Stories surround us. The more books, television shows, or movies we consume, the more often we can predict the ending. We know the story builds until the ultimate conflict, which offers a turning point. Scrooge sees his tight-fisted “bah humbugs” for what they are; Mr. Darcy is rejected and forced to look on his pride; the Beast realizes the girl might actually be capable of loving him. The characters see their faults, change ensues, and the credits roll.
Unfortunately, because we are so familiar with this narrative, we often find ourselves waiting in anticipation for its appearance in our own lives.
Whether it’s our own sinful struggles or for people around us, we can get caught up searching for that one magic moment where the tide will turn.
Perhaps this book will finally remove my desire for approval.
This is the blog post that will make my spouse enjoy his job now.
Surely this conversation will be the game-changer in her struggle.
We often cling to a false hope in these turning points and experience disappointment when they don’t deliver the complete reversal we anticipated.
Redemption Not Instruction
While we can turn from some sinful struggles quickly, the grip of other sins may linger through repeated failures. When we struggle to understand why our moments of victory don’t seem to come, it’s crucial to remember that we don’t sit alone. We sit with a woman named Leah, who spent years fighting for her husband’s approval and affection, and finally proclaimed with her third child, “This time I will praise the Lord.” She rejoiced in God’s kindness, and realized his gaze alone matters, yet quickly reverted back into a jealous feud with her sister (Genesis 39).
We also sit alongside the prophet Jonah, who was humbled in the belly of a fish, repented of his arrogance, yet once again became angry at the Lord’s mercy towards the Ninevites (Jonah 4). And we sit with the entire nation of Israel, taken over by kingdom after kingdom, and repeatedly delivered by the judges sent from God, only to plummet back into idol worship.
We are not alone because the answer to our sin has never been instruction or a change in circumstances but redemption. We do not simply need to hear the right words one more time; we need a death of the very things that hold their grip on our heart and refuse to let go (Romans 6:23, Romans 8:13). God knows this, and it’s why he brought his people out of Egypt before he gave them the commands to obey (Exodus 12). It’s also why before Adam and Eve could speak a word of repentance for their sin, God foretold the promise of the coming Redeemer (Genesis 3:15). Redemption happened while we were still sinners before we had anything but rebellion to offer (Romans 5:8). Even as children of God, we cannot forget this order in any battle our hearts wage. Any cause for change is rooted in what Christ has already done, and any growth is rooted first in the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts (Galatians 2:20). Blog posts, books, and godly counsel give us wisdom, but these sources of information do not have the power to change us on their own. The Holy Spirit may use these in our lives, but we must remember it is the Spirit’s work through finished and sufficient work of Christ and the conviction of the Holy Spirit that the Christian experiences any growth and progress in the grace of God.
The Plans of God
While we have been made a new creation and given a new heart and new passions because of Christ, we know we will still battle the stain of our sinful nature. But just as God has justified, we can be confident he will grow us in grace and bring to completion His work of grace (Philippians 1:6, Romans 8:30). To that end, the sanctifying work of transforming and preserving grace, will always carry out his plans, not our own.
We crave instruction, quick answers, and tidiness. Our sinful hearts will always fight for this independence- for the quickest path that will get us on our way again. It fits the storylines we’ve been taught throughout our lives, and our selfish desire to be our own god. But the true God has a different goal. He aims not to increase our autonomy, but to make us increasingly dependent on the Savior we’ve needed from our first breath. We see this steadfast and patient love for his children throughout the pages of the Bible. Through years of slavery in Egypt, a lifetime of barrenness waiting on a promise, or centuries of silence before the Redeemer arrived. Our sovereign God’s patience is not random, but purposeful. He wants us to live each day dependent upon the Savior we need, seeing his faithfulness and knowing his sufficiency. And in doing so, he gives to us the greatest joy we could ever know.
Maybe we won’t have victory over our struggle with control in one single book, but through the repeated words of truth from the body of Christ that slowly chip away at our self-sufficiency. Perhaps what God has for our spouse is not a moment of epiphany, but a slow, steady growth in grace clinging to the Savior who makes any of it possible.
Maybe like me, you’ve found yourself battling sins like anger or approval-seeking that rise up repeatedly, leaving you worn out and discouraged. I’ve longed and prayed for turning points in my own life and even in relationships, but God has shown me while I wait that seeking him is his real goal. I’ve seen how each confession draws me back to the glory of the cross, how each prayer for help humbles me with his power, and each day I wait reminds me of his sovereign hand that will, in his time, make all things right.
When we whisper the same pained confessions year after year, or circle back to the same conversations with loved ones who struggle, we are trudging by faith through the Lord’s sanctifying work in our lives.
Here we can’t check boxes of what we’ve mastered, but instead, we are left to behold our Savior each day of the struggle. In reality, our ultimate turning point has already happened, and it has not come by book, blog post, or our own bad day. It has come by a blood-stained cross and the God who hung there for our sins and was raised to life three days later.
In our moments of slow growth and struggle, this is the redemption we speak to our hearts. And while we walk forward each day in faith, we can behold our God in a new way. We can use these struggles as opportunities to gaze on the mercy and long-suffering of our Father, to take a moment not to look at our failures, but to look back and rejoice on the steady workings of his Spirit throughout the years. A life of trials may show us sin’s strength, but they also show us even more clearly the power of the God who broke these chains. He will one day release sin’s grip that still holds our hearts, and we can glory and hope in this. Our stories may not always run like a Hollywood storyboard, but they reflect something even better. The author of our story may not give us an easy turning point, but he gives us himself each day- he gives us redemption each day. And this is better than any movie we will ever see.