Monday, August 17, 2009

The Valley of the Shadow

(I'm going to preface this post by stating that it is for believers.) I'm sure you've heard it. If you attend any Christian conference or are apart of any Christian organization long enough you get what I like to call "the testimony." A man stands up front and begins to unravel a tale of woe. He was addicted to fifteen different drugs. He was sleeping around with twenty-three different ladies. He lived for drinking and partying six of the seven days of the week, and on the seventh, he felt empty and was contemplating suicide. Then, suddenly, Jesus found him in as miraculous a way as was possible, and he irresistibly gave his life to the Lord. That was the last time he ever sinned. The cravings for drugs, the suicidal depression, the overwhelming lust, the cry for human admiration, it all died away instantly. Now he reads the bible five times a day and always gets something out of it, God's call in his life is as clear as day, and his miraculous healing will always stand there as a testimony to his miraculous faith. After his uplifting speech, he flies off the stage and back to his seat.

As strange as this may sound, these testimonies always made me feel worse. I've been a Christian three times as long as that sucker, where are my wings? Why am I still hopelessly entrenched in an often losing battle with the same sins that plagued me the day I was redeemed? What a load of crap. A load of wordy, uplifting, feel-good crap. Because that NEVER happens. Oh sure, God might rescue you from a certain sin the moment He saves your soul. However, that isn't what happens to most people. Here's something you won't usually hear from church people, progressive sanctification happens horrifically slow and is immensely painful and/or dull. Instant sanctification, on the other hand, is a lie for those who still dwell among the living. The people who tell these "testimonies" usually act like the conversion was the end of a long and difficult journey; the hard truth is that the conversion actually marks the beginning, not the end, of the difficulties.

Just once I want to have someone stand up front and say, "You know, I've been a Christian all my life. I accepted Christ earnestly at a young age, but each moment is a struggle. Every day I have to fight for intimacy with my savior. Every single day is a tiring battle with the darkness I hide inside my soul. A fight to shine the light on the wickedness that is so much an ingrained part of me, so that my God can continue to painfully cut it out of me and replace it with Himself. Every second of the day from the moment I wake up to the time I lay my head on my pillow at night I am forced to consciously choose to die to myself. I feel unworthy most of the time. I fail so often that many times I've just wanted to give up, but I press on in the future hope I have that one day I will be free of the sin that I can't seem to kill. The one that consistently controls me, lurks in the shadows of my heart, and drags me into its clutches the moment I let my guard down. I long to be free of it, and my God has promised to sanctify me. I trust Him, but the meantime has been no moonlight picnic."

And Jesus understands this truth. Day by day we have to come to God admitting that we have nothing to offer Him for his grace, but "blessed are the poor in spirit." Moment by moment with have to, with God's help, continually struggle to put to death the flesh and seek his face, but "blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." And moment by moment we have to cry out to God and mourn the fact that we are a broken and terrible mess and that we cannot fix ourselves, but "blessed are those who weep" and "blessed are the meek." "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." (Psalms 51:17)

If you ever come to the point where you feel like you're at the end of your spiritual rope, like God is just out of your reach, you are not only still a loved and cherished child of your heavenly Father, but you are exactly where He wants you to be, and the work He began in you, He will carry to completion. If you slip and fall along the way, you are not a condemned sinner, you are a saint who sins. Remember, you are the beloved of God. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue to follow hard after your God wherever He is leading you. Fear not, for He will never let you go, and although there might be a great deal of pain involved, the most secure place you could ever be is in the center of His plan for your life. There is no easy way, there is no fast track, and there is rarely any instant gratification. Obtaining the joy set before you will be a vicious struggle the whole way. Keep your head up, dig in, and hold on.

"Oh God, my hands are shaking again! Calm down, calm down. Now I can't feel the floor, and my vision takes its toll on me. I'm the desperate, and You're the Savior. I'm the desperate, and You're the Savior. Oh God, it's racing through my veins! I'm afraid there must be some kind of mistake. Oh, I'm in over my head again! Reach in and grab a hold of me! I'm so scared that I've started to slip! They say that I'll never change. I'll prove them wrong, prove them wrong. I hear the calling, but it's passing through. Clean me up, show me how to live. Tear me down, let me start again." - underOATH


  1. So so true. I love your Spiritual Peanut Butter posts...

  2. I just recently read the verse "blessed are the poor in spirit" and I didn't realize until just now...that's me. Thank you. I do hunger and thirst after righteousness though I am constantly plagued by how short I fall. It is a lifelong battle but the struggles and trials are what bring us closer to Him which is so worth it in the end. Nice blog by the way.