As I flip through my planner, I find myself wondering where all the time has gone, and if I’ll ever get “there.” You know the place I mean. The “there” we were supposed to arrive magically after we sat in the driver’s seat for the first time. The “there” that was supposed to be mapped out for us in the fine print at the end of our high school diploma, or at the very least our college diploma. I never knew where “there” was, but it wasn’t the “there” I find myself in today.
If you’re like me, this “are we there yet?” mentality affects your feelings about your career, possessions, and secret dreams. As believers, it creeps into our walk with Christ.
In my childish visions of the “there” I’d reach by my age, I was a published author, married with kids, and living in a Victorian-style mansion. I was also the model Christian. I read my Bible and wrote in my prayer journal at the same time every day. Everyone who knew me talked about how knowledgeable I was in God’s Word and how humble and kind I was to everyone around me. I can’t help but shake my head at the “there” I envisioned and the “here” I’m actually living.
My life is good. Some days, I’d say amazing. I am blessed and humbled by God’s goodness to me, but I am not where I thought I would be spiritually. This is partly because my expectations were unrealistic. It is also because I have allowed failure to discourage me and stunt my spiritual growth. I grow frustrated because I can never reach the “there yet” point in my spiritual journey where godliness and my relationship with God become easy.
Easy. That is what my millennial self wants. I want to be able to get “there” and stay there without the constant battle within my heart to remind me I’m still a sinner.
The more I think about this desire, the sillier it seems. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. My relationship with God is designed to take work, even though the child inside of me asking “are we there yet?” is hard to silence.
The “there yet” for me in my spiritual life is some kind of a fuzzy fantasy world where I can be a perfect, godly woman without trying. Obviously, I’ve never reached this point, and I never will this side of Heaven.
As I’ve struggled with the weight of discouragement in my spiritual life, God has brought me back to four truths that have helped to lift the feeling of failure from my heart. If you’re feeling like a failure as a Christian, I ask you to walk yourself through these four steps with me to regain your optimism.
Step One: Focus on Who God is
God is holy. The Bible declares “There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside Thee” (I Samuel 2:2a). If you find yourself struggling to understand God’s character, a study of His attributes mentioned throughout the Bible will bring you back to your knees in awe before our amazing God.
In His perfect wisdom and holiness, God created human beings in His likeness. He chose to do this knowing that His creation would rebel against Him. Can we understand His reasoning? No, but we can rest assured that He knew from the beginning that we, His people, would sin. He chose to create us and craft plans for each of our lives anyway.
As our Heavenly Father, God hears His children asking “are we there yet?” He has far more patience than we do, and He knows the plans He has for us.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
Step Two: Remember Who You are
As Christians, we are imperfect people saved by God's grace. The problem? We're still not perfect, but sometimes we expect ourselves to be.
I’m not saying that we’re not meant—and even commanded—to strive for godliness. I’m saying that growing discouraged because we’re not perfect is missing the mark. God is holy. We are not. And that is the whole point. His Spirit in us works gradually to perfect us. If we were already perfect, we would not need His grace and forgiveness.
The discrepancy between God’s holiness and our unworthiness is not designed to make us feel like failures. It is meant to show us how much we have to be thankful for. His grace in our imperfection is the beauty of salvation.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
In many areas of my life, I often fall into the "all or nothing" trap. This trap says “if I can’t do it perfectly, I shouldn’t try.”
It comes from wanting perfection in an imperfect world and body. I know myself and that I am not as consistent as I should be in my devotions, prayer life, and Christian service. I know how sinful my heart can be, and I let my failings overpower my will to try.
But God didn't save me so that I could be overwhelmed by my ineptitude. He saved me so that I could be in awe of His transforming power.
When God saved you and me, He covered us with the cloak of His righteousness. That means, when He looks at us, He sees, not our failures, but His success. God made His son Jesus, “to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Paul David Tripp in his devotional book New Morning Mercies encourages his readers in this way:
“Let’s start the new year by admitting that there is nothing less natural for us than to live for the glory of another. This admission is the doorway not to despair, but to hope. God knew that in your sin you would never live this way, so He sent His Son to live the life you couldn’t, to die on your behalf, and to rise again, conquering sin and death.”
Step Three: Realize Spiritual Growth is a Process
Remember that “all or nothing” mentality I mentioned? This is the truth that smashes it. Believers are positionally perfect (meaning God sees Christ’s righteousness in us), but we are far from actually perfect. And far doesn’t become near until a long journey is over.
My nephew, Jackson, had to wait 15 hours in the car until his “are we there yet?” plea was answered to his satisfaction. Christ’s followers have a lifetime.
That lifetime is not meant to be spent waiting to get out of the car, but actively building our relationship with God, stretching our understanding of His Word, discipling younger believers, and reaching the lost with news of God’s salvation. These are the good works “God hath before ordained that [we] should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
If you’ve been saved by Christ’s work on the cross, God has placed you on the road to the perfect destination He is preparing for you. Our travels will take us through some tough trials, heartbreaks, and temptations. Sometimes, through our tears, we’ll ask God, “are we there yet?”
The wonderful thing about God’s road, though, is we never have to crash and burn. All we have to do is stand and move towards Him again. He knows we’ll never reach His perfect destination in our own strength, but He means for us to delight in this, because it means our faith will stand, not in ourselves, but “in the power of God” (I Cor. 2:5b).
Step Four: If at First You Don’t Succeed, Pray and Try Again
This last step is really just a reminder to go back through the first three steps when discouragement puts up a roadblock again. The Christian life is a journey that ends in a perfect Heaven. God has chosen to leave us on this earth so that the righteousness of Christ might shine through our lives into a sin-addicted world.
God knows we won’t fulfill our commission perfectly, but when we fall short, all we have to do is pray for His promised forgiveness. He will set us right back on our feet and give us the grace to keep walking toward Him.
Don’t allow your imperfections and failures to discourage you from walking toward Jesus. What matters more than our failures is our decision to confess them and keep going. We have a long journey ahead of us, but it is a beautiful journey filled with God’s grace in our weaknesses. Focus on Him. Remember He has saved you and will continue the work He started in you. Remember the process of growth and change He began in your heart won’t be completed until you meet Him.
Discouragement does not come from a humble realization that we can’t do it. It comes from a wrong focus. Focusing on our failures takes the focus off of the One who has already overcome them. No matter where you’re at in your spiritual journey, all you have to do is seek Him. He is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). He will give us the strength to stand up and walk towards Him again.
My relationship with God is designed to take work, even though the child inside of me asking “are we there yet?” is hard to silence. How are you working on your relationship with God in this new year?
God Sees Her: 365 Devotions for Women by Women
Following the overwhelming success and rave reviews of God Hears Her, we're bringing you another devotional written by women for women to reassure you that God is with you. God Sees Her is a beautifully styled giftbook containing 366 meditations with accompanying Scripture that speak to the heart of women.
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