I’ve never been one to often tell people “You deserve this!” . . . especially if it involves something like ice cream or a “break.” Not because I don’t think people should ever have ice cream or a reprieve from hard work. But more often than not, when people say this to me I know it’s not actually true. I know the corners I cut or the thoughts I had in my heart. I know the attitude I had behind closed doors and the not so proud moments that come along with any hard work or achievement.
Lately I have recognized sin patterns in my life. It’s as if I have earned the right to something . . . security, comfort, hope, happiness. These are just a few of the things my heart has been longing for and when I don’t get them, the inner turmoil can look very similar to my 3 year olds response to not getting more cake. As if it’s going to seriously satisfy the deepest needs of her life and if she doesn’t get it then life is over.
This is where bitterness can creep in. It sets up camp and decides to taint the things around it. It takes many different shapes and forms. For some it could sound like this . . .
Don’t they know what I’m doing for them?
I should be able to splurge a little.
If this does not happen, I am going to be very angry.
They really should be paying for my meal, not vice versa.
If they would have done it the way I told them . . .
I can’t believe they forgot about me.
They should really respect my decisions.
I can’t take this anymore.
Lately my husband and I have had to make some hard life decisions, big life decisions, the kind of decisions that clearly affect your children and the course of your family life. One question I’ve really been asking lately is, “Is it always going to be this hard?!” And in many of those moments I’m like a rodent trying to catch something on a string that I’ll never reach, or if I did . . . it’s a trap of death waiting to clamp down on me for the kill. In many of those moments I haven’t run to the Lord for strength and hope.
Why would I make such a confession?
Because we may often feel or think we deserve something . . . or at least look like we have it all together. But the real truth is: no one does. I’ve been thankful for a couple of articles lately where writers finally attacked the notion that “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Of course He does! Our sin itself is more than we can handle. That’s why he died on the cross in the first place.
So, what do I do? What do I do when I feel like I can’t get passed the idea that I deserve something in particular? Or when I am angry at how people are treating me? What do I do when darkness surrounds me and while it may not be all my fault, I know its catapulted by the depth of my own sin?
I repent and ask for help.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
God gives us two commands in this verse: fear not and do not be dismayed or anxious. Why? Because . . . God is with me. God is my God. God will strengthen me. God will help me. God will uphold me with a nonetheless-perfectly righteous hand. He doesn’t just leave us hanging with a simple “stop that already.” He gives us solid reasons. Amazing reasons. Perfect reasons.
Only God can soften my heart. Only God can open my eyes to the sinfulness of my pride. Only God can shatter the ideal of what I think I deserve and show me the immensity of what I actually already have.
You see, when I’m angry about not getting what I think I deserve, I’m actually just not seeing what I have already received in light of who I really am. I'm a sinner saved only by God's grace, not my own. I once heard Albert Mohler say something like, “Anything other than actual hell is God’s grace in your life.” As a Christian, I have received a hope that is more than just wishful thinking or crossing my fingers. My hope is in a sure, certain thing . . . an eternity in heaven with the Beloved who knows me, loves me and even died for me. In a place where there are no more tears, no more sorrows and no more striving.
Because of Jesus I get to proclaim that it won’t always be this hard.
Our friends won’t always be dying of brain cancer. We won’t always be putting our children in graves. We won’t always struggle financially for yet another month in a row. Our hearts won’t be forever broken by the darkness of sexual perversion or abuse. We won’t always be exhausted or looking forward to a better day. Because one day, that better day will be here.
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
When my earthly props give way, when I’m stuck in what feels like a stormy battle with my flesh, when true heart break enters my life and there’s no getting away from it . . . I have no choice but to rest on his unchanging grace.
It’s unchanging. It’s unchanging!
I may float along with every whim and flow of my wretched flesh, but He is unchanging. In the midst of my bitterness, in the middle of my sin, at the depths of my heartache, he is still available. It’s never too late. It’s never too dirty. While it may be too much for me to handle, praise God that it’s never too much for him to handle. Let’s give praise to the one who actually does deserve it, Jesus.
Rebekah Hannah is a biblical counselor at The Grace Center for Biblical Counseling in Jacksonville, Florida. She is married to Andrew and has three daughters.