We all are asked to live a life of obedience, from birth until we die, yet obeying can be so difficult!
We have to obey parents, we have to obey teachers, we have to obey employers…and we’ll always have to obey God.
It is easy to get incredibly frustrated with how difficult it is to obey. We often want to be able to fix everything that is ugly and wrong in our hearts. We want our hearts to be pure and whole and we want this right now!
Ever feel like this?
There once was a man who lived in a monastery. His job was to wash dishes, and his name was Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence is remembered for the intimacy of his relationship with God, especially while doing tasks that we would consider mundane. Such as washing dishes. One of his friends recorded Brother Lawrence as saying that perhaps God doesn’t want us to try to fix everything in our hearts all at once. Perhaps God only wants us to focus on one or two things at a time while we allow Him to change our hearts:
‘When an occasion of practicing some virtue was offered, he addressed himself to God saying, “Lord, I cannot do this unless Thou enable me”. Then he received strength more than sufficient. When he had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault saying to God, “I shall never do otherwise, if you leave me to myself. It is You who must hinder my failing and mend what is amiss.” Then, after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.’
Why do we feel as though we must agonize over our disobedience? Why do we think that we must be pure before we are worthy of God’s love, worthy to ask Him for anything? Isn’t that the whole point of the cross…that we cannot be worthy on our own?
In Mark 9, a father brings his demon-possessed son to Jesus’ disciples who are unable to cast out the demon. Why do they fail? The disciples try to cast the demon out without prayer, without asking for God’s help.
Does this sound familiar? This is what most of us do so often. We try so hard to cast out our own failures, our sin, the ugliness of our hearts without asking for help. Just as the disciples did, we underestimate the power of evil in the world and in ourselves. We don’t see how weak and proud we are.
Then Jesus has an exchange with the father that can give us such hope!
“This man asks Jesus, “Would you heal my son?” And Jesus says, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” In other words, “I can do it if you will only believe.” The father responds, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” In other words, “I’m trying so hard but I can’t rid my heart of doubts.” Then Jesus heals the man’s son.
It is a beautiful and reassuring truth that the things we struggle with most in our daily lives are the very things that God wants us to hand over to Him. The issues over which we fight and despair are the very issues that we cannot handle on our own. These sins are the ones that drive us into the arms of God, that make us fall to our knees, pleading with Him to heal our hearts.
Jesus could have told the man, “I am God. Do not come before me with doubts and imperfections. First rid yourself of all sin and impurity and then I will heal your son.” Praise God that He does not come close to saying that!
When we come to Jesus with all of our doubts and imperfections, when we say to Him, “I am not obedient and I do not have the strength to obey on my own. I beg You to heal my heart” then we are demonstrating our faith in Jesus rather than in ourselves.
This is true saving faith: when we tell God that if He wants our broken and ugly hearts to change, He must mend and clean them Himself, and then leave ourselves in His tender care. This is the faith of the father rather than the faith of the disciples.
We are, after all, incapable of changing hearts whether our own or someone else’s. And this is good. It is good for us to understand that we are weak and He is strong. It is good for us to truly comprehend that our hearts cannot heal themselves. It is good for us to realize our complete and total dependence on Him. If we could heal our own hearts, our pride would know no end. We would push God to the side and declare Him unneeded.
What a beautiful grace this all is.
To be able to confess to God when we fail and then leave it with Him ~ this is grace. To allow Him to change us while we simply rest in His love ~ this is grace. To leave to God the work of making our hearts beautiful while we focus on and enjoy the sweet relationship we have with Him ~ this is grace.
Praise God for the good news of His grace!
May you remember this grace instead of being frustrated with your inability to obey. May you fall to your knees, confess your unbelief, and be able to feel peace, knowing that God’s Spirit is right now in the process of healing your sin-sick heart.