It just didn’t sit right with me. But I didn’t know what to say.
My friend had just shared with me her struggle with cancer, and how she was dealing with it. She tried to laugh as she said, “I guess God knew I just needed more sanctification, so he gave me this trial.”
“I still have alot of growth in sanctification to do!” Another friend recently said to me, as I was following up with a prayer request for her to be patient as she visited a family member.
Now these words aren’t necessarily wrong. As Christians, those who have put their faith in Jesus’ work on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, we all have ALOT of sanctification (growing in holiness) to do in this life.
The Bible clearly calls us to pursue repentance and holiness when we sin. (Hebrews 12:14)
But what didn’t sit well with me was that these were conclusions to the situations we were talking about.
You see, if through our trials and pain, our conclusion is that we need to do better, try harder, be stronger; we are living in condemnation. No matter how subtle that thought might be.
I know because I have struggled with this very thing too.
But the beautiful truth of the gospel is that the cross takes us past condemnation to what Jesus has already accomplished for us!
I was reading the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney this morning, and in chapter 12, C.J. asks,
“Do you relate to God as if you were on a kind of permanent probation, suspecting that at any moment He may haul you back into the jail cell of His disfavor?
Don’t buy the lie that cultivating condemnation and wallowing in your shame is somehow pleasing to God, or that a constant, low grade guilt will somehow promote holiness and spiritual maturity.
It’s just the opposite! God is glorified when we believe with all our hearts that those who trust in Christ can never be condemned.”
Did you read that?! Those who trust in Christ can NEVER be condemned!!!!
How amazing is that! We deserve full condemnation because of our sin against God, yet Jesus takes that guilt completely away at the cross.
Not only are our sins taken away, but Jesus’ perfection is credited to us!!
That is reality.
And that should be the conclusion to our thoughts in every trial and persecution.
Don’t let your conclusions be condemning, self pity, or despair.
Through focusing on what the cross means in our lives, our conclusion to every trial can now be thanksgiving.
So what does that practically look like?
Let’s say my son disobeyed and in a moment of anger I lash out at him. Afterwards I struggle with guilty feelings that won’t go away. “I failed again. I really need to be more patient with my son”. See how the conclusion is a focus on my failure? And what I need to do differently?
Reminding myself of the gospel, this changes to, “I failed again. I really need to be more patient with my son. Lord forgive me for my anger. Thank you Jesus that because of your perfect life, this sin is not counted against me.” See how the conclusion changes to a focus on God’s grace toward me when I sin? And gratitude?
What about for my friends in the above examples? Can you think how to practically change the conclusions to their situations?
Let’s flesh this out together practically:
How about “I guess God knew I just needed more sanctification, so he gave me this trial.” (concluding with a focus on my own sin leading to despair) to
“This trial is very difficult and I know God is using it to grow me. Though I fail in faith at times I’m so glad He does not count that against me.” (concluding with a focus on Jesus no longer counting that sin against me)
“I still have alot of growth in sanctification to do!” (concluding with a focus on my own sin and how I need to do better) to “I still have alot of growth in sanctification to do! I am so thankful Jesus lived perfectly on my behalf!” (concluding with a focus on thanksgiving for Jesus’ perfect obedience to the Father that is credited to us)
You are not alone dear friend. If you have been struggling with feelings of despair and self condemnation, I am SO excited to see how your joy increases as you remind yourself of the gospel in every trial, and start applying it in your thought life.