If you read my posts here or on my own site, you’ll find that most of my writings lean toward the issue of dark times or brokenness in our lives. Oh, I write about other stuff, such as understanding scripture, life and work occasionally, but I find coming to the keyboard in those darker moments, the most revelatory and therapeutic. It helps me face up to those things. While I don’t often outwardly exclaim an emphatic, “VICTORY!” over those battles for all to hear, I do find God’s strength and hope encouraging me forward.
I imagine that I’m not alone in this. That, there are people wrestling and struggling and trying to make sense of what’s going on in their lives or at least trying to find that something that will give you a sort of respite from it all.
So, maybe you’re like me and have dark moments. Who doesn’t really? Sometimes, In those dark moments, we grasp for anything that might lead us out. Anything I can touch or physically grasp becomes my "help" to guide me. It becomes my "encouragement." It often feels like being stuck in a cellar when the lights go out. In that pitch black moment, you thrust your hands forward, groping for the handrail in the darkness that will lead you up the hidden stairway towards the light above. Each step brings you closer to the top, but you still stumble a bit as you make your way.
In the midst of difficulties and trials, when depression can sometimes overtake us, we stumble around, grasping in the darkness for a way out.
Some of us Christians know that we still grab the wrong thing sometimes. We are no better than anyone else, believer or nonbeliever, in that regard. We panic in our brokenness and look for a life preserver that will keep our head above water. We want something that will quell the storm of emotions inside of us until we make to solid shore. In the process of "making it to shore", we can be tossed about by the waves of difficult feelings that overcome us and grab for anything in our confusion.
Sometimes, in those moments, the life preserver we grasp for is anything but Christ. We sometimes grasp for food. We reach for something tangible that fills our bellies and gives us a false satisfaction of completeness or fullness. We can grasp for strong drink to forget our problems, laying it all inside the bottom of a bottle, allowing it to dull our senses. For some, it’s companionship. We seek a physical connection with someone, sometimes anyone, including a stranger to help us forget our problems and pain, even if it’s just for a moment. These are some of the most common of handrails we grasp for as we travel up the steps, but there are many others even more subtle.
Sometimes it’s simply barricading our feelings. If we don’t get close to anyone and we don’t care about anything, we can’t be depressed or pained by it. We hide behind nice words and quick exchanges at church (and in the rest of life), but that’s all they are. More masks. More made up ways we try to protect ourselves. Sometimes the subtle ways are worse, because they keep us flailing in the water far longer than we should be.
He is in the business of rescuing. His greatest rescue of us occurs on the cross, where he saves the world from the ultimate penalty of sin and death. He also rescues us daily. Far too frequently, it feels as if he is rescuing me out of the stormy waters like Peter when I sink. It feels that way because of the countless times I’ve heard, "we just need to keep our eyes on Jesus and we won’t sink!" We need to hear this and be relieved of the guilt: Peter the Apostle, SANK! He was going under and when he was, his eyes were everywhere but on Christ. However, his words, were the only thing necessary in that moment, "Lord, Save me!" And that’s what Christ did.
This is more about Christ’s rescue of us, then anyone being able to step out onto the water by faith. Peter again and again showed his need for Christ’s rescue and it always seemed to come after some bold proclamation or action of his. Though he followed Jesus, he always seemed to be "sinking" into his own way of doing things.
"Wash my feet? ...Never" (John 13:68).
"I will never deny you" (Mark 14:27-31).
"And behold, one of those who were with Jesus (Peter) stretched out his hand and drew his sword... (Matthew 26:50-54).
Peter was essentially "sinking" all the time. Is it any wonder why, when Peter realized that the resurrected Jesus sat on the shore performing one more miracle for them, that he’d immediately jump ship and swim to shore to meet him? (John 21:47) Jesus never abandoned Peter. He never said, "This time you went too far." or "you just don’t get it!" He had nothing but forgiveness and love for him.
Our hope is not just that we stop grabbing for the wrong things. Even on our best day, we screw up and grab for wrong things, whether physically or even by our attitude. If we’re honest about scriptures like this: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27), we know we don’t do this. We all have days, where we grab for the wrong thing to try to bring us up out of the darkness. For some of us, they may be small, incremental things that we catch and repent of before they get bigger. For others, it is some of things I mentioned and it feels overwhelming.
My prayer for you is that you do find victory over them. That one day, by God’s grace you’d begin let go of the things that are "keeping you afloat" and trust in the one who is your rescue. But even more, I pray you would know that there is no condemnation when you grab the wrong thing sometimes. I know sin has the power to overwhelm us with guilt and make us wonder about our status before God. This is your status: Forgiven. Loved. Restored.
God knows our sins before we commit them and forgives us well before we take a knee in repentance. How do we know this?
By the cross of Christ.
The Cross is our constant reminder that we no longer need to grab for anything but Christ and also even more importantly, because of our daily failings, the Cross is our constant reminder that he is our redemption when we grab the wrong things. Seek to be rescued continually. Know that you are forgiven always.
A theological misfit landing in the area of Lutheranism, Dominick has come to deeply appreciate the truth of scripture as defined by the distinction between Law and Gospel. He has found freedom in knowing that Christ is his substitute on even his worst days. He has been for the course of his church life everything from chair-stacker to men's ministry leader. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two great young men, which he can say without a doubt, he doesn't deserve. He counts among his favorite things: Star Trek, classic superhero comics, movies, Yankees and yes, he admits to it, the Knicks. He enjoys a good conversation and good food. Finally, he is grateful for the opportunity to share the message of God's Grace among all these great teachers, pastors and theologians and hopes he doesn't mess up big time. But then again, that's what grace is for, right?