I’ve had close friendships with countless Christians in my lifetime, and if there’s one thing we’ve all got in common, it’s that we’ve all got some bad habit, some addictive sin, some hangup that we just can’t seem to overcome. People struggle with all kinds of things — rage, overeating, jealousy, passive-aggressive behavior, and porn addiction, to name a few.
One thing I’ve noticed is that people tend to gauge their entire spiritual health on how they’re doing with their one or two weak areas. If they kept their cool during an argument, used self-control at the sushi buffet, or didn’t click on the racy ad online, they think they’re in good shape. Otherwise, they feel like failures, so they withdraw into the shadows, away from God and other people and hate themselves for being losers.
If this pattern sounds familiar to you, I encourage you to remember three things the next time you fall on your face in a particular area of weakness:
1. See your weakness as an opportunity – not a liability. We don’t like to struggle, because struggling (and then failing) is humiliating to our prideful sense of self-worth. But it is in our weakness that God’s strength is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9), so rather than wishing you never had to struggle again, invite God into your struggles. In fact, ask Him to meet you right at the moment of failure; because the primary goal is to learn to trust Him. If you can trust Him with yourself in those moments, you can trust Him with anything.
2. Remember that spiritual maturity is bigger than your “one” area of weakness. The next time you fail in that particular area of weakness that you find so vexing, stop and ask yourself a few questions: Is this the only area where you’re struggling? Do you care about the poor? Do you have people you haven’t forgiven? Do you talk about people behind their backs? Are you loving and respectful to your spouse?
The problem with focusing on one area of sin in your life is that you can trick yourself into thinking that if you can just be more self-controlled in that one area, you will have achieved spiritual maturity. And then you’ll believe you don’t need Jesus as badly as you used to. But the truth is, we struggle in countless areas that need the discipline of Jesus. When we forget that, we become self-righteous and reduce our spirituality to a set of rules that define us as good or bad, which brings me to the last point.
3. Keep in mind that good behavior does not redeem us. The only thing that makes us righteous before God is the blood of Jesus Christ, who took our badness away on the cross and then donated His goodness to us in full (2 Corinthians 5:21). If we rest in that, if we accept the fact that the work is truly complete (even if we don’t see it quite yet), we will have the grace to invite Jesus into our current struggles without counting on our behavior to make us spiritually whole.
Jesus did everything He could to prove His love for us on the cross, and regardless of what our weaknesses are, He’s going to work with us in them to make sure we know that we’re loved right where we are.