You know those days, or months, or long seasons of life that are just hard? Each moment feels exhausting, to choose to begin each day anew, perhaps starting out with a secret hope that today will be better, but it takes just a word or thought and instead it reaches the same climax of desperate survival and failure.
Everything feels like it’s falling apart and I see this monster of frustration and impatience and selfishness rear up and roar like Leviathan rising from the depths of my heart and laying waste with monstrous mistakes, cruel words, harsh tones, dagger-filled looks, or a looming depression that debilitates.
And after these moments when I gaze around at the fall-out and I am hit with a tidal wave of guilt and grief, apologizing and repenting and allowing the humility of depravity to wash through and cleanse and put out the fires I’ve set, then I hear this little voice within, it sounds sincere and sweet and it begs me to find some way to make it up, to find something to absolve me of my guilt, to find some way to make myself good again, there must be some way to undo my failures, right? And this little voice, when I listen to it, simply perpetuates the cycle. That little voice simply pushes Leviathan deeper so that it can emerge again with full force and destroy.
But Jesus. Oh Jesus, he slays Leviathan if we let him. There are no words we can say, deeds we can do, nor number of days that can undo our mistakes and our failures, but there were words uttered with Life’s last breath, and one deed, and three days that change our failures, that puts them to death and raises us with hope. A cross dripping with God’s blood and the words, “it is finished.”, and a tomb empty but for burial cloths for a body that rose and defeated death. That blood, those words, that stone rolled away, in them he defeated the depravity of our hearts. And with each failure of each day, we need only turn back to them, to remember, to repent, and be remade by the one who makes all things new.
To rest in that outrageous gift of the cross is to admit that I am depraved, selfish and incapable. I cannot balance the scale in my favor no matter how much good I do, my good can never be good enough to make right my wrongs, a just scale will always find me guilty. But forgiveness takes the scale away and gives grace instead. A grace that says, you are forgiven, and because of this great and undeserved gift you are free, you are free to do good, not to repay the gift, nor to undo your past, but out of the simple pleasure of obeying the God who loves you and freed you. Crimson blood has washed our hands so that when we begin each day anew that secret hope is realized in the one who bled. Not in our efforts that fail, but in his work that won victory.
My pride wants me to listen to that voice within that tells me to just try harder, to do more, to fix things, to do good things because I am guilty, but that voice is the careful, deceptive voice of Leviathan, the monster within who feeds off pride and self-righteousness. But Jesus says to come to him, when we are weary, when we are heavy-laden with despair and heartache, when we are anxious, when we are weak, because he bears our burdens, he is peace, and he is strength. Jesus defeated death, and sin, and the monster that resides within us, we need only rest in him.
The Holdfast (1633)
By George Herbert
I threatened to observe the strict decree
Of my dear God with all my power & might
But I was told by one, it could not be;
Yet I might trust in God to be my light
Then will I trust, said I, in him alone.
Nay, ev’n to trust in him, was also his:
We must confesse that nothing is our own.
Then I confesse that he my succour is:
But to have nought is ours, not to confesse
That we have nought. I stood amaz’d at this,
Much troubled, till I heard a friend expresse,
That all things were more ours by being his.
What Adam had, and forfeited for all, Christ keepeth now, who cannot fail or fall.