Lifted high

Overwhelmed is a good word for senior year.

Words like it–stressed, busy, anxious and tired–are grossly over used by students making their way to graduation, so I try avoid using them too much. But I’m choosing to use overwhelmed for a whole other reason.

Oh, yes, I’m overwhelmed by the sense of finality surrounding every event, get together, and football game.

No doubt my soul gets overwhelmed at the thought of issues back home beyond my control and two-hour distance.

Sure, overwhelmed is what I felt when I registered for my final, 19-credit-hour semester of college.

Absolutely, I feel overwhelmed when I imagine my future and plans for post-grad life.

And sometimes I’m just overwhelmed by my inadequacy. I’m reminded of academic failures, haunted by missed opportunities to further my career options, held captive by thoughts telling me I’m a bad friend or daughter or sister, condemned by reminders of my deep sinfulness that separates me from the Father.

But, thankfully, my heart is fully overwhelmed–beyond any other circumstance lingering in my mind–by God’s greatness, by His goodness.

It’s easy for us to focus on what we know best: ourselves. We know our own strengths and weaknesses, what makes us happy and sad and angry and excited. We know how we typically react to certain scenarios, how we respond to tragedies, how we handle struggles, and how we fight (or don’t) different temptations. Because we know these things, we find ourselves in a roller coaster of self-thought, of self-consumption, of self-condemnation.

People often talk about how there exists a temptation to place ourselves above others, to think we’re better than the people around us, to act as if we’re without flaw. For the longest time I denied any part in that. I’m fully aware of my faults and failures, believe me. No one can be harder on me than myself, I told myself.

After years of living in that mindset, of knowing for certain just how awful I am and how unworthy I am of God’s affection, it hit me on the floor of my campus minister’s living room two weeks ago. Since then the realization has only continued growing on me.

We were made to worship.

There’s this thing called the cross chart (pictured below). It’s made up of two lines in the shape of a lesser than sign (<), the top line depicting awareness of God’s glory, the bottom line representing knowledge of personal sinfulness. In the middle there sits a cross, a simple, beautiful picture of Christ’s bridging the gap between humanity and her Creator.

cross chart

As my campus minister discussed the chart, my heart flooded with a crushing weight of joy and conviction and gratitude and praise.

I was, in every sense of the word, overwhelmed.

Since that moment, I’ve been consistently reminded that life is not to be lived in constant, self-inflicted condemnation for our countless failures. We were not created so intricately to waste our days focusing on how to make ourselves and the people around us better, how to surpass the goodness of the people beside us, how to align ourselves with some human-constructed notion of success. Worship is our sole purpose.

As I drove home from my time in that living room floor, a song further enraptured my heart.

“God of Creation, there are the start, before the beginning of time.

With no point of reference,

You spoke to the dark and fleshed out the wonder of light…

If the stars were made to worship, so will I…

If creation sings Your praises, so will I.”

I honestly don’t think I can count the number of times I’ve listened to this song in the past two weeks. The more I sing those words during my morning drive to campus, in the shower, on my walk to class, before bed, the more I realize the purpose of not only these words, but also of my (read: your) entire existence.

Yeah, we suck. In a lot of ways. We have high hopes and big dreams and great intentions, but we have no ability to follow through or create anything lasting. It’s all temporary.

And that sounds really hopeless, right? Except Jesus.

Nope, we can’t make anything of eternal significance, but through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we have connection to the only One Who does. That is Who all this is about.

There’s nothing special about our failure and inabilities and sinfulness. All of humanity owns those characteristics. But the Creator of it all is the only One Who gives life, Who defines righteous, Who loves sacrificially, Who brings us alongside Himself in such a creative, beautiful way.

Y’all, that overwhelms me.

I’m not the best at receiving gifts. It makes me uncomfortable, and I feel like I have to repay that gift in an equally meaningful and significant way. I would much rather just buy an item myself, meet my own need, complete my own tasks.

We can’t do that with God and His sacrifice through Jesus. We can accept the gift or we can deny it. Either way, there’s nothing we can do to earn it, to repay it, to achieve any sort of eternal salvation in some other way. It’s Jesus or it’s nothing.

It sounds abrasive and closed-minded and strict and unnatural, doesn’t it? But could you just look at the great love and freedom that’s on the other side of this Jesus door? When we’ve chosen to die and receive lasting life through Christ alone, we’re no longer chained by the hopeless struggle to be better. We realize and accept our failures, our need for God to intervene and redeem our broken lives. In Jesus’ life, we’re given freedom from crippling sorrows and death-bringing sin patterns.

He made the way. So stop searching.

I know, it’s hard and scary and takes a massive amount of trust, but God is so good. Even when life sucks and it feels like everything you know and love is crumbling around you, He is the constant, faithful foundation. Since, through Christ, our joy is no longer rooted in the temporary things of this life–success, family, money, relationships, etc.–we can look to heaven with contentment and fearless hope for what’s to come. We’re free to be overwhelmed not by the crazy chaos of this life, but by the truly awesome God Who created us.

The promise isn’t that life on earth will be painless and easy and perfect; Christ tells us we’ll face hardship and persecution and heartbreak just as He did in His life. But there is an abounding promise throughout all of Scripture that God already holds victory over sin and death and all our enemies.

We’re fighting from victory, not for it.

So, yes, be reminded of your brokenness and sinfulness, of your endless failures and simple inability to produce anything truly good.

But don’t forget to surrender and allow your heart to stand in awe of the surpassing greatness of our Heavenly Father, our Holy Creator, our Life-giving Lord. Be overwhelmed by His mighty goodness and the grace He so freely pours out on all of us. Be changed from the inside out by the loving power of His Spirit. We are free from our lacking and made whole in Him that we may continue and endure to the finish with our sights set on the Perfecter of our faith.

A heart overwhelmed by God leads to a life that glorifies Him in all ways.

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