“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
Given our culture of positive thinking and self-empowerment, this may sound revolutionary, but here it goes… I have found that remembering that I am a sinner and in need of Christ’s perfect righteousness and salvation provides instant relief, comfort and peace. By reminding myself that I’m not innately good, without Christ, I am brought back to a state of surrender, which leads to a peace beyond understanding.
It’s been several years now since my transformation from living disconnected, in my head, and out of touch with my emotions. I typically embrace living in the moment, feeling my feelings, and connecting with Christ and the people in my life. However, the ego is a funny thing. After feeling strong and capable, happy and fulfilled, because of letting go and trusting God, I will then slowly, gradually, and without detection start striving for control. I start to believe my thoughts that tell me how things ought to be, how other people ought to behave, how the world around me ought to operate.
Our thoughts are pretty ridiculous at times and I’ve been tapping into my observing self lately to watch how my mind operates. Thoughts will hook me and I wrestle with deciding whether or not they are true. One of the most important lessons I learned from The Happiness Trap is to focus on whether or not a thought is helpful, whether it helps you live a life you value, rather on whether or not the thought is true. Ultimately, my perspective and wisdom are very small. Typically, when I’m striving to reconcile unhelpful thoughts, I’m actually struggle with a need for control.
I’ll remind myself – “Kelsey, you’re a sinner. You aren’t innately good and right in this or any situation. God’s grace is what brings life and salvation to you and everyone else.” I am then able to relax, breathe, and start praying for God’s wisdom to guide me to take action to improve whatever situation or circumstance is plaguing my thoughts.
One of the concepts in Lutheran theology that brings wonderful relief is that we’re simultaneously saint and sinner. Because of Jesus’s sacrificial death and resurrection, those who are baptized into his name are saints. But, we are still sinners living in this fallen world. No matter our efforts, we are breaking God’s perfect standard on a daily basis. There is good inside of us – the Holy Spirit of God – which leads us to love and do good deeds. But, we certainly cannot boast in these actions because they’re motivated by God, not by our sinful humanity.
By remembering my sinfulness, I’m immediately brought down from the elevated place my ego has lead me. By recognizing my extremely limited perspective and wisdom, I turn to God for guidance. By recalling that my thoughts are misleading and without value, I am able to dismiss them and turn my attention to connecting with the people around me. By connecting with people and praying for God’s wisdom, I am able to find ways to love and good deeds to do.