Monday, February 11, 2013

The End of Yourself

There are many things in life that can bring you to the end of yourself.

A terrible boss. Chronic health issues. Long bouts of depression. A failing marriage. A rebellious child. Ongoing addictions. Relentless sin struggles. Deep loneliness. And, of course, fundraising.

If even one of these is weighing on you, you might find yourself struggling to get out of bed in the morning. If two or more are affecting you, you may come to believe that you just can't do it anymore.

Your heart will cry out for relief. Your mind, in those rare occasions where you can think clearly, will be racing to come up with a way to escape. As option after option falls away, you are overcome with despair and cry out even more. It's a deeply painful downward spiral.

If you've never felt that way, just wait - so long as you live long enough, you will.

Yet there is hope. Not wishful thinking hope. Not "it'll all work out" romantic-comedy hope. Not even "God works all things together for good so chin up!" hope. This better hope lies before you, clear as day, but it requires making a choice.

The path you've been walking down thus far has not offered any options. You don't want to be on this road, but you've had little control over the things that have brought you to this point. Yet before you lies a fork in the road with two paths to choose from.

The first path is marked, "The End of Yourself". That path leads to you giving in. It means quitting your job. Or refusing to leave your bed. It means getting a divorce or abandoning your family. It results in offering yourself to your addictions and embracing your sin. It could mean giving up on the fundraising you've worked so hard at. Regardless of what it looks like, that path leads to you making your last stand. You will take control of something. It is the worst of all scenarios, but at least you had some say in it.

But there is another path. Strangely, it too is marked, "The End of Yourself", and it too leads to you giving in. You can't see as far down the path, so the details are hazy, but what is clear is that despair has no place there. Yes, you see pain, as it is obviously not an easy path, and it seems that you may or may not actually quit your job or get healthy or have an easy marriage or finish fundraising. But there are others there and they seem okay. Your addictions will still pull at you along the way and sin will gain a foothold more often than you'd like or expect, but it will never win. This path is not pretty, but it is infinitely better than the first path.

Consider now the words of the Apostle Paul, a man intimately familiar with the second path:
For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)
Paul tells us that down that second path is where we'll discover the gospel. Those who run down either path will shout together, "I can do all things!" But only those heading down the second path will finish with, "through him, my Savior, my God, who strengthens me!"

The gospel tells us that while we were yet sinners, dead in our transgressions and sins, being altogether foolish, disobedient and deceived slaves, Jesus died for us (Rom 5:8, Eph 2:1, Titus 3:3). When we were at our absolute worst, without any hope in the world, God Himself came and rescued us. Nor was this just a once and done rescue - Jesus is still working that same power in the lives of all those who put their trust in Him.

That power is the hope our hearts are crying for. It's a reminder that Jesus came at our most desperate moment and it's a reminder that He has never left our side. He will be there again at our next most desperate moment, as well as the one after that and the one after that. Each time it will require coming to the end of yourself, but you find discover that you can do all things through Him who strengthens you.

Some day you will come to the end of yourself, but remember that it is not the end of the journey. In fact, it could be just the beginning.