“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” — C.S. Lewis
There inevitably comes a time in life where you will reach the ‘end of your rope’ — the end of yourself. Hopefully you have already had such an experience. Why do I say this? Because the end of yourself is really just the beginning of God and his work in your life. That is, if you let him.
For long periods of my life, off and on, I have refused to let God work, relying instead on my own self-sufficiency. Believing that I already ‘had God’ in my life, I went about my daily life without relying on him and his strength — without drawing hope from him.
Let’s be honest, we all draw hope from somewhere — whether it be in wealth, relationships, physical strength or beauty, our intellect, or the future and things yet to be. Things such as these might satisfy or appease us for a period of time, even possibly enough to think ourselves actually content. But they are fleeting, and will eventually let us down.
After some time, there will come the day where you find yourself stripped bare — stripped of the comforts, pleasures, and whatever it is that you were putting your hope in. This is the moment when you will feel consuming despair; you realize that you cannot fulfill your own deep desire for meaning through relying on yourself or grasping at what the world has to offer. These things fall short, no matter how hard or long you try to make them be enough.
There are many ways people respond when reaching the end of their ropes. Some get angry at God, or run farther away. But by grace, this being stripped bare will lead us instead to repent and return to the God that is our salvation. And if we are truly wise, we will come to realize that this returning to God should ultimately be a daily occurrence. In other words, we should day in and day out be aware that every good thing that we have or do in our lives is because of Christ Jesus. This is what I have found to be the meaning of the oft-befuddling term ‘sanctification’: an every-day leaning on the Lord, surrendering my very life to his transformation.
Most of us Christians know all of these truths and promises in our heads, but the heart is a whole other matter. I’ve ‘known’ these truths for most of my life, but when does my heart actually start clinging to them? Not until I am brought to my knees, acknowledging that I have brought nothing into this world and can take nothing from it.
In reaching the end of myself, I’ve learned to cry out to God. He may not raise me up in that very instant, but as I continue to cry out to him over and over, meditating on his Word and promises, trusting that in time he will lead me through the valley — you know what? He does. He leads me out of it and into himself. And it is in those places that I find him to be more than enough. My soul starts to delight in him in ways that I read about in the scriptures but have had a hard time believing could occur in my daily life.
In Psalm 51, David says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” It can be so easy and tempting to wallow in self-pity, guilt, and shame. Indeed, I have far too many times. But when I take my brokenness to God and lay it all down at his feet in remorse, he is the one who gives me the faith, strength, and hope that I cannot force or will myself to have. It is all truly a gift from him.
So now, once again, I’m revelling in his immense grace. Once again I find myself at the end of my rope but at the beginning of new life.
Photo by (flickr CC) Al_HikesAZ