Finding Rest in God's Grace
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I’ve been reading Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book, Good News for the Weary Women. It’s about escaping the bondage of perfectionism and the striving to please. She explains that as Christians, we don’t have to earn God’s favor because we already have it, through Jesus. I wasn’t feeling like the book was especially relevant to me, because I felt that I do understand a few things about God’s grace and forgiveness. I write about those things here on the blog, often. I know he loves us, no matter what. And yet, I identified with the “weary woman” part- the rules, the lists, etc. I figured my motivation was different, though, and that since I wasn’t doing those things to measure my worth with God, this book wasn’t for me. Then I read these words,
“We may not realize it, but our desire for self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, and self-perfection is actually a form of idolatry in our lives. We think that our opinion and our own successes are of the highest importance. We worship our own judgments and in doing so, degrade God’s” -Elyse Fitzpatrick, Good News for the Weary Woman
Right away, I recognized myself in this statement. How often do I create endless lists of rules for myself, feeling proud when I live up to them and terrible when I don’t? Am I seeking self-acceptance and self-perfection because God’s approval isn’t sufficient for me, because I place my own opinion of myself higher than God’s? Yes, I do- and I’m sorry. By God’s grace, I felt his gentle correction, and an invitation to turn away from that sin, that idolatry.
Those are strong words. Sin. Idolatry. But effectively changing wrong thinking and behavior requires first that we recognize something for what it is. I want my focus to be on God, not myself. I love what Elyse writes a few paragraphs later,
“Why is it so hard for us to believe and enter into rest? Many times it’s because believing in Him means not believing in ourselves. We must give up false confidence in ourselves and embrace the humiliation of the Cross. We must believe that His perfection is enough for us. And then we believe it over and over again, every day, until we finally stop hoping for our own approval and rest.”- Elyse Fitzpatrick
It’s a trust issue. I write about that a lot here, too. I think that there are several common reactions to God’s grace and what how we choose to trust God.
There are those who find rest in God and accept what Jesus has done for them, knowing his perfection is their own, not because of what they’ve done, but because of who Jesus is. They respond in gratitude and trust. They work hard and serve others, for God’s glory, out of love and a motivation to be on mission with what God has called them to- sharing the love of God with the world. This is where we want to be, but it is not by our own strength that any of us live this way. If you read this description and find yourself lacking, remember these words from Paul in Philippians 3:12-14,
Then there are those who may believe God is real, but they have a hard time trusting that God is for them, that he loves them and forgives them. These people often strive to please God, adding extra religious rules, trying to earn God's love...when they already have it.
Of course, there are also some who don’t believe in God at all, or who haven’t yet heard the good news about who God is and what he has done for them.
And there are many people, who believe that God is real- they know he loves them, and they know about his forgiveness, but they’re still not at peace, because they don’t trust that God is enough for them. They value their own opinion (or the world’s) more than God’s.
Do you recognize one of those descriptions in yourself? We’re probably all on a continuum between several of them. I didn’t like what I saw in myself when I read those words in Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book, and maybe you don’t like what you see in yourself either, but let that not be a discouragement. Let these words encourage all of us to press on, turning away from any sin that hinders us, acknowledging our weakness, knowing that this verse is true,