I’m going to say something that may sound weird to you, so get ready. I think the beginning to a freedom-filled pursuit of Jesus start’s with two words: I can’t.
Okay. Bear with me for a minute. In my fourth and final year at OSU, I’ve begun to see something that absolutely plagues college students and their relationships with Jesus. It’s this idea that we have to perform for Him and be good enough for Him. I don’t know where or when this idea sprang up, but I think it’s pretty destructive. These subversive messages creep into our friendships, our sermons, our prayers: be this way so that Christ will love you; behave like this so that the church will accept you; avoid failure so you can be a worthy Christian. About a month ago, I realized I had been desperately trying to live up to those expectations, which resulted in a lot of pain and hopelessness in my own life. I couldn’t do it.
Here’s what happens when we think we have to perform a certain way for Jesus. We become responsible for the relationship. We become responsible for salvation. We become responsible for provoking His love.
Wow. That sounds like too heavy a burden for us. In fact, it is. There’s no life there, just back-breaking expectations, inevitable guilt, and fear of punishment. Jesus never intended for us to live that way. He never intended for us to be responsible for our relationship with Him. Did you hear that? The burden of your relationship with Jesus doesn’t rest on your shoulders, it rests on Jesus. And, in case you ever forget, He established your relationship once and for all between two pieces of wood. You’re sealed in Him.
Jesus never had any illusions about you. He knows the sin you are capable of. He knew about it all before He chose you. He is not surprised, therefore He is not disappointed. He knows where you will fall short. He knows your quirks, your darkness, your shame, your secrets. And He has never been, nor will He ever be, intimidated by any of it.
Jesus never asked us to perform for Him. He certainly knows we can’t be good enough for Him on our own. Alone, we will fail every single time. With Him, we’ll win every single time.
That’s why I think I can’t is such an important statement in this pursuit of Jesus. It liberates us from the illusion that we can do a single thing to provoke God’s love and favor. It liberates us from the foolish idea that we can ever get righteous on our own. We can’t. My righteousness is actually Christ’s responsibility. How cool is that? I can’t do it on my own. I get to do it with Jesus. And, if I invite Jesus into it, I’m destined to win.
Today, try admitting the truth. On your own, you can’t. But that’s just the way Jesus intends it to be. He wants to do life with you. He wants to grow with you. He loves watching how Grace transforms you. He is patient, committed, and in love with you.
I can’t. But He can.
Written by Nina Kazarian