I’m doing it again.
The habit has become so rehearsed, so familiar, I rarely recognize it. I fall into it like a dance step.
Sometimes I’m not even sure what I’m striving toward. I trick myself into thinking it’s Christ but is it really? Does a relationship with God mean constantly feeling insecure, like I’m always missing the mark?
I don’t believe it does. As a matter of fact, I know deep down in my gut this isn’t what following Jesus means.
But the problem is I usually don’t even realize when the abiding ends and the striving begins. It’s as though there should be some line in the sand where I can see if I’ve wandered over into the land of constantly feeling less than, not measuring up, and losing the gold star.
I once heard someone say the most beautiful attribute of God is also the most difficult for us to understand.
He was talking about his grace.
We humans tend to put limits on this divine characteristic, but our infinite God has an endless supply of it. In a world where we scream for what’s fair, grace doesn’t always make sense.
One moment I think I have a handle on it, and the next I know I’m grasping.
And therein lies the problem. We won’t ever fully grasp grace. It is beyond us.
Once again, I fall into the old, familiar habit of striving.
So today, I’m going to draw a line in the sand. I’m going to create some boundaries so all of us strivers know when to get off this endless, exhausting treadmill and come back to the saving grace of abiding.
In all my years of striving, here are a few things God has taught me along the way.
When I’m striving, I act out of insecurity. When I’m abiding, I’m secure in God’s approval and acceptance.
I know it’s by his grace I am saved through faith, and there is nothing I can do to earn what he already did for me on the cross. (Ephesians 2:8) Strivers believe nothing they can do is ever enough. But Jesus looks at us through the perfect lens of his Son, Jesus, and says, “You are enough. You are made righteous because of his blood.”
When I’m striving, I’m constantly worrying about my self-image. Abiders seek to glorify God, and know it sometimes costs the approval of others.
Strivers long to be accepted and loved by everyone. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with this desire, a person abiding in Christ knows she cannot please everyone. Her ultimate desire is to bring glory to God. Often in our pursuit of God’s will, there will be people who do not understand or are even opposed to our actions. In such situations we have two choices: either run from God in fear and doubt or move forward in faith.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6 NIV
When I’m striving, I feel as though I have to earn God’s love. When I’m abiding I know there is nothing I can do to make God love me any more or less.
I act out of a desire to share his love. There is an overflow and I cannot help but pour it into the lives of others. When we grasp even an inkling of how much God loves us, it changes us. We discover what true freedom really means.
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:16 NIV
Today, do you feel burnt out and empty, as though nothing you do is ever enough? Do you long for rest and peace?
If so, this may be a sign that you’re a striver, like me. Will you take my hand, close your eyes and just soak in his presence for a moment?
It’s time to stop striving for God’s approval and start abiding in his grace.
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