The worst battle I fight on a continual basis is feeling like a failure. Some days I chalk it up to being a stay at home mom because things like laundry, dishes, meals, and schooling never really end. There are “aha” moments when my children joyfully read on the clean floor or dishes are neatly stacked in my dishwasher. Some days I remember to throw a load in the wash or we have a fun math lesson that goes well. But in between there are sighs of unmet expectations and literal grunts of frustration at my limited resources. It must just be the life of a mom.
But I remember these feelings in school. As an RA I always wished I reached out to more women on my hall. I wanted to have lunch with everyone all the time, pray consistently with everyone, go out for coffee with everyone. Funds and time and energy were limited. Grades mattered for scholarships, and some teachers made it impossible to get an A. I was also dating a really important guy who became my husband. Sometimes I didn’t love him well and needed to ask forgiveness. Ministry opportunities were around every corner, but I was never able to serve in all of the needed roles. It must just be the life of a college student.
We are failures on our own
Life continually shows us that we can never do it all.
Reality hurts. The fall has made it impossible for us to reach perfection. Our own sinful tendencies show our selfishness, laziness, and pride. Our communities, families, and jobs have such big needs, and we feel so incapable.
Failure to reach out, failure to love without hypocrisy, failure to meet expectations, failure to live a perfect life all swirl around in our heads.
Jesus shows us our constant need for his perfection
In a very real sense, seeing our inadequacies is good. We are not righteous- not one of us (Rom 3:10). We are spiritually dead without Christ (Eph 2:1). Only the righteousness of Jesus gives us life and hope! When we fall to our knees in anguish over our failures, then we can lift our eyes and behold the wondrous work of the Savior who gives us life! Our sin shows us how much we must lean on Jesus continually. We are not perfect, but we know who is. Jesus calls us to holiness because he is holy.
In the Old Testament, God gave his people the law to show them how to be holy. The law exposed their sin, but it also gave the Israelites hope as God’s chosen people. Their diet, clothing, relationships, hygiene, separation, and every aspect of their lives was meant to show the holiness of God.
You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine (Lev 20:26)
Psalm 119 reflects the hope of the law in nearly every verse. Each line shows David’s love for the word, including God’s commandments. With poetic verse, he says over and over how the law exposes his sin, but God’s commandments are his delight (vs 47-48).
The New Testament doesn’t negate the beauty of the law. In fact, Peter reiterates what is written in Leviticus.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (I Pet 1:13-16)
Yes, the law shows our imperfection, but it also points us to the perfection that is coming. We need God’s word to show us how to grow in holiness and to look forward to the day that God’s work in us will be complete.
We must look at the true law
Our own law which condemns us and shows us that we are failures doesn’t lead to hope. Sadly, we are perfectly good at coming up with lists and requirements that are impossible to reach. But when we look at the perfect law of liberty, we still see our sin but we mostly see Christ. We see that Christ even changes our vocabulary. “Failure” lies dead with our sin. “Redeemed” thrives in the righteousness of Christ.
Truth must reign when our hearts feel the longings of perfection. It’s coming, so hold on to God’s grace and dwell in Christ’s righteousness.