This past year has felt a bit like a private episode of “Myth Busters” with God. He’s debunked a lot of my beliefs about who He is— what His character is like, and what it means that He is “good” in my life. Myth #1: the belief that life with God works like karma— I do good stuff, I get rewarded; I do bad stuff, I get punished.
We think like this. A good husband and father is diagnosed with terminal cancer and we say “why would God allow that? He’s a good father!” Or the mean girl from high school gets married— or lands the perfect job— and we say “why would God reward her? She’s a nasty person!” On the flip side, a friend is struggling with infertility and we say, “God is probably punishing her because she wasn’t sexually pure before marriage.” That same mean girl from high school gets an illness and we say “she’s finally getting what she deserves.”
So anyway, I was living both sides of this coin. I felt entitled (and often disappointed) when I did good, and I felt punishable (and often unworthy to come to God) when I did bad. I also looked for this kind of punishment/reward system in others’ lives, alternately resenting God for blessing others who’d hurt me or feeling “less worthy” when good things did come to them.
Enter Jesus. His perfect life shows me that there is absolutely no good I could do to come close to deserving anything from God. All my good deeds combined are like “filthy rags” before Him, and comparing myself with the perfection of Christ’s life makes that painfully clear! All I deserve— all I’m truly entitled to— is God’s wrath. And guess what? Jesus took that wrath on Himself. The cross means that all the wrath of God stored up for me was already poured out on Christ. There is therefore now no condemnation for me! There is no “getting what I deserve,” having mysterious punishments from God in the form of illness, infertility, poverty, or loneliness. Jesus said “It is finished” and He meant that for me, for the friend who wasn’t sexually pure before marriage, for the mean girl in high school, and for all who are in Christ.
This means I can stop hiding from God when I’ve failed, expecting rejection. He’s already dealt with the consequences of my every sin and all He has for me is acceptance. It means I can stop feeling like the black sheep in the family when good things come to a friend, and I can stop demanding God to “punish” those in the family of God who have behaved less than honorably. For all who are ransomed by the Cross, there is only grace.
“I beheld God’s love displayed, You suffered in my place;
You bore the wrath reserved for me, now all I know is grace!"