From Striving to Soul Rest

Somehow I always knew the standard was perfection. Maybe it's because I'm a firstborn. Or maybe it's because I was raised on the Bible. Either way, I knew I didn't measure up to God's perfect, holy standard. Sadly, it took me years to realize that Jesus was my source of perfection . . .

Mom tells me I accepted the Word of God with the "faith of a little child." I don't ever remember a time when I didn't believe I was a sinner in need of a restored relationship with God. Yet my eyes were blinded to His love, grace, and forgiveness of my sins through Jesus' perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection. Oh, I knew the gospel story by heart and I would have told you I believed it, but there was a major disconnect between my head and my heart. Can you relate?

As a little girl, I was keenly aware of my sin and inadequacy. In fact, mom still has a file folder of apology letters I wrote to her and dad whenever I would disobey. I remember asking God to save me almost every night. I was sure of my sin, but never sure of His pleasure or favor. (That's because I thought I had to earn it!)

Because of this, I didn't have a loving, personal relationship with God. I thought He was always angry at me. I tried my hardest to be good, but shouldered that burden myself (and what a heavy burden it was!). This led to a season in my early teens where I tried to find the love I longed for from guys—any guy who would pay me attention would do! When I realized that was a dead-end street, I went back to trying "the God thing" again.

Still, it wasn't until my early twenties that I finally reached the end of myself. One morning, I woke with such a heavy sense of despair. I knew no matter how hard I tried, I wouldn't make it through the day without sinning. (I guess I always thought this was the goal!) No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't please God. As I was sobbing in emotional exhaustion, God brought to mind Matthew 11:28–30:

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

That's when I realized I had a serious problem. My twenty-plus years of experience didn't line up with Jesus' promised peace and rest; I had only known the hard, heavy burden of religion. I found myself asking a question I could hardly fathom, "Do I really even know Jesus?"

Over the next few weeks and months, God kindly brought along a couple of older believers to walk with me through this season. I began studying Romans 5-8 with one of them, and the gospel came alive to me as I realized I was dead, and Jesus' life was now pulsating within me!

Since then, I've continued to grow in my understanding and gratitude that I am in Christ, who has become my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that my only boast is that I am His (1 Cor. 1:29–31)!

What about you? Are you striving in your own strength to meet God's perfect, holy demands; or are you trusting in Jesus alone to be your righteousness? (It's not too late to start right now!)

 

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About the Author

Paula Marsteller

Paula Marsteller

Paula has served with Revive Our Hearts for thirteen years. She is the author of Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom. There's nothing she loves to share more than the gospel-centered truths that have so transformed her own life: what it means on a daily basis to be "dead to sin, alive to God, and in Christ Jesus." Paula, Trevor, and their son, Iren, make their home in New York.

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