My research paper this semester has stolen my life in the best way. I hope that after it’s done, you’ll be able to see it somehow– here, elsewhere online, maybe even in a published form! Until I know for sure I’ll just keep the specifics under wraps, because it is that special to me. I am putting my entire heart into this project.
I discovered something while I was researching that is deeply changing my life. My project is very much about human hearts more than anything, and as I researched I didn’t just look in books and in databases; I spoke to people and observed situations wherever I happened to be. The more I found, the more it all pointed to one main conclusion that touched my paper but also went way beyond the scope of it. Jesus was being so loud, and the more He said, the more I realized how real His words were, how much truth He was speaking. I began sharing these truths in my school’s little prayer meetings and in my small group, and when they reacted with almost amazed comfort like I did, I knew Jesus wanted these things to be known. That is why I’m writing this today. I think it’s one of the most important things you’ll hear… possibly ever. Ready?
It is one hundred percent okay for you to struggle.
I can’t speak for you about many things, but I know I can say this about you and have it be absolutely true: you struggle with something. And if you’re like me, you hate it, and most days you might be able to shove it to the back of your mind, yet it still hurts you in the deepest place because no matter how hard you try, how fervently you repent– YOU STILL SIN.
My dear friend, all of us fall short, and all of us are ashamed of it. But hear this: Jesus NEVER asked you to be perfect. He came to die because He knew you couldn’t be perfect but He still loved you and wanted to be with you. You are magnificent, treasured, priceless, and Jesus chose you, before repentance ever crossed your mind. What makes us think He doesn’t love us now that we’ve repented and still sometimes fail? He loved us before, and He loves us now. That will not change.
And your struggle? That thing that still has you in chains sometimes? That you’ve never been able to completely rid yourself of? That makes you cry every time you fall back into it, because you just weren’t strong enough? Jesus does not even think of that when He sees you. He did not come to make you perfect! He came to fulfill the perfection He knew you couldn’t reach, so He could be with you and you could live a beautiful life. Growth is real, but perfection is not, at least not in human beings. If you still struggle, that means you are a human being; it does NOT mean you are a failure or that your love for Jesus isn’t real and deep.
I’m not saying that Jesus hasn’t freed you from sin. He definitely has. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24). But addictions are almost never cured in a single moment, let alone struggles we’ve lived in for years. You are completely allowed to make mistakes as you grow. We have two natures, and they truly are in war against each other. We must remember that a few battles won does not equal a war won. Jesus has made us warriors, but more than that– conquerors!
We still must passionately seek to live in righteousness and purity; I am not at all saying that because Jesus loves us unconditionally we can live in our sin without caring. But I think we forget what Jesus actually asked of us: love Him with every piece of us, and love others. These two things are like water and sunlight for a righteous and pure life. Seeking righteousness and purity for the sake of having them is noble, but it won’t get us far. Only through Jesus will we grow, because He is the source of all that is good.
You have permission to struggle. You have permission to passionately love Jesus, knowing that’s all you need to do. And you have permission to talk about yourself in the present tense, not, “I used to ____” or “I’ve been having a hard time, but God is sovereign.” Yes, He is, but that doesn’t mean things don’t suck for you right now. Be honest! If you are struggling, don’t be ashamed to say so to people you trust, because they’re struggling, too. We all are. I think one of the greatest mistakes we make in church is trying to offer solutions instead of comfort and community; it makes it seem like if you aren’t doing well, you’re an oddity, and that is just not true.
I shared my testimony with my small group recently. I’ve shared my testimony multiple times in multiple situations, but this was the first time I didn’t give it a conclusion. Instead of ending at the day I began living with Jesus, I shared where I was right in that moment. I shared that things were not perfect, and that since Jesus and I have been walking together I’ve had some incredibly painful times– times of weakness and of heartache. I also shared that I love Him more than I ever have, and that I see Him in my life every day. We don’t need conclusions, because our stories aren’t over yet! What matters is Him. Don’t give your sin more credit than it deserves; seek to be pure, but do it out of love for Jesus. Do it because you want to please Him, and remember that you please Him as you are RIGHT NOW. You might fail– but His love will not.
“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer