What to Do When You're Spiritually a Mess


Do you ever feel like you need to dust yourself off and clean yourself up so that God will accept you? Come as you are with your sins, burdens, and shame. He is the One who makes you clean.

It's enjoyable watching my husband wash dishes. It's not just that I like watching Justin joyfully serve in our home, it's that I also enjoy his unique dishwashing methodology. When I'm cleaning up after hosting guests or after a family meal, I tackle the mess head on and just start washing. No strategy. No method. I just pull on dish gloves and start scrubbing, eventually making my way through the chaos.

Justin, however, is precise, detail oriented, and has a dishwashing method I find both fascinating and amusing. Before he actually cleans anything, he organizes the mess. Before washing a single dish, Justin organizes the dishes into piles, wipes the counters and table, and makes the messy stack of dishes look neat and tidy. Then he actually starts to wash. We both have fun when I tease him about this, making light-hearted quips about how it's the cleanest, most organized pile of dirty dishes I've ever seen. (Then I'll hastily thank him for doing it, lest he get the wrong idea and ask if I'd rather do it myself!)

While many of us don't approach cleaning up kitchen messes this way, we approach other messes—more important messes—this way.

In a Spiritual Mess

Sometimes we're spiritually a mess, aren't we? Sometimes our hearts grow cold, apathetic, indifferent, and our desire for Christ seems insincere or non-existent. We feel the coldness within us, and God just seems so distant, so unapproachable. Then there is our sin. We're all struggling with sin, but sometimes it's just so ugly, so dirty, so fresh. We feel dirty, broken, clothed in shame, and distant from God.

What do we do when we feel like this? What is our instinct?

Sometimes our instinct is to hang back and wait to approach God—to talk with Him—until we we've somehow tidied ourselves up a little bit, until we're a little more presentable, until we're less of a mess. We wait until our sin is farther behind us, a little more removed. We wait until we're "back on track" or checking off the list of spiritual things we're supposed to be doing. We wait until we feel the right feelings. We wait to approach God until we've cleaned ourselves up and are less of a mess.

  • Do we forget that God is already with us in every messy moment of every day?
  • Do we forget that God already sees us in our moments of ugliest sin and deepest shame?
  • Do we forget that God, not us, is the One who puts distance between our sin and His holiness?

No Need to Tidy Up Your Heart

It's almost as though sometimes when we approach our heavenly Father in prayer, we unwittingly try to tidy up the real condition of our heart. Instead of coming as we are, messy as that might be, we delay coming and then, when we do, we speak with layers of Christian lingo and pious speech and "right" requests.

We know that:

  • God wants reverent sincerity.
  • God sees the heart.
  • In Christ, we are justified and beloved.
  • We are his daughters, made beautiful in the garments of Christ's righteousness.
  • Nothing will ever separate us from God's love.

And yet, knowing all this, we still sometimes approach God and pray as though we need to dust ourselves off and clean ourselves up so that God will accept us, hear us, love us.

But God doesn't ask us to be tidy or smooth; He doesn't desire shiny, presentable hearts, but rather broken and contrite ones (see Ps. 51). When we're a sinful mess, we can approach God humbly—yes, with repentance—but with absolute boldness and without delay. Because of the cross, we can "with confidence draw dear to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16).

So what do we do when we're spiritually a mess? We remember the One whose blood-red love has washed us clean, and we come to God just as we are. We don't first clean ourselves and then approach Him, but we come in the mess of our sin and offer our hearts. He is the One who makes us clean.

Do you believe this? Do you believe that, even when you're a mess, because of Jesus, you can come to God just as you are?

Written by Elisha Galotti

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