Falling into the well of self-condemnation. It is a moment when we reject grace and begin drowning in the depths of our own past mistakes. In this well, the darkness reminds us of the filth of our own failures while we struggle to keep our heads above the bottomless waters of our past sins. Through the darkness, speaks the voice of the Enemy to our hearts:
- Remember when you…
- Who would love someone who…
- Who could forgive someone who…
- God cannot use someone who…
The failure reel of our past mistakes, short-comings, and sins reminds us of the fact that we truly are bad. We are people who are messed up at our core. We are broken and our internal brokenness causes us to fracture the lives of those around us.
The voices from the darkness seek to name us and assign character descriptions to us out of our stories:
- Screw Up
- Beyond Grace
We buy into another lie of performance and self-salvation – a lie that says that our past mistakes label us as beyond the grace of Jesus so we have to fix ourselves to be worthy of His love. When we fall into this well, we miss the truth that Jesus is the Redeemer and Lover of our souls simply by His prodigal choice. We try to rewrite our own stories by seeking to right our wrongs and mend our mistakes. We try to perform not for others in the church but to become a better person in order to live a life worthy of grace.
We forget that all of our sins were future sins at the cross. Jesus died for all of the sins that we would commit in our entire lives. He knew the depth of our brokenness and failure and still chose to take it upon Himself at the cross. Jesus took our broken record, the condemnation, the shame, and the guilt and took it away at the cross.
When we find ourselves sinking deeper and deeper in the well of self-reflection and failure, we must remind ourselves of the gospel. Years ago, I heard John Piper responding to a question of what verse he turns to when he begins to fall into the well. Piper pointed his listeners to a verse that I had really never seen before. It reads:
“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him; until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out into the light; I shall look upon his vindication.” – Micah 7:8-9 ESV
Micah writes a verse for the well. It begins by calling out the enemy. The voices in our head are correct. We truly are bad and have done bad. There is no sugar-coating the hard truth that we need Jesus.
Yet we are met with grace. Though we may be down, Jesus will pick us up. Though we may be in the dark, the One who spoke light into existence will be our light. In our moments of failure and dwelling on our past failures, we must not forget the truth that Jesus does not leave us on the ground or struggling to swim in the dark. He meets us there and is the ever-present Rescuer.
Micah then leads us to acknowledge that our sin hurts others but is ultimately against God. He is the One we sinned against. He is the One who could define us as a failure. This moment of exposure makes us want to run into the woods and find some fig leaves like our first parents, yet Jesus looks at us through the eyes of grace as he looked at the adulterous woman and asks where those who would condemn have gone.
Though there may be consequences and fractured pieces from our brokenness, Jesus loves us in our brokenness and leads us out of that brokenness. Micah paints the image of the lawyer in the court room representing us before God and taking our judgment at the cross. Jesus does not try to minimize our sin; He takes all of the hell that our sin has caused and dies to take away its sting.
The passage ends with a welcoming of us back into the light. We have been invited to come back out into the world and look at the cross. The cross shows the greatness of our sin and the all sufficiency of our Jesus. It is in the gospel that we can walk in freedom from our past mistakes and with the grace to understand that our future mistakes will not define us either.
Though many would wonder if they are good or bad Christians, there is really no such thing. Jesus took our badness and brokenness upon Himself and frees us to walk with Him.
We are like toddlers learning to walk with Jesus. When we fall, Jesus doesn’t laugh at our failures. He is the tender Father picking us up and encouraging us to hold His hand as we take another step. We begin to walk in grace – remembering that Jesus is the perfect One. He is cheering us on and encouraging us to take another step.