For as long as I can remember, I have longed to know God and be like Jesus. When I failed to meet His standards (and I always did eventually), I would feel so frustrated. My failures even pushed me to the point of doubting my salvation, because I thought that "real Christians" always felt passionate about God and were diligent with their prayer time and Bible study. Yet I don't always feel passion for the Lord, and it's a daily struggle for me to spend time in the Word and in prayer. The enemy jumped at the chance to make me feel insecure in my salvation, and there were many nights when I laid in bed and worried about whether I really knew the Lord. If I did, why couldn't I be disciplined in my time with Him? Why didn't I feel "fired up" for Jesus all the time? Why didn't I hear Him speaking to me? Maybe wasn't saved.
One day, I talked to Garrett about how I was feeling. What if I was like those that Jesus describes in Matthew 7:21, saying "Lord, Lord" but not really knowing Him? What if I thought I was a sheep, but I was really a goat (Matthew 25:31-46)? My husband was quiet for a moment, and then he said something so profound (which I will paraphrase): Jesus Christ saves us by grace through faith. Our faith is the acceptance of that grace which He bestowed on us when He took our sin on the cross. If we believe that He can save us, then we must keep trusting that He did save us. What I was feeling wasn't the conviction of the Holy Spirit over my lost state, but fear that Jesus hadn't really saved me.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment."
-2 Timothy 1:7
When I stop and really think about it for any length of time, I know I have a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is my first love, the love of my life, my everything. I want to know Him and be like Him. And I have heard from Him many times (just not audibly). I think sometimes, when you get saved at an early age like I did, you have a hard time discerning your spiritual state because there isn't much of a life "before Christ" to contrast it with. God has been showing me lately that since surrendered my heart to Him, I have been trying to be Jesus in my own life. Not merely that I have tried to be like Jesus, but that I have been attempting to do in my own power what only He can do. The problem is not that I have been trying to save myself (because only Jesus can save), but rather that I have been trying to sanctify myself. Instead of letting go and letting God make me into the image of His Son, I just "try harder" to be like Christ. In my own power, that's impossible.
So if I really am a follower of Christ, why is it that I keep struggling to do what is right? Why can't I just spend time in the Word and pray like I'm supposed to already? Why can't I feel super close to God all of the time? Well, one reason is that I want to do it because I'm supposed to. There's no joyful desire in my heart to do it "as unto the Lord" because I can't will myself to desire the things of God. I can't even make myself want God! It's God who enables me to want what He wants, love what He loves, hate what He hates, and feel close to Him. Until I let him have control of my heart and life, I'm not going to want to do any of the things that Christians should want to do. In Romans 7, we see that Paul struggled with this as well:
"For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate...For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I discover this principle: when I want to do good, evil is with me. For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God's law. But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin." -Romans 7:15, 18-24
Another reason that I keep struggling, I think, is simply because I'm a sinner. I've been saved by the grace of God through Christ's death on the cross, but there is still sin in me. My flesh (which desires what is evil) wars with my spirit (which now desires what is holy), and until I'm living in eternity with Jesus, I will continue to struggle. Sanctification doesn't fully happen in this life, but we do get started on the journey after we give our hearts to the Lord. In the meantime, I will continue to struggle with sin.
I think the remedy for my problem is this: Look to Christ. I focus far too much on how godly I want to be, and how I want my Christian life to look, and I forget the most important thing. Jesus Christ loves me, died for me, saved me, and is sanctifying me! The Creator of all things wants a personal relationship with me! Instead of worrying about whether something is crossed off of my Christian check list, I need to sit back at the feet of Jesus and just be with Him. When I really take the time to know the Lord, He'll place the right desires inside of me. Yes, there will come a point when I have to be disciplined (real relationships require effort from both people, after all), but the focus won't be on my failures anymore. The focus will be on the beauty and majesty of God Himself.
"While they were traveling, [Jesus] entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord's feet and was listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, 'Lord, don't You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.' The Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.'" -Luke 10:38-42
"I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking [Him] in His temple." -Psalm 27:4