Tuesday, 8 September 2009

A Journey Towards Hope – a Personal Testimony (Pt 2)

God then blessed me and my husband with a baby. I recognised how good He had been to me, so felt it right to start going back to church as an expression of thankfulness. I continued to keep Him at arms length however, and wouldn’t get close to Him because of the fear I continued to feel.

I joined a small Bible study group, with other women in the church, but found it hard to participate for fear of being found to be a fraud. When I shared with them that when I draw close to God I become more aware of my sin, there were blank faces, no-one else seemed to understand this. They seemed to be filled with more joy as they drew near to God. What was wrong with me?

Things came to a head in the summer of 2007. We were asked in the small group to prepare our testimonies, of what God had done in our lives, and how things had improved in our lives since becoming Christians. We were given suggested examples – eg before I became a Christian I was unable to forgive, now I can forgive people. As I thought about this I realised what my testimony was: Before I became a Christian, I was fine, I was a sinner but unaware of my sin, so it didn’t bother me. Since becoming a Christian I have become more aware of my sin, and now feel guilty because of it, my life seems no better than it was before I became a Christian, and I am stuck between a rock and a hard place – I need Christ but I’m afraid of depression. But this I continue to believe – that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He is true, that He is exalted and will one day return as King of kings and Lord of lords.

This didn’t seem like a great testimony to me. However, I believe it did break something deep inside me. It was a declaration of faith in God, and yet also a declaration of my complete inability to live the life He wants. It was a recognition of my weakness and helplessness. I then read a book by A & J McGrath called The Dilemma of Self-Esteem. It talked about how we do need esteem, but not self-esteem, instead we need Christ-Esteem. Our esteem is based not on ourselves but on the fact that by faith we are found in Him, and as a result we become adopted as sons into the family of God and enjoy all the privileges, blessings and inheritance that comes from being in God’s family. It also said that “the Christian sees failure as something of potential value, bringing home to us our weakness and frailty and encouraging us to rely more upon the grace of God, rather than upon our own resources and ability”. As the Bible says, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). This really struck a chord in me, and I found myself able to pray to God that I wanted to come back to Him and trust fully in Him. I found myself trusting Him with my fear of depression.

I found that by admitting my failure to live the Christian life and by admitting my weakness, God worked strongly in me. My faith in Him grew, and my understanding of the Christian hope grew. The burden was lifted. No longer was it down to me to prove myself to God – I couldn’t. I simply had to accept that by grace all had been done for me, by Christ, and that I simply needed to trust in Him, be found in Him, cling to Him, and the blessings of being a child of God would flow over me. As I studied more about Christ and who He is, what He has done, and what He is going to do in the future, I realised that it was not about me at all, but all about Him. My focus had been so wrong all those years. I had been focusing on me and my response to God, which led to self-hatred. Instead, I needed to focus on Him and His work.

I have realised that I need to preach the gospel to myself every day. I used to believe that the gospel is what saves you, then you move on to living out your life and grow more like Him, so the gospel is for beginners. How wrong could I have been! Our natural tendency is towards law, to think we have to do things to get to God. We need to kill this natural impulse daily by reminding ourselves that God has done everything for us. Michael Horton writes: “Even as a Christian, my faith will actually be weakened when it is assumed that I already know the gospel and now I just need a steady diet of instructions. I will naturally revert to my moralistic impulse and conclude either that I am fully surrendered, or that I cannot pull this off and might as well stop trying. When my conscience leads me to despair, the exhortation to try harder will only deepen either my self-righteousness or my spiritual depression. In other words, it will draw me away from my location in Christ and gradually bring me back to that place where I am turned in on myself...If you are subjected week after week to a diet of “do more”, “be more authentic”, “live more transparently”, and “feel more”, you will eventually become like a prisoner who is forced into hard labour without adequate food. If you are regularly treated to the feast of God’s works and the zeal that consumed our Saviour in the service of our redemption, the exhortations will no longer be an unreasonable burden but a guide to expressions of thanksgiving in which our gracious God delights.” (From Christless Christianity).

Let me conclude with some words of Jesus: “Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent”. (John 6:28-29).


  1. Hi Diana. After your last comment on my blog I went searching for your testimony and I'm glad I did. That was beautiful, and so familiar to my experience. I also had a period 10 years ago when I was full of self-hate and even visited a psychiatrist who wanted to fix the problem with drugs. A friend lifted me out of the depression by building up my self-esteem, and it worked for a while, but I was only learning how to be a better fake and my pride went through the roof. Our society teaches children they are unloveable unless they are perfect, and then as adults they are sold stuff to distract them, or are taught philosophies of self-love as an enlightened alternative. And all this fails because we are made for the esteem that comes only from knowing the love of God.

    I totally agree with your 2nd to last paragraph. We have to pray constantly to be reminded that we have nothing to offer God in return for his love, grace and mercy. Meanwhile so many churches spend all their time pumping up self-esteem, putting us on life-support, not realising that we need to die to ourselves so that we can live in Christ...

    I've not heard of the McGrath book but it sounds like it hit the nail on the head. It is a dilemma. Self-esteem sets us off on the broad path that runs in the same direction as the narrow one until we reach the dead end of pride - and we see the Kingdom just out of reach but across a chasm a thousand fathoms deep.

    Thankyou again for posting this! It's really encouraging!

  2. Hi Tess,

    Thanks for taking the time to search for this, and for your encouraging words.

    I am so sorry to hear you've also "been there" as it were - although maybe if you hadn't been there, you wouldn't be where you are today? I kind of feel with me, my pride is so strong, I had to be broken to see that I wasn't after all as self-sufficient as I thought I was.

    Thank God that His grace reaches us across that chasm a thousand fathoms deep!

    God bless you Tess,