“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
Our culture is one that glamorizes perfection. If you're not sure what I mean, just turn on your T.V. or take a trip to the mall. Commercials tell us we're incomplete without the latest and greatest gadgets. Photoshopped supermodels tell us what we should wear. The car that just passed you on the highway was newer than yours. In some way or another, we are confronted on a daily basis by the lie that our shortcomings are unacceptable.
But the truth of the Gospel is that God sees our shortcomings as opportunities to lavish us with His grace. Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10,
"And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."
Take a moment to reread these verses and fully grasp what Paul is trying to teach us here. He's saying our weakness is not only acceptable, but it is actually a glorious thing when placed in the hands of our loving Savior. We don't have to have everything together emotionally, financially, or even spiritually - which is a good thing for people like me. Instead, Paul insists that our inadequacies can actually bring glory to God when we allow the power of Christ to “rest upon us”. This means abandoning our own tendency to "just try harder" and allowing the strength and grace of Jesus to reign over every aspect of our lives. As in Paul’s case, this could mean learning to live with a “thorn in the flesh” that God chooses not to remove for reasons we may never understand (2 Cor. 12:7).
My experience over the last several months, however, has been that viewing my own weaknesses through the lens of grace is much easier said than done. Even though most Christians I know would agree with everything I've written so far, it seems that most believers, including myself, are obsessed with convincing everyone else they've got it all together. We try to look perfect every Sunday morning and play the part of a Type A Christian, while on the inside a majority of us are battling doubt, fear, and/or depression on some level.
How do I know this? Because I’ve seen too many people who played the part of Super Saint simply give up without warning. Everyone thought they were happily married until he left. No one knew she was depressed until she attempted suicide. He never talked about his doubts until he quit going to church. People who played the part perfectly week after week were entrenched in the greatest spiritual battles of their lives, but were too afraid of condemnation to reach out for help.
Do you see the resemblance yet? While pop culture is telling us how many Instagram followers we should have, the church world is setting its own standards of spiritual excellence. If you need just one more friend on Facebook, you might be tempted to accept that request from someone you may or may not have passed in Walmart last week. If you lack a little faith in God, pretending to be stronger than you really are is usually easier than admitting your doubt, especially when you’re convinced no one else will relate to your struggle.
The only problem with this masquerade of perfection is that it’s just that: a masquerade. Somewhere along the line we tend to lose sight of our daily need for grace and then exhaust ourselves trying to impress God and everyone else with our faithfulness. We’ll request prayer for a sick relative or a lost family member, but dare not admit our own discouragement for fear of appearing weak. We try to measure up to standards of commitment set by other believers, not realizing that many of them are playing their own small role in this charade.
What's so wrong with this type of Christianity is that it effectively "sets aside the grace of God" (Gal. 2:21) in one's relationship with the Lord and his relationship with fellow believers. And a life devoid of grace is hardly worth living.
"Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?"
Despite my own propensity to overcomplicate things, I have arrived at the conclusion that the key to victory in almost every battle one can possibly face is simply to trust in God's love and grace, to lean on the “rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2). Paul's point in Galatians 3:3 is very clear: grace is what saved us and grace is what keeps us going. To the extent that we trust in our own strength we are prone to failure, but when we cast our burdens upon the Lord it becomes evident that only He can sustain us (Psalm 55:22).