Remember, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, although that is the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, don’t be fixing your eyes so much on your hand with which you are grasping Christ, as on Christ; don’t be looking at your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; don’t be looking to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.
- Charles Spurgeon, Morning & Evening
I wonder if you share my experience. When things are going well, I find security and comfort in my joy, reassured that I’m where I should be, I’m doing what I should be. I take my good feelings and turn them into a spiritual pat on the back. When things are difficult, or I doubt, or I suffer, I find security in holding onto Christ as tightly as I can—the white-knuckled death-grip sort of grasp. If I can just hold on firmly enough, then I won’t get lost, things will get better, and I’ll make it through. Do you see this in yourself as well?
I think Spurgeon speaks so powerfully because what He describes is such a universal experience. We like to have something that we’re doing, or we’re experiencing, to focus our eyes on. Perhaps it’s out of a need for a sense of power or control. Perhaps it’s because not doing so is a greater stretch of faith.
I’ve felt the effects of this most profoundly in times of struggle, when trying to hold on becomes exhausting. It’s as if we feel we must work ourselves up to joy, to hope, to faith, to conjure them up within ourselves. We feel weak, and in our faulty understanding that we must do the holding on, we wonder what will happen if our muscles finally reach their breaking point and can’t keep their grip any longer. And we’re afraid.
I remember reaching this point. I remember in my exhaustion the feeling of letting go. I remember realizing I didn’t fall, realizing the Hands upholding me were strong enough to carry me on their own. And that’s when I saw how desperately beautiful the Gospel is. Only when I relaxed the grip on my life, my faith, and even my emotions I thought I had to maintain, when I let go of myself and fully rested back into Him - it was only then I finally found how sufficient He is, how present He is, how strong He is to carry me. I found the whole point of the Gospel we preach is that we’re too weak to hold on and keep ourselves going—and that’s why Jesus came. In that place of rest, of not striving, of radical, unfathomable grace, my faith became stronger, my joy, deeper, and my hope more sure.
This is what happens when we can take our eyes off ourselves, what we bring to the table, how good we can be, how much of the show of proper behavior we can put on—and we turn our eyes to Jesus. Just Jesus. He is all we have going for us. And in Him we find rest for our souls.