If you saw a person who was hurting would you help them or hurt them more? If you knew there was someone who felt ashamed, lost, lonely, and was desperately seeking for any hope of acceptance and a second chance, how would you respond? Would you go to them and hit them? Would you scold them for what they’ve done wrong? Would your words be, “Yes, you are a failure. No one likes you, or wants you, or could ever truly love you! You have fallen too far for grace. You are too broken to be healed. You’re disgusting, you’re ugly, and you’re worthless. The world would probably be better off without you in it, honestly. You’ll never change or have any hope in your life. You should know better than to be like this, but here you are; you’re stupid!”?
I certainly hope that is not how you would respond, and I honestly doubt it would be the case.
I suspect you would be more likely to go over to the person and offer them grace. Give them encouragement about who they are, hope that they are more than their mistakes, awareness of the good qualities about them, and security in the sufficiency of God’s grace and the forgiveness He gives through Jesus’ death and resurrection. No one is perfect, and no one has to be. You would maybe hug them and tell them that you love and accept them just the way they are; they don’t have to be afraid. Your heart’s desire would be to shine a light for them on their journey of healing, and to patiently support them as they struggle to learn how to stand on the truth of God’s Word.
So why is it then that you go into your room, close the door, look into the mirror and recite that “you’re a disgusting hopeless failure” speech to yourself?
Oh, don’t you see? You are just a person too! If you can breathe for a second and look past the anger you feel towards yourself at your failings, won’t you find that deep inside you is someone who is hurting? Someone who feels lost and ashamed and just wants to know if there is any hope for them of acceptance and a second chance? It may be hard to hear it at first, because you are so used to covering it up, used to telling the cry inside to shut up and get used to it because they failed and they deserve this now. But if you listen closely you will begin to hear it, a soft aching. It’s okay to feel that. Breathe, and let it surface for a moment. Don’t hold back the tears. Don’t push it away in fear or in anger. Lower your fist and open your arms, because you, my dear friend, are the person spoken of at the beginning of this post. You are the one who is hurting, and you need to be comforted. It is not wrong.
No matter how deep your hurt, Jesus is Healer. No matter how bad you’ve messed up, Jesus has taken the punishment. You don’t have to punish yourself. In Jesus you are a new creation, and you are declared not guilty. Now He sees you white as snow, and He has compassion on you when you struggle. Jesus has walked through this life, remember? He knows how hard it is, and He does not judge you for your weakness. He wants to help you, gently, lovingly.
“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” – Isaiah 53:3-6
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-19
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16
You don’t have to fight yourself. You can be kind to yourself, too. Remember that you aren’t “you”, the one who has to be perfect, and should know better, and who is being judged, and who must prove themself, but instead you are just a person – like everyone else. You are an imperfect creation bearing the image of your Creator. You’re someone who makes mistakes, but not because you are bad, simply because you are in the process of learning. You are someone who is fighting a battle to recover, a battle to live in victory, a battle to embrace the freedom that is being held out to you. You are making progress, but progress is not perfect. And it does not have to be.
Fight. Fight hard! You are a child of the King, and a warrior in His name! He has given you the victory, so don’t retreat. But when you do trip, it is not over.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” – Romans 8:37
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:56-58
“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” – Psalm 37:23-24
When a baby learns to walk, they fall a lot. They stand up and teeter back and forth before swiftly collapsing to the floor. Then, later, and after many falls, they can hold their balance and reach out with their foot. That first step forward brings a wave of cheers from their parents and family! Soon after one or two steps have been taken, they have likely hit the floor again, but the mother still records that date as when her child started walking. Those first steps were not discounted just because the toddler fell afterwards. They are still there, they still happened, they still matter, they are still precious. Over time the child will begin to walk for longer periods of time before falling, and they will also start to feel more stable when they do stand. It takes a long time to get there, and there will be many little steps and big tumbles along the way, but they do make it. And when they fall down in the process of learning to walk, are they scolded for falling since that was not the goal? No! Praise is still given to the child for the time of success they did have, and they learn from that experience a little more about how not to fall so they can get up from the ground and try again. They probably get lots of scrapes and bruises on their journey of learning to walk as well, but no one tells the child that they should have simply known better than to fall by now. Instead, loving family and friends take care of the wounds and help them heal, and they hold the child and comfort them until they are no longer crying. Let this be a picture for your journey, both in accepting grace and love from God and others, and as a model for how you treat yourself.
There is grace for when you fall – more grace than the number of times you will fall down. Falling isn’t failure if you get up and try again– then it is simply a learning curve. The failure would only occur if you never tried to stand again.
“for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again…” – Proverbs 24:16a
“The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” – Romans 5:20
So whether you have fallen years ago, and the memory of it still haunts you, or if you are currently in a struggle to overcome a stronghold in your heart, this message is for you. Keep walking. See the good that is happening! You are learning to walk. Acknowledge that you are hurting from this. It is okay to hurt, even if it is your own choices that got you there. Be gentle with yourself. To do so is to embrace the gospel and the grace that God has extended to you, but to resort to scolding and self-punishment is to reject the truth of the gospel over you as you try to be good enough and save yourself in your own power. You don’t have to live that lie though. Choose to walk in grace today. You’re okay.