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The Delicate Balance Between Grace and Striving



To be completely honest, I've never really struggled with the concept of grace and obedience until now. There haven't been very many moments where I feel weighed down by my sin, where I feel too far gone, where my mistakes seem so big. I'm used to being the "good Christian girl", and even in my own mind, I think I'm typically doing the "right things". And when I do mess up, I haven't felt beyond the reach of grace.


Until now.


In this season of struggling to recognize the Lord's voice, waiting, and discouragement, I've felt as if I'm disobeying God - perhaps by not moving when He tells me to move or being still when He tells me to be still. My mind feels so full of everything that I'm having a hard time distinguishing if that voice in my head is my feelings or if it's God, and so I don't move. I wait and I try to listen, but I keep wondering if I'm missing what the Lord wants me to do. I wonder when I have moved, if it was the wrong move, and actually not what I was supposed to do.


It's a draining cycle, and it's got me thinking about the Lord's grace yet the importance of obedience.


On one hand, God is good and He is kind. The cross was enough to cover all of my shame, all of my sin, and all of my mistakes. In His eyes, I am holy and blameless, a temple of the Holy Spirit. My failures do not define me.


On the other hand, God is also just and righteous. He cannot be near sin, and so my sin (when unrepented) does separate me from God. Because I am a new creation, I have to live like it, and that means walking in obedience to what He calls me to do and working on becoming more like Him every day.


So I wrestle with this idea of accepting the Father's forgiveness and kindness to me, while working on it and not settling in sin - but not striving, but not slacking off. I wrestle with shame for the ways I've failed and complacency because "I'm covered".


Daily I bring this battle to the Lord, and I ask Him to reveal any lies from the enemy and speak directly to my heart. I pray for clarity and for hope - because this war in my mind is causing some very real anxiety and perfectionism. I bring it to Him and I open up Scripture for the truth. While I will never claim to have all the answers, and I definitely don't have this one figured out, the Lord has put a few specific things on my heart that I want to encourage you with today.


"I have more for you than just not sinning."

One day as I was praying, I felt the Lord whisper this to my heart, and it brought so much peace and relief. It was as if a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Because the truth is, God didn't call us so that He would have a bunch of mini robots running around to do His bidding. He called us because He desires a relationship. He wants us to experience an intimacy with Him, communion with Him, to hear His voice and recognize His presence. He wants us to be a reflection of His character, a light in the world, but I don't think we have to become a picture perfect Christian to do that.


When we fix our eyes on doing the right things instead of relationship, we miss the cross. We miss the whole point of Christianity. Refining and sanctification come along with life with Jesus, but the goal was never for us to achieve it ourselves. And most of the time, when our focus is checking off the boxes of what we're "supposed" to do, it's out of a heart of obligation and not love or worship or gratitude.


So, instead of "just not sinning", we are invited to the table with Jesus. We're invited to learn and grow and heal and discover - not just achieve or maintain. We're encouraged to sit at His feet and listen and wrestle, because He doesn't want mindless followers, but passionate disciples. And sometimes that process gets uncomfortable, but I think that comes with the territory.


"I did not come for the put together."

Again, if we could have been put together on our own, there would have been no need for the cross. But we can't. We can't pull our act together. But Jesus knew this, and He said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners" (Matthew 9:13). He told the Pharisees that there would be more rejoicing in heaven over the one sinner who repents than the ninety nine righteous people who don't need to repent. He came for you and I, who were hopelessly broken and lost. He came for our messes and our scars, because that's the kind of God He is. He loves us anyways, and He chooses us anyways, and He still extends the invitation to His table.


He came for our mess. And by His grace, He helps tend to the soil in our heart, bringing healing and restoration. He holds our hand as He leads us towards quiet waters (Psalms 23:2). Christ teaches us this new way of life, abundant life, where we can walk in freedom and joy and grace. He trains us to love the way He loves, embrace the way He embraces, and forgive the way He forgives. He fulfills the law, making it possible for us to be in a relationship with Him - a relationship that will forever change our lives, who we are, and what we believe. Not with the expectation of perfection, but simply the hope of a relationship - and relationships are messy sometimes.


"It's not about trying harder. It's about slowing down and being quieter."

It's true. We shouldn't stay in our sin, settling in that brokenness and allowing distance between us and God to grow. But the solution is not trying harder. We can't do it. No matter how hard we try, we can't pull ourselves out of that pit. So yes, we have to fix the sin and grow so we don't keep falling back into it, but we don't have to do it alone.


The solution is slowing down and getting with God. The solution is listening to His voice and allowing His Holy Spirit to do the work in our lives. It's cooperating with what He's doing, surrendering and giving Him our hearts. It's a partnership of sorts, a teamwork, as we walk alongside Jesus as He teaches us how we should live, what that looks like, and as He gives us the strength to do so. There's grace in this place.


So when you and I find ourselves back on our knees, discouraged by the ways we've failed once again, we don't have to hurry up and fix ourselves. We just have to hurry to the cross with a heart open to learn and grow. And there we will find the Savior, who shed His blood for us in a mighty gesture of love, extending His arms with grace and offering an invitation to follow Him and leave our lives of sin. Over and over and over again we can choose this invitation. He's not tired of our brokenness or failures - He's just happy we've come back again.

 

Friends, the Holy Spirit wrote this post. I needed to hear these words so badly, and reading through it again, I am so thankful that He put this post on my heart. I honestly didn't really want to write it, because I feel like I don't have many answers or much encouragement to share, but man, God used my weakness for His glory. It is my prayer that together, we would continue to learn and grow in understanding the Father's grace for our lives and what it looks like to go and leave our lives of sin. Because y'all, God is good, and He's not about to leave us now.


Do you have any thoughts or wisdom to share? Let me know down in the comments below; I love to hear from you!

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