From Striving to Soul Rest


Are you striving in your own strength to meet God's perfect, holy demands, or are you trusting in Jesus alone for your righteousness?

Somehow I always knew the standard was perfection. Maybe it's because I'm a firstborn. Or maybe it's because I was raised on the Bible. Either way, I knew I didn't measure up to God's perfect, holy standard. Sadly, it took me years to realize that Jesus was my source of perfection...

Mom tells me I accepted the Word of God with the "faith of a little child." I don't ever remember a time when I didn't believe I was a sinner in need of a restored relationship with God. Yet my eyes were blinded to His love, grace, and forgiveness of my sins through Jesus' perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection. Oh, I knew the gospel story by heart and I would have told you I believed it, but there was a major disconnect between my head and my heart. Can you relate?

As a little girl, I was keenly aware of my sin and inadequacy. In fact, mom still has a file folder of apology letters I wrote to her and dad whenever I would disobey. I remember asking God to save me almost every night. I was sure of my sin, but never sure of His pleasure or favor. (That's because I thought I had to earn it!)

Because of this, I didn't have a loving, personal relationship with God. I thought He was always angry at me. I tried my hardest to be good, but shouldered that burden myself (and what a heavy burden it was!). This led to a season in my early teens where I tried to find the love I longed for from guys—any guy who would pay me attention would do! When I realized that was a dead-end street, I went back to trying "the God thing" again.

Still, it wasn't until my early twenties that I finally reached the end of myself. One morning, I woke with such a heavy sense of despair. I knew no matter how hard I tried, I wouldn't make it through the day without sinning. (I guess I always thought this was the goal!) No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't please God. As I was sobbing in emotional exhaustion, God brought to mind Matthew 11:28–30:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

That's when I realized I had a serious problem. My twenty-plus years of experience didn't line up with Jesus' promised peace and rest; I had only known the hard, heavy burden of religion. I found myself asking a question I could hardly fathom, "Do I really even know Jesus?"

Over the next few weeks and months, God kindly brought along a couple of older believers to walk with me through this season. I began studying Romans 5-8 with one of them, and the gospel came alive to me as I realized I was dead, and Jesus' life was now pulsating within me!

Since then, I've continued to grow in my understanding and gratitude that I am in Christ, who has become my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that my only boast is that I am His! (1 Cor. 1:29–31)

What about you? Are you striving in your own strength to meet God's perfect, holy demands, or are you trusting in Jesus alone to be your righteousness? (It's not too late to start right now!)

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