Failure, Kids, and Christ’s Sufficiency

Dear Reader,

I am trying in my head (and in my e-mail) to compose a letter to a friend who is going through a rough time.  I want to say something about Christ’s sufficiency and how we can’t have the “Christ ands.”

I think on some level we all build our identity on things other than Christ. We go to a party or chat after church with someone new and what do we say about ourselves? How do we introduce ourselves? We say “I am a homeschooler” or “I have so-and-so many kids” or “I do this or that kind of work.” “I live here.” “I am from there.” All these things that are about what we do and who we are related to, but none of them get at who we really are. And what happens when who you are falls apart? What if you lose your job? Your spouse? Your kids? Of course we should mourn these losses but will you completely fall apart? Will you lose your sense of identity with whatever else it is you have lost? What if you lost this thing through your own fault? What if you failed? What if you sinned (a really big sin I mean)? What if everybody  at church or work or wherever knows that it was your fault? Will you have any way to go on or will you completely collapse in some way? I think the sufficiency of Christ means that we need to say that at the bottom, in the end we can survive those losses. They may change us, but they don’t change who we are. Another way to say it is that we can’t have the “Christ and”s. Of course, nobody really says this, but often we live our lives as if something else is just as important as Christ. “I can survive anything as long as I have my family” or my job or my health. Very few people really lose everything–family and home and even the fellowship of other Christians. But what if you did, would you still have faith? Would you curse God as Job’s friends advised him to do?

And what if all we ever have is success? What if we always get the things we want? Will we ever know if we are really relying on Christ alone? As I write this, I am reminded of all those popular parenting magazines with tips on how to build your child’s self-esteem. Do we really need to make our kids feel good about themelves? Should this be our goal? Pride is too easy to come by. Maybe instead we should be teaching them how to fail without despairing.  In the end, the only thing that we can’t lose (if we once have it) is the love of God. Though our friends and colleagues and even brothers and sisters in Christ and our own minds may judge us for our losses and shortcomings, “there is now no condemation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). And the one thing we can’t lose is the love of God–

“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:33-35, 38-39)

Okay, I am not sure I have any better sense of what to write to my friend. I am tempted to just send her a copy of Romans 8. If you have any better words (than mine, not Paul’s) to express what I am trying to get at, please share them.



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