Monday, 7 September 2009

A Journey Towards Hope – a Personal Testimony (Pt 1)

I became a Christian 17 years ago, completely blown away by the fact that my sins were all forgiven through the suffering of Christ on the cross on my behalf, and that now I had been made right with God because of Jesus, and would spend an eternity with Him. It was an awesome truth, and I was so filled with gratitude and love of God as a result. Those first 6 months were great.

However, as time passed, I discovered an awful reality. Despite my love of God, and my gratitude to Him for what He had done for me, and my determination to live a life of obedience in response, I didn’t seem able to do it. I realised that sin continued to dwell in me. I continued to have bad thoughts about people, say bad things, do bad things. Even worse, I knew I didn’t always love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I knew that God had forgiven me of all my sins before I became a Christian. But what person, after God has revealed Himself to them in such grace, would not love God with all of their heart, mind, soul and strength in response, and not love their neighbour as themselves? Surely only a wicked person could do such a thing. I had to face up to the fact that I was a failure as a Christian.

I began a slide into depression, frustrated that in those times that I drew closer to God I became more aware of the sin that dwelt in me. Listening to sermons at church, with an emphasis on how our lives should be transformed by God, and how we should be serving Him in obedience, I looked at my own life and saw the hypocrisy of it all. Maybe I didn’t really love God after all, maybe I wasn’t really saved after all. I also became aware that deep within myself, I didn’t want God to love me simply because of Jesus. I wanted Him to love me because I was loveable, and that I deserved His love. I would deserve His love as I did more of the things He wanted of me.

As time progressed, my depression progressed into an eating disorder. I had started to hate myself, as I did not seem to be able to love God in the way I thought I should, so I must be wicked. It seemed right that a wicked person should be punished by not being fed. So I stopped eating. Thankfully, this only lasted a few weeks, before I collapsed and became frightened by the thought of dying and not being right with God. I was referred to a counsellor who specialised in eating disorders.

During the course of these sessions, I remember telling him that I hated myself. His response to this seemed to lift a burden from me – “ Rather than aiming for perfection, I always tell myself that I am good enough”. Good enough. I liked the sound of those words. I recognised that I was aiming for perfection in my Christian life, and that I couldn’t get there, and so good enough seemed a great way to lift the pressure.

The eating disorder and depression lifted. But I couldn’t return to church. I knew deep down that the lie of believing myself to be good enough did not stack up with God. According to God I was not good enough. I recognised the truth that God’s standards are perfect, yet in order for man to make something of himself, he has to lower the standards and accept a “good enough” instead of a “perfect”. This is not biblical. The Bible teaches that God’s standards continue to be perfect, for He is perfect. It also teaches us that all men are sinners and unable to attain this perfection. It then shows the light – that Christ Himself has attained this perfection for us, on our behalf. We are not good enough – yet Christ is. Faith in Him means His perfection is imputed to us – yet I didn’t seem able to grasp this truth. If I started going back to church, I would realise that I wasn’t good enough after all, and was afraid of the depression returning. So I stayed away.

Part 2:

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