and hitting my heart. He’s smoothing my rough edges and bringing me into grace.
Grace. I’m now understanding I have never understood grace. It’s hard for me to comprehend. However, Anne Lamott writes about grace in a way that bypasses my head and hits my heart. She says, “I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us. Grace is Jesus throwing us over his shoulder and carrying us to places we could have never gone on our own.”
Get that visual. Just pause for a moment and see him graciously carrying you.
This grace is a mystery. Let it remain a mystery. Stop trying to understand it, we can’t. Stop trying to earn it, you can’t. Stop believing the lie that you have been disqualified from it, you’re not.
It is Jesus that throws us over his shoulder and carries us to places we could have never gone on our own. He gets us there. He carries us through. He makes a way. He changes things. Not us. Jesus. Not because we deserve it. Not because we’ve racked up enough good deeds to qualify. Only because he swooped in and rescued us. Me. You. Only because he paid the highest price possible for you. Only because he has made you fully righteous.
This is grace.
When I embrace the mystery of grace, then I come back to that genuine desire to draw close to God. Then I want to know more and more about him. Then I am blown away by him, instead of me trying desperately to blow him away. God does the impressing here, not us. STOP TRYING TO IMPRESS GOD, AND JUST BE IMPRESSED BY HIM! He simply wants his girl to wallow in the generous offer of his grace.
Check out this scripture written by Paul and see if it hits different now. 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10, “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.”
If grace is Jesus throwing you over his shoulder and carrying you to places you could have never gone on your own, then his grace is best revealed in the places where you can’t do it on your own. The places where you are weak. The places where you struggle. The places where you know you can’t do this. This is where grace does it’s finest work, because this is where Jesus carries you. This is where Jesus does what you cannot do. This is where Jesus makes things happen that you could never make happen.
So, when you’re in that place of knowing you can’t get there on your own, resist the offering of guilt. Resist the temptation of performance. Resist the pride that says you have to do it right or you will be a disappointing failure. Instead, delight in knowing this is precisely where Jesus carries you! This is where he takes you to places you could never get to on your own. This is where he meets you where you are and will not leave you there.
This is grace. I will never understand it. I will never be good enough to earn it. But I know Jesus has thrown me over his shoulder and he’s carrying me to places I could never go on my own.
And that grace saves me. It’s saving me from myself.
Today, stop trying to impress God, and simply be impressed by him.