“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” Galatians 4: 8-9
I had originally planned on writing a devotional that focused on dreaming about how to make this next year the best year yet, but I started this year reading Larry Crabb’s book “The Pressure’s Off.” It’s been wonderful for my soul and spiritual life, and at the same time absolutely crushing for my planning, perfectionistic self. I love a good set of New Year’s resolutions. I spend a lot of time looking at my life, assessing what could be better, and making plans to do what I can so that it is.
But as I’ve read Crabb’s book, centered around Galatians 4, his message has become abundantly clear: my current way of relating to God (do more of the right things and God will bless you with the life you want), isn’t working, and never will. Crabb calls this “the Law of Linearity,” do A and your result will be B. But Christ came to fulfill the law, and in the process changed the game. Jesus didn’t come to give us an easy-breezy life; in fact, he basically guarantees the opposite in John 16:33. Instead he came to give us himself.
But what about all my hard-fought effort?! What about all the good things I’m trying to do for God? Shouldn’t I get a reward for those? I’m doing everything I can to make my life and the lives of those I love good.
The truth is that on this side of Heaven, the Law of Linearity still kind of works. If we treat our friends well, they will likely treat us well in return. If we take care of our bodies, we often see the rewards. But on this broken side of Heaven, these things are only temporary, and what I’m learning–what’s really challenging my heart and convicting my spirit–is that most of the time, I’m desiring God’s blessings so much more than I’m desiring Him. I’m demanding rewards for my good behavior rather than loving Him no matter my circumstances.
Honestly, I feel like a spoiled child who has stormed up to my Dad and demanded “I got all A’s on my report card. Where is my reward?” when all my Dad wants is a hug and an afternoon spent together. I want to love God more than I love the good things he’s blessed me with in life. I’m thankful for those things, and will still desire and ask for them, but what I’m working on now is resting instead of striving. I don’t have to work so hard to make my life work, because the truth is, even if I see the fruit of my efforts, it’s only temporary. You know what’s not temporary? The only thing that will outlast the things we build and the people we love in our lives? God and His Presence.
More than getting it right, more than trying to make my life work out as it should, even more than I desire good things for my life, my prayer is that this year I would seek to know and love God more than I love the blessings he has given me. I want to know and value him above everything else, so that when my life feels richly blessed, I can enjoy the gifts with deep gratitude in my heart, and when things feel like they’re falling apart, I can trust that I am securely held by my Father and his love will outlast the storms of my life.
It’s my prayer for you too. May we cease striving, cease trying to make our lives work, and instead rest in the deep love of God, desiring Him above everything else.