March 28, 2010
Feeling Our Pain, Facing Our Sin
“For I acknowledge my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
and done this evil in Your sight;
That You may be found just when You speak,
and blameless when You judge” (Psalm 51:3,4).
Two painful truths must be confronted if we are to long for God deeply: our emptiness and our sinfulness. Somehow we'd like to convince ourselves that we can get all that we need in this life and that our problem with sin is at least manageable. In truth, however, our deepest longings can never be satisfied in this world, and the sin in our hearts is worse than we've been willing to admit. The sooner we face these facts, the sooner we can learn what grace really means. We only “get” God when we “give up” in both of these areas!
Larry Crabb has written concerning these important matters in his book Inside Out. There he argues that an acceptance of both our thirst and our selfishness is necessary if we are to begin growing toward God. “We are not psychologically disordered,” Crabb writes, “we are sinful people who believe lies about what must be ours in order to experience fulfillment.” Real change for the better is possible only when we confess the pain of our disappointed longings and the sinfulness of our self‑protective motives. These are the keys that open the door to the only joy worth having.
In regard to our emptiness, we need to just go ahead and admit that we hurt. As long as we live in this world, our groaning is inescapable. In God it can be diminished, but in this life it will not go away completely. And in regard to our sinfulness, we need to just go ahead and admit that we are broken. In God our sins can be forgiven and our lives can be improved, but if we are to be saved, God must save us despite our continuing failures.
Honesty about both our yearnings and our guilt is not easy. But the good news is that it leads to an appreciation of grace that will allow God to enter us deeply. Hope can only be ours when we admit that our hearts will never be completely healed in this world. And forgiveness can only be ours when we admit that our crutches and our coping mechanisms are sinfully selfish.
“Very few Christians feel their disappointment with life deeply enough to fix their hope on what is yet to come. Even fewer face their sin so thoroughly that forgiveness becomes their most valued blessing” (Larry Crabb).