You had built a good life. You worked hard. You fell passionately in love and married the person of your dreams. Along came a couple of children. You had the world in your hand.
You prospered. Bought a nice house in a new subdivision. You bought a new SUV to go along with the late model car you have. Your double car garage was full. Your yard was washed, starched, and ironed. Your wife had a good job too. It took both of your incomes to live and enjoy the American dream.
You and your family were members of the perfect church. You received inspiration from the almost professional praise band. Your pastor’s messages were spot-on. Helpful, encouraging. Not condemning and Jesus centered. You were a leader in your church serving on various committees. Your friends warmly greeted you. And, you faithfully tithed your income like you were supposed too.
Life couldn’t get any better. You pinched yourself to make sure it wasn’t all a dream.
But, there were termites working you couldn’t see eating away at the very foundation that held you up.
Your spouse no longer slept with you and and loathed you bombarding and assaulting you by throwing complaints and criticism at you with great force. Nothing was pleasant at home any more. In fact, you dreaded going home and found excuses to work late.
You worked too long. Were gone most week nights at this committee meeting and at that community function. The fire had died between you two. There wasn’t even any smoke rising from the flame that once was.
Then, it happened. Your spouse moved out. Shortly, divorce papers were filed. Assets were split. Income halved. Your dream house had to be sold. Your children were no longer there when you got home. Your spouse was given custody. You had the leftovers.
Embarrassed and ashamed, you resigned all of your positions at church. You stopped going regularly afraid of the gossip you knew that was being whispered behind your back.
Depression hit you upside the head. The emotional pain was more than you could bear.
Everything that defined your identity vanished virtually over night. You floundered around trying to find yourself.
To take the edge off the pain, you tried to find comfort in other things like work or food. It wasn’t long until your clothes were too small. You had to buy a larger size. You let yourself go.
You were a mess and didn’t see any hope that tomorrow would be better. You felt like George Bailey in the classic Christmas movie, The Wonderful Life. The world would be better off without you. No one cared. You felt alone, and the loneliness closed in with each breath like a boa constrictor squeezing the very life out of you.
The old Hank Williams song was you. “I’ve never seen a night so long when time goes crawling by. The moon just went behind the clouds to hide its face and cry.”
You were as low as low could be.
You lost faith. Hadn’t you served Him? Didn’t you tithe? Why had He done this to you? Where is He in all this? He too has left me.
There was no Anchor to hold you steady in the storm. There was no Rock to stand on. There was no Refuge from the howling winds surrounding you. You felt exposed and naked for all the world to see. Shame made you afraid to go to work. It covered you in rags. You just wanted to go away somewhere and hide. A far off place. A place where no one knew you. A place to die.
But, God refused to let you go. His grace wouldn’t allow that. He held on to you when you couldn’t hold on to Him. His love for you hadn’t waned. He suffered with you. His plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future would not be thwarted no matter how you felt.
But, you couldn’t see that. No, not now when you were in the depths. You thought you could work this out like you had done so many times before. You could get better. Yes, you were down, way down in a dark hole, but you could dig out of this. You could whip this thing!
You refused to surrender. You refused to admit reality. After all, you weren’t powerless. Yea, you’ve put on some weight, but you can fix that too. Yea, you felt like quitting, but you weren’t a quitter. After all, you’ve got your pride!
Deeper and deeper you sank. The sun refused to shine. Clouds covered the moon. Darkness choked you like a noose.
At the end of your rope, you cried out in desperation. You had been slain. Your neck snapped. Your nice, neat life that you controlled was out of control. You couldn’t fix it. You finally realized you indeed were powerless.
In unbearable anguish and misery, you groaned. You couldn’t even pray anymore. All you could muster was a groan from deep in your murky fog.
And God heard your groan. He had seen and heard everything. And at your most broken point, He spoke. He spoke loud and clear like thunder. He came through like flashes of lightning across the tempestuous, nasty storm that sank your boat and left you floundering in the sea of despondency and drowning in self-pity.
God spoke in answer to your cry from your depths of despair. His voice was far off and faint to you at first. But, you came a little closer to try and hear a little clearer. The closer you drew to His voice, the more distinct it became.
The relationship of His love for you hadn’t been broken after all. He wrapped you in His arms like the Father of the prodigal son, the son who reeked from the miasma of feeding pigs. His Father cleaned him up. Threw his ragged, smelly clothes in the garbage. Brought out a clean, white robe and covered his embarrassment and shame. He put a ring on His finger signifying to whom he belonged and what his real identity was. He was His son. Then, the Father ordered a feast to celebrate that his son was alive again, was lost and is found. Everything the Father had was now His. That is love, unconditional love.
The prodigal son did nothing to deserve the Father’s love and riches. He didn’t earn it. He didn’t work for it. The Father’s love wasn’t for sale. It’s was given freely and lavishly simply by humbly coming home.
After seeing the light, after coming to the end of your rope, you admit your way, your self-efforts, your goodness didn’t work so good. You come home.
The Father sees you coming over the crest of the hill. He runs to meet you. He welcomes you with a bear hug rising from the deep love within His nature.
Your home now, and you never want to leave again and try it your way. No more self-righteousness, no more futile efforts to control others and try and force an outcome in your favor. Your efforts didn’t work. They ended in life collapse. Completely, totally, miserably.
God allowed your collapse and make it into rubble because He loves you too much to allow you to succeed by your efforts. That wouldn’t be love and grace. That’s performance, and God is not keen on our works no matter how good we think they are. It’s a slap in His face, a slap against His love, grace, and mercy. Success from self-love, self-effort, and self-sufficiency nauseates God. He abhors it.
Well, you argue. “God helps those who help themselves.” But where is that in Scripture? It’s not there. You won’t find it.
No, God helps those whose life has collapsed and who have nothing to bring to the cross but their brokenness, shame, and emptiness.
Jesus says, “Come and bring nothing with you. Leave it all behind. I don’t want it anyway! Aren’t the cattle on a thousand hills mine? Did I not create all the gold, silver, and the treasures you value so much? Yes, it’s all mine. All I want is you because I love you. I created you in my image, and I want to restore my image in you. So, empty your pockets. I’ve already got everything. That is, everything but you. And, I don’t need you. I want you because I love you, want to bless you with my Spirit living in you, and have an everlasting love relationship with you.
“So, come to me in your brokenness and collapsed life. Learn from me what life is really all about. Trust me. I won’t cast you away.”
“Come to this fountain so rich and sweet, Cast thy poor soul at the Savior’s feet; Plunge in today, and be made complete; Glory to His name!” – Elisha Albright Hoffman
You see, God loves you too much to let your plans succeed. He makes the way hard and impossible for you. Like He told Paul on the Damascus Road, “It’s hard to go against Me! I’ve been trying to get your attention for a long time. What are you doing to me? It’s time to stop going your way. Turn around and go my way, the best way. I will lay you down in cool, soft green pastures beside clean, pure still waters to restore your soul. (based on Acts 9 KJV and Psalm 23).
And, that’s what Paul did. He quit going his own way in pride and arrogance. Unlike the rich, young ruler, whose wealth had such a grip on him that he couldn’t let it go, Paul let it all go. Everything! He let go of his status, his religion, his friends, his work, and his money. He let it go!
Paul testified. “All the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant dog poop. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from my self-efforts of keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind of life that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.
“I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself.
“I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I am as happy with no home as with a mansion. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. And now I have it all!” (from Philippians 3-4 MSG).
That’s the way of God’s unfathomable love. He loves us too much to let us be content in the pig pen. He loves us too much to allow us to walk the path of self-effort and be clothed in our filthy rags of self-righteousness instead of His magnificent white robe of righteousness. He loves us too much to have everything but not have Himself.
God’s way IS the most excellent way!
He permits you to reach the end of your rope and makes your life collapse in order to give you His life abundantly and free. He paid for these abundant riches with the life of His own beloved Son through His tortuous execution on the cross. It’s not for sale. It can’t be earned. It’s there to be given to you out of His infinite storehouse of grace, mercy, and love.
Receive it and live. Receive it and be set free. Refuse it, and collapse emotionally and spiritually to be only the lifeless shell that you are now.
The life you’ve constructed through self-effort, the life you were so proud of, and the life you had all collapsed. Quit diving in the dumpster to find something to build it back. Let go of the past. Leave it in the trash dump where it belongs. Burn it up. Then, forget about it.
“One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
And out of the ashes, God will rebuild and remake you in the image of His Son. That’s what He wants. That’s what He’s doing. In humility and with a lowly, meek spirit, surrender your all to Him.
“All to Jesus I surrender, Now I feel the sacred flame; Oh, the joy of full salvation! Glory, glory, to His Name!” – Judson W. Van DeVenter
You will like what He builds far better than what you are trying to rebuild by your own efforts. That’s a promise as solid as a rock, as pure as gold, and as steady as an anchor that keeps you true-blue in every storm.
Will it be your way or God’s way? Paul tried it his way through self-effort. How did that work out for him?
“I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that” Galatians 2:19-21 MSG).
Don’t go back and try to rebuild your collapsed life from the rubble. Christ lives in you. Step out of the way, and let Him live His life in you! Let Him rebuild you in His image and not your image. It’s the only true way to live in peace with yourself and with God.