Originally published September 10, 2008.
I know you have been going through some rough times lately. Perhaps you have recently lost a loved one. Maybe you’re ill with a serious disease. You might struggle with depression. You could be watching a loved one battle cancer or another terminal condition. Your marriage may be close to breaking up. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re simply sick and tired of the way your everyday life is going. That the world is going to hell in a hand basket and you’re getting sucked right down with it.
I’ve listened as you’ve poured out your heart. I’ve walked with you as you’ve struggled. I’ve held your hand and prayed with you. And while my heart breaks for you because of the circumstances you’re going through, what crushes me even more is the despair, the hopelessness I hear in your voice. That there’s no way out. That it’s impossible to deal with the pain. That there’s no one who can really help you.
But there is. And that’s what I desperately need to tell you.
I haven’t told you before, because when everything was going fine for you, you didn’t want to hear it. But sometimes people just get to a point in their lives where things are so bad they’re willing to try anything.
And so, I’m asking you to try, just try, one more thing. If you’ve already tried everything else, and nothing’s working, what do you have to lose?
Please try Jesus.
Jesus loves you. He cares about your pain and your struggle. And He’s the only One powerful enough to actually do anything about it.
I’m not talking about simply bowing your head and asking Him to get you out of the horrible situation you’re in. I’m talking about bowing your life to Him. Giving up. Surrendering. Letting this King you’ve been doing battle with all your life conquer you for your own good, sit on the throne that rightfully belongs to Him, and set up His rulership over your life.
This King doesn’t desire to reign over you so that He can tyrannize you. He’s a freedom fighter. He has already made the ultimate sacrifice to set you free from the oppressive regime under which you’ve been living: you. All you have to do is renounce your throne and become one of His subjects.
What does this mean in practical terms? You set aside a little uninterrupted time to talk it out with God. You recognize that He is God and you are not. You admit to Him, and to yourself, that you have sinned.
“Sin” means to break God’s laws. You know the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), right? At least some of them? Have you ever lied, stolen something (even something small), dishonored your parents? Then you have sinned. And by the way, your opinion on whether or not something should be a sin doesn’t make a hill of beans of difference. When you can create the universe, heal the sick, walk on water, and rise from the dead, maybe you’ll get to make the rules. Until then: God’s turf, God’s rules. And you’ve broken them. All of us have.
What happens when you break a local, state, or federal law? Well, if you get caught, there’s supposed to be some kind of punishment. If you speed, you have to pay a fine. If you steal, you go to jail. If you murder somebody, depending on where you live and whether or not you can get the verdict overturned on a technicality, you get the death penalty.
There’s punishment for breaking God’s laws too. James 2:10 tells us:
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
In other words, if you’ve broken one of God’s laws, you’ve broken them all. So, since we’ve all committed the same crime against God– breaking all of His laws –we’re all destined for the same punishment. Hell.
Yes, there is a hell just as surely as there is a heaven. Once again, your opinion on whether or not hell does exist or should exist matters about as much as your opinion on whether or not the sky is blue or whether or not it should be a different color. Your opinion does not change the facts.
The good news is that God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, has already taken the punishment for the crime that we committed. Have you ever heard of a completely innocent victim of a crime volunteering to take the death penalty for the perpetrator for no other reason than that he loves him? Me neither. But that’s exactly what Jesus did for you and for me. And believe me, it was cruel and unusual punishment.
But Jesus didn’t just die in our place. He did away with the eternal death of hell by coming back to life after three days in the grave. And He’s willing to share that victory over hell with anybody who wants it badly enough. It’ll only cost you your life. Not your physical life, of course, but your spiritual life.
After admitting to God that you’re a sinner, the next step is to believe with your whole heart that Jesus died and rose again to take the punishment for your sin (Romans 10:9-10). You gratefully tell God that you accept that Jesus did this for you. You ask Him to forgive you, and make a commitment to Him and to yourself that with His help you’re going to turn away from a life of sin and serving yourself and turn to a life of serving and obeying Him. (This turning away is called “repenting”.)
Finally, you put your money where your mouth is and act on what you’ve just committed to. You spend time reading your Bible and praying in order to get to know God better. When opportunities to sin arise, you turn away from them. As you grow in your relationship with God, you discover what He wants you to do with your life, and you follow that path.
This last step is a very important one that, all too frequently, gets left out. Simply mouthing a prayer and then going back to business as usual ain’t gonna cut it. In fact, if you are able to go back to living the way you always have, with no discernable change of heart or behavior, at least a gradual one, you probably aren’t a Christian. If you’ve truly given your life to Christ, you’re going to be a different person. You’re going to have an aversion to sin, and a love for God. Your attitudes towards others will change. Your priorities will change. Your beliefs about right and wrong will change.
Simply SAYING you’re a Christian doesn’t make you one. I could sit here all day long and tell you I’m a doctor. Sure, I’ve taken some biology classes, and I do have some medical knowledge, but I didn’t go through medical school, I’m not licensed, and I don’t treat patients. If I wanted to become a doctor, I’d have to submit myself to the things that are necessary for becoming a doctor. It’s the same way with Christianity. We have to submit ourselves to what God says is necessary for becoming a Christian: true repentance, and trust in Christ.
If you’ve stuck with me this far through this seemingly interminable article, you’re probably thinking back to my very first paragraph and saying to yourself, “This ‘giving your life to Jesus’ stuff is all well and good, but my husband is dying/I can’t find a job and my house is about to be foreclosed/my mother just died/I’m on the brink of divorce/etc. That’s all I care about, all I can think about right now.”
That’s precisely why I told you about Jesus. When (and ONLY when) you give your life to Him, He helps you through your problems. You want peace when you’re struggling with a rebellious child? Comfort after the death of a loved one? Strength when your body is in pain? Joy instead of sadness? These things, and many others, are just some of the “fringe benefits” you get from being a Christian. But you only get them as a result of giving your life to Christ. There is no other way.
Thanks for allowing me to get this off my chest, Friend. I just couldn’t go one more day telling you that I’m praying for you to have peace or strength or healing without telling you how to get those things. And so I’ll urge you just once more: try Jesus. Or as the Bible puts it (Psalm 34:8):
O taste and see that the LORD is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!