Why You Need to Stop Punishing Yourself
- Jennifer Heeren Crosswalk Contributing Writer
- 2015 12 Nov
Why is it so easy to feel guilty when we’re not living the way we think a Christian should live? My quiet times aren’t long enough or I miss some of them. I don’t pray or evangelize enough. I don’t give away enough money. I don’t volunteer enough. I enjoy seeing a good movie even when it’s not a “Christian” movie. Sometimes I like having new things. I’m lazy. I need to lose twenty pounds.
If you have kids, there’s even more to feel guilty about. I don’t homeschool well enough or at all. I send my kids to public school. I can’t afford to be a stay-at-home mom. I gave my kids McDonald’s for dinner. I lost my temper when Sally spilled her milk.
On and on it goes. The not-enoughs of life. We’re never going to feel like we do everything right. We are always going to make mistakes. But there is good news. God already knows how weak I am and he remembers that I am only dust (Psalm 103:14). He knows this and yet he loves me anyway. He is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him (Psalm 103:13). A loving father points out a mistake, walks his child through why it was wrong, and then how to avoid the same one in the future. He doesn’t just look at his child and say, “You’re not good enough.”
We are commanded to be like Christ but we forget that this likeness happens gradually—over time. I’m being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), not overnight. My tendency is to think that if I don’t do everything right—right now, I have fallen woefully short and therefore begin to feel guilty.
The Lord isn’t upset that I am still in process. He knows that he isn’t finished with me yet. Until I am finished, which is at the end of my earthly life, I am going to mess up and not be enough periodically and sometimes regularly. Nevertheless, there is still more good news! While I was still a sinner, God showed his immense love by sending Christ to die (Romans 5:8) for me and everyone else that believes. This is not only good news—it is the best news!
I am free to make mistakes. I am free to be imperfect. For when I do make those mistakes, I can repent and then I…am…forgiven. In addition, if I am forgiven, I have a clean slate to try again. I can go forward and do a little better today and then even better tomorrow until I am in a different place in the future. With ever-increasing glory, Christ’s power and love is changing me. This causes hope to continually stir within me and that hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for my soul (Hebrews 6:19).
However, it’s very easy to forget this truth in the realm of everyday living. Therefore, you need to remind yourself daily by remembering these four things:
Unbelief comes easily—Unbelief causes you to not have rest and peace within your soul. When you’re living like you don’t believe (i.e. thinking that you’re not good enough or will never be good enough), you can remember that while you were still a sinner, Christ died for you—to give you a new chance, a new hope, and a new future.
Grace is abundant—The law, as well as your God-given conscience, was given so that you could understand just how sinful you are (Romans 5:20). So, every time that you feel that you’re not enough and will never be enough, God’s grace to change becomes even more apparent and abundant. Seeing the mistakes is a call to change. If you didn’t see the mistakes, you would have no need of the grace.
Remember the beginning—Remember the first few weeks or months after you first believed the good news about Jesus Christ. You were a new creation. Every time that you see a mistake, you have the opportunity to repent and feel that newness all over again.
Never ever give up—Since God has begun a good work within you, you can be assured that he will continue that work until he is done (Philippians 1:6). And if he won’t give up, you should never ever give up either.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up." Hebrews 12:1-3
Jennifer Heeren loves to write and wants to live in such a way that people are encouraged by her writing and her attitude. She loves to write things that bring people hope and encouragement. Her cup is always at least half-full, even when circumstances aren’t ideal. She regularly contributes to Crosswalk.com. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband. Visit her at www.jenniferheeren.com.
Publication date: November 12, 2015