My guess is, you’re similar to me. You’ve grown up in a society that says “You can do anything you want to do. You can be anything you want to be,” only to come to the sad conclusion that you’ve spent much of your life on wasted efforts. At that point it becomes something else like, “all that matters is that you do your best.”
Have you ever gotten to the end of that road? That moment when you realized your best actually didn’t get you where you wanted to be? I know I have. I’ll never forget the moment a basketball coach told me I would never play in the NBA. It broke my heart, mainly because I knew it was the truth. Then there was the moment I failed my first driving test to get my license. Or the time after I graduated from college and realized I had no useful skills for the real world. The most disheartening was probably the way I felt the first time I made my wife cry as a newlywed. I worked so hard in each of these areas just to end up feeling like a failure in those small moments. It wasn’t that I hadn’t tried my best; I just fell short. These are my silly examples, and life is certainly bigger than a driver’s license, but it’s very hard to believe these moments can be good for a person.
While I’m very blessed and have wonderful friends, family and opportunities, my life has not turned out how I would have planned when I was a naive kid. It’s very disheartening when you realize that sometimes your best just doesn’t cut it. Your job probably has not brought the satisfaction you thought it would after putting up with years of crap for the promotion. The relationship you thought would be so promising and wonderful has left you desiring more. Your college degree, which cost you $80,000+ and more stress than you’re willing to think about, led you to working two part time jobs wondering when your hard work would ever pay off. The sport you put so much time, effort and hope into only led to a starting spot on the local city league intramural team.
Do you get what I’m saying? Your efforts, no matter how great, have failed you to some extent. Ironically, even people who come to this realization about life still seem to transpose it into the way they approach God. The majority of people I have spiritual conversations with say that they try their best to be good people and that God knows and understands their sincerity. We get caught up in this idea that our best is all God asks for because it’s all we’ve ever heard. But what will actually happen when you stand before God and say “I did my best!” If your best is not perfect obedience to God’s Law, then your best will only lead to what you deserve. And I promise you, it’s not Heaven.
There is, however, good news! God wouldn’t settle for your best. Instead, he gave us His. Literally. He gave his perfect Son as the substitute on whom he poured out his wrath on a Roman cross. We deserve death, and he gives us life. He sees us at our worst and offers us his best. We hand him rags and he gives us riches. That’s a love that could come from none other than Jesus Christ himself.
Yet we press on, harder and harder. Our best will do and we will prove it. We’ll show God that we deserve what He’s freely given us. We’ll show Him that we deserve His grace and we will certainly make up for where we’ve been lacking. All this just to find ourselves at the feet of the same God who picked us up once before and told us we were loved and accepted. The God who washes our feet with his grace while knowing we will return filthy once more.
We should rejoice when we come to the end of our rope. It means we can finally put our best on the shelf and accept this good news called the gospel. The news that trusting in Jesus Christ’s perfect life, death and resurrection and turning from our sin will lead us further than our own efforts could ever promise to take us. Let go of your pride. Admit that you don’t have it all together and that you never will. God will accept you on the basis of what Jesus has done for you, not the things you can do for yourself. He is able and willing to forgive your sins. It’s only when you let go of trying that you will truly begin living.
“He made him who knew no sin to become sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21