I was in praise team practice at my church last night and we were practicing the song “Come Thou Fount,” a wonderful hymn that’s been pretty popular in recent years through modern interpretations. As it always seems to, one particular part of the song struck me:
Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be,
Let that grace now like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
It’s funny that we sang that song, because I was reflecting on a somewhat scary thought on the way to church. I had been listening to a podcast where a comedian who used to be a Christian was being interviewed and he was talking about why he had left Christianity (find the podcast and interview here). I was a little sad for the guy, but I began to think: what would make me leave Christianity?
To be honest: It’s very possible that I could abandon Jesus. It’s very possible that I could leave everything behind and just go and do my own thing.
There have been a few times in the last four or five years where I have reached points of despair in my walk with Christ for a number of reasons. A few of those reasons:
- Following Jesus is too hard.
- Following Jesus makes me feel guilty all the time.
- Following Jesus stresses me out.
- Following Jesus makes me depressed.
- Following Jesus is too much work.
I’m not asking you to comment below or on Facebook with the answers to these trying to fix me. I think there’s some of these thoughts that come from my own silly mind not remembering truth of Scripture, there’s some that come from Christian culture handling truth the wrong way, and there’s some that are entirely fair.
Sometimes following Jesus is too hard. To appropriately follow Christ, we’ve got to go against ourselves, we’ve got to go against just about everything our body and mind intrinsically want to do. It can be really tiring, especially for a new Christian. And there’s a point to where it’s going to be tiring, and that’s OK. Following Jesus is never promised to be easy.
But there are points in my walk with Jesus, as I’ve said, where it became “too much.” And it’s OK to reach that point! I don’t think that Jesus expected us to always have the energy and the motivation on our own strength to do everything. That’s why we have faith, that’s why we trust that God is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28), that He’s for us and not against us (Romans 8:31), that He’s looking for ways to strongly support us (2 Chronicles 16:9) in the tough times.
But the danger comes when we reject those ideas and begin to think that we don’t need God because 1) we’ve got it on our own and/or 2) God clearly hasn’t done enough to help us so far. I think it’s perfectly natural and perfectly human to reach that place, to reach a point where we think, “What the heck has God done for me? I’m still in this mess, I’m still the way I used to be, I still feel lost. I need to try something else.”
When I reach those times, I have to go back to why I personally follow Jesus, why I personally need Jesus in my life.
A friend of mine is about to start her first year of teaching at an elementary school. She told me that a college professor of hers made her entire class spend 45 minutes writing out why they personally wanted to be teachers. That professor wanted them to have that for them to look back on when teaching became hard, when kids were misbehaving, when the grading was overwhelming. That professor was insightful, knowing there needed to be a personal motivation in a difficult, often under-appreciated profession.
I think we need the same thing in our walks with Jesus.
People can follow Christ for a number of different reasons, but I think it’s super helpful and almost necessary to have your own personal, individual reason and motivation to stick with Jesus through the hard times. You can say “because He’s God” or “because I’m supposed to,” but those things won’t hold in the depths of your despair. I learned that I needed a personal reason, something that was specific to my circumstances, something that showed how Christ spoke into the things I specifically deal with day after day.
A while ago on this blog, I wrote a post about how I struggle with anxiety on a daily basis and depression on a fairly regular basis. For the longest time while I was dealing with this, I would stick with Jesus because I thought I was “supposed to.” It was not helpful.
But then I began to see how God and His Word and the work of Christ dealt with my specific situation. I learned a few things:
- God loves me, even with my imperfections.
- God still loves me in my depression. He is with me in my depression. He doesn’t expect me to not feel depressed. You can be a Christian and be depressed. Mental illness isn’t a disqualification for anything in God’s eyes.
- The truth of God and His Word are rocks I can hold onto when my anxious mind tells me a million different lies.
- It’s OK to struggle. The Gospel truth of unconditional love and forgiveness for Christians means my sin doesn’t push God away from me.
- I don’t have to get fixed right away. Sanctification is a lifelong process.
It’s in thinking these thoughts and many others that I began to form my own “why” for following Jesus. This “why” is this:
I follow Jesus because He makes sense of my life when my depression leads me astray, when my mind can’t make itself up. He loves me in spite of my sin and accepts me in my wandering and wondering, my doubts and fears, my sadness and pain, my frustration and anger. He gives me truth in my mind of a million thoughts, a truth I can bank on again and again. Most importantly, He says, “I love you as you are. Come be with me.”
And, Lord-willing, that will keep me coming back to Jesus every single time. Because it speaks to me. It may not speak to everyone because not every deals with those things. But it’s for me, and it’s how Jesus relates to me.
And I love it.
What is your personal “why” for following Jesus? If you would like to share, please comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear/read it.