My Christmas break has been pretty easygoing. I’ve been home for three days: spending time with family, baking like crazy, wrapping presents, going to my siblings’ basketball games, and reading. Almost 100% stress-free!
The thing is, the simplicity of home and the easy rhythms of a break quiet everything in me, even the spiritual. My need for God feels less obvious when I’m not busy. It’s easy to feel indifferent.
That’s why I’m so glad that I read Colossians 1 yesterday. It startled me back to reality. Here’s an amazing section of it. Read it slowly, considering the meaning of each phrase:
This reality is crazy! Before Jesus, we were God’s enemies: alienated from him because of our sin-sickness. That’s terrifying. But He answered this spiritual problem with a physical rescue: God in the flesh! This is the perplexing, joyful reality we celebrate this time of the year. Anyone who puts their trust in Jesus’ work will be saved and changed. God now sees us as totally, entirely clean.
Free from accusation.
That’s a hard thing to wrap my mind around, because I often feel guilty: after consciously sinning, being selfish, comparing myself to ‘better’ Christians, or saying something harsh. . . The list could go on and on. Sin distances us from God.
But Christ came to bring peace.
And now, everything is radically changed. The children of God are fully redeemed! There is no such thing as ‘halfway-forgiven’ or ‘kind of okay with God.’ Jesus’ work in saving us is complete the second we trust him.
I’m trying to keep my eyes open to this amazing truth and battle indifference. Jesus came to earth as an externally ordinary baby but later brought breathtaking transformation. Every bit of glory, beauty, and wonder in this season should remind us: We are completely changed.
Last week, I had a breakdown in confidence. I was going through the motions my days, with meetings, classes, and work, but everything felt ‘off.’ Suddenly I was worried about how I looked. I was comparing myself to the people around me. Even when I was with people, all I could think about was me. There was a voice inside my head that mocked, “You’re not enough. You’re not doing enough. You’re not being enough.”
The result was a sad sight. I withdrew from people. I stayed holed up in my apartment as much as I could. I was not living life to the full as God wants us to. It was frustrating! I thought I had ‘gotten over’ self-image stuff since high school, but just like that I was plunged back in.
With prayer and God’s grace, I think I’ve come back to my normal self: and I am so thankful! We should never let satan’s lies and schemes against us prevail.
But it has me thinking. . . life will never feel 100% ‘right.’ Just when I think I’ve gotten back on top and have all my chicks in a row, a new obstacle will surface. Maybe I’ll struggle with control, or there will be tension in a friendship, or I’ll fail at something. I’m always going to feel a little misplaced in this world.
And somehow, that’s okay.
We live in a fallen world. Of course, there will be frustrations and feelings of inadequacy and mistakes. The thing that really upsets me is when I assume everything should go great, and it doesn’t. I shouldn’t be surprised when I see that stuff in myself, and you shouldn’t either.
What matters is what we do with it. Instead of getting frustrated and trying to cope on our own, we need to lean into God’s grace and ask him what his purpose is. The hardest thing to do is also the most necessary: to hand it over in prayer. God is extending an invitation. Will we let our hardships teach us and increase our dependence on him?
The things of this world are never going to fulfil us: only Jesus can. Maybe we should take the upsets and hardships as reminders of just that.
In the past few days, I’ve started an Advent reading plan which begins in Genesis. The beginning of mankind and the fall into sin sets the stage for our desperate need for Jesus.
After God created the earth and Adam and Eve, there was a perfection and contentedness we cannot really understand. Can you imagine what it would feel like to live on the earth exactly as God intended it to be? One thing Adam and Eve had no taste or even conception of was shame:
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. -Genesis 2:25
The shock of sin
But directly following this verse, satan enters the scene as a serpent. He brings with him a whole ugly load of his own attributes. His crafty discourse weaves temptation and confusion into Eve’s mind, distorting God’s clear directions to not eat the fruit of a certain tree.
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” -Genesis 3:5
The second she and Adam give into satan and disobey God, their eyes are indeed opened: but not in the glorious way they were expecting. Rather, they’re opened to an entirely unfamiliar dimension. As promised, they now know good and evil. . . and I bet they wish they didn’t.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. -Genesis 3:8-9
Imagine the shock of these moments to the couple who has until now wholly obeyed and enjoyed God. This one act plunged them deep into wrongdoing, shame, and the alarming urge to run from their Creator. Hastily covered in leaves and cowering beneath the trees, they’re introduced to another new emotion: fear.
Let’s pause and consider a few other perspectives at this point. Satan, for one, is gloating. He thinks he’s brought a hasty downfall to God’s project of humanity. He knows that evil cannot exist anywhere near God (he’s experienced this firsthand), so he sits back smugly, anticipating their downfall.
God, of course, isn’t surprised by any of it. But that doesn’t keep him from being deeply saddened. The epitome of his creation, the only ones to bear his image, have chosen to disown him. He sees the anguish in their hearts as they try to hide and feels the seriousness of the chasm opened between he and them. This will ultimately lead to much pain and the sacrifice of his own Son.
In this frozen moment, I can think of only one logical thing for God to do: wipe it all out. Just obliterate it all. Surely it wouldn’t have been too much effort for him to create another world, one in which people were required to love him and didn’t have the option of sin. Surely that would have been easier than letting this mess go on, culminating at the death of his only Son.
But he didn’t.
Instead, he graciously covered their newfound shame with animal skins, and let them live. Yes, their sin still brought about a whole host of natural consequences: much pain and toil, death, distance from God, and being cast out from the garden. But I am just amazed at the crazy grace he gave them in letting them live!
Why did he let them live?
Why did he do it? Well, just by inferencing, I can see quite a few reasons. First of all, he is a faithful Father. He promises to never leave or forsake us (Heb 13:5). He also refuses to be defeated by satan. This day, the serpent’s schemes were thwarted by grace. God’s plan and purpose has victory, always!
In Genesis 3:15, God tells satan that he may strike man’s heel, but ultimately man (Jesus!) will crush his head. Grace brings victory.
Another factor is free will. God had a plan for humanity’s relationship with him that just wouldn’t be the same without free choice. Instead of starting over with a world of forced love, he would rather have real followers: people who are faced with a whole host of choices, and still choose him. He would rather have a world of people who are either for him or against him: not lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-16).
I love reading this creation and fall account with the knowledge of what happens next: after years of sacrificing animals and obeying strict codes to keep peace with God, Jesus came to earth as a baby to live the life we couldn’t and sacrificially die in our place. It is so beautiful! It’s what this season of Christmas is all about. And now, having this sweet assurance of salvation through him, I love looking ahead to heaven: knowing that ultimate victory over all the work of the devil will come! Glory to God.
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!