Here are some things God has taught me about myself this winter.
1. I really like being in control of my circumstances.
2. I am not patient. I’m bad at waiting on God’s timing.
3. I live according to my interpretations of the facts. Not the facts themselves. Which often causes me to drive myself crazy with anxiety and insecurity.
4. I struggle with thankfulness and contentment, and consequently, with joy.
5. I tend to avoid conflict in order to please people and then end up in resentment and bitterness.
6. I idolize other people’s approval and affirmation and attention.
7. I love others when only it’s convenient or easy for me.
8. I don’t hate my sin enough to do whatever it takes to guard my heart.
9. I idolize my relationships with other people and create unrealistic and or/unspoken expectations for them in my head, which causes me severe disappointment when they don’t meet my expectations.
10. I compare myself to others, spiritually, physically, relationally.
11. I don’t use my time wisely or have a great work ethic.
12. I hate admitting my needs and exposing my weaknesses to others.
13. I take on too much and then I think I’m justified in my stress.
14. I am afraid of expressing my incorrect attitudes about God to God.
15. I expect too much of others and too little of the Lord when it comes to filling my needs.
16. I have a lack of self-control.
17. I have a hard time listening to God.
18. Often times I care more about what others think of me, my comfort, my ideas of pleasure, and my time than I do about spreading the Gospel.
19. I am, at heart, self-focused.
These are things I have been learning about myself during these bitterly-cold past two months, crammed between the schoolwork and activities and Bible studies and meetings and rehearsals. The miserable weather, freezing temperatures, and general greyness haven’t been helping my emotional state, either. This winter has been a very difficult process of God showing me a ton of sin in my life. And for most of these two months, I was feeling really discouraged and drained by all of it. Like, Oh, thanks, God, for showing me another area of life in which I am utterly and totally inadequate! I really, really appreciate that. I’m feeling really good about this. Yeah. Love You, too. I felt like a total failure as a Christian, a fake and a hypocrite, and because I knew all this junk about myself and hid my discouragement well, it caused me to feel unknown, unworthy, and even unsaved, at one point early on in January. I wondered, how can I be so sinful and still call myself a Christian? Though I knew the biblical answers to my questions in my head, a tiny part of me wondered–is God disappointed in me? Does He love me? Does He even like me? He can’t possibly care about me when I feel so far away. I wrestled with feelings of loneliness, despair, doubt, numbness, and anxiety. All these lessons about the profound depth of my sin seemed too much to bear.
But God was about to teach me one more thing.
It all started this past Sunday, when Andy, the worship director at my church, gave a sermon about progressive sanctification, and he quoted something he’d heard from one of the other church leaders, Pat.
“Sometimes the closer you get to Christlikeness, the farther away you feel.”
Wait. What. I latched onto these words, and over the next few days, I began to have a conversation with God about this simple sentence.
God, I feel hopeless.
Because right now, I am farther away than ever from being like Jesus. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Lord, but I am very, very sinful. Full of sin. It’s terrible. I’m literally the worst.
But, Erin…don’t you realize that Me showing you all your sin is an essential part of killing it and becoming more like My Son?
I mean. Yeah…
So, why do you feel so burdened by what I have shown you? I’ve taken care of the penalty for your sin on the cross. You have no reason to be so despairing.
Well–well, because IT SUCKS!! There’s just so much! I just feel so discouraged, God! I don’t know if I can bear this anymore! I’m so broken-hearted at my lack of holiness!! My sin is so horrible, so great–
…But is it greater than Me?
And then I understood something about sanctification that I had been missing all along.
I knew that my sin would always be inside me, and it would always be bad because God hates it. He truly hates sin. It stands in contrast to His very essence–His holiness, His perfection, His goodness and purity. God wants me to be like Jesus, who was sinless, which is why He spent all of January and February showing me every area in which I was disobedient, because my problems need to be identified before they can be fixed. He wants us to recognize our sin, to hate our sin, to feel grieved about it. David is a perfect example of this in Psalm 51:3-4 when he writes, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You may be justified in Your words and blameless in Your judgment.” But I stopped there–at this great knowledge of the depth and gravity of my sin…which was when my theology became startlingly incomplete.
I was so consumed by the tragedy and horror of my sin, my inadequacy, my failure, my unholiness, me, me, me, me, me….that I had forgotten about God.
You see, it’s simple. God will always, always be bigger than me. And therefore, He will always be bigger than my sin. My sin is nothing compared to Him. Through Christ’s death on the cross, He has obliterated it. Destroyed it. He has made a contemptible, laughable fool of Satan. He has broken the shackles of defeat and shame and guilt, and instead He has clothed me in righteousness. He has justified me. He has gladly bought me back from sin and Satan at a great cost, and all because He loved me. He has poured out His very Spirit upon me so that He would always be with me. He has given me strength to overcome any temptation that may come my way. He has promised me victory over sin. He has brought joy to me unlike any I could ever experience because it is a joy that is not bound within the limited, insufficient confines of me.
If I want to experience God, see victory over sin, and live the abundant life He intended for me, I need to stop looking inward at my imperfection, and start looking upward at Him.
Here are some things God has taught me about Himself this winter.
1. He is big. Bigger than me, or my sin.
2. He is so, so good.
3. He is incredibly powerful.
4. He loves me more in a moment than anyone ever will in their whole lifetime.
5. He even likes me, too.
6. He has good plans for me. And good timing.
7. He’s way smarter than I will ever be.
8. He is infinitely patient with me.
9. He is faithful to forgive.
10. He is for me, even when I’m not.
11. He is with me, always.
12. He will fight for me when I fail.
13. He will help me to become like Jesus, and when it’s painful, He will comfort me.
14. He is worthy of worship.
15. He can fully satisfy all of my needs. All. Of. My. Needs.
16. Only He is eternal.
17. He knows and understands me when no one, not even myself, does.
18. He cannot be defeated.
19. Nothing I say or do or think or feel, no matter how wrong, will ever shock Him or make Him walk away from me.
These are the things that I have been learning about God during these bitterly-cold past two months. And in these truths about God is the knowledge that this winter will not last forever. Found within these things are the promise of joy, the hope of abundant new life, and the glimmer of an eternal spring.