This painting was created for the Christians….the children of God. At first glance, one might be confused when they look at this painting. These words are not pretty, comforting, or good. However, if you look close enough, I can almost guarantee that you have struggled with or are battling one or more of these things in your life. Yes, a lot of these words are sins and some, such as cancer, disease, and loss, are not sins, but the results of living in a sinful world. My goal in this painting is not to make light of sin nor is it to judge you on your struggles. It is, instead, to encourage you not to let the battle you are facing drive you further away from Christ.
Sin is meant to separate us from God and the joy we have in Him. Unfortunately, even if you are a Christian, you are still trapped in a sinful world and body. Often I and others who love God let these sins drive us further away from our relationship with Christ because we are like, “I’m supposed to be a joyful Christian….why am I depressed? Why am I anxious? Why do I struggle with an eating disorder, pornography, hatred, lust…etc. Why do I have cancer?”
Sadly, I often find myself and others letting the shame or anger over these things delay us from coming to God in prayer. Even though we know better we think, ”how can I talk to God when I am struggling with this…or maybe your attitude is….”I’m too angry to talk to God because I am struggling with this. Why are you letting me struggle with this and why won’t you take it away when I clearly don’t want it?” Both of these views are traps. What we are actually saying is, “I have to get myself cleaned up before I can approach God,” even though we already know that he is the only one who can save us and make us righteous. We make the mistake of thinking God is going to reprimand us when we come to him.
However, in my experience, a reflection of God’s attitude can be found in Luke 15:20-24 in the parable of The Prodigal Son. I know this is often used in reference to unbelievers who have come to know Christ. However, I feel like it is relevant to those in the faith who wander but then humbly return. Maybe it is just me, but for some reason, I always think that when I am struggling, God is deeply disappointed in me and is waiting to smack me over the head with a shoe or something. And although I am not saying he does not discipline his children with great love and mercy like any good Father, I have found his response more like this, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” God is 100% truth but he is also 100% mercy. He knows how broken we are. He is very aware of our pain because he experienced it in the flesh as Christ! It does not please God when we sin but it does fill him with great joy when we turn to Him in all things because he takes care of us! He is mighty enough to care for our burdens and welcomes you with great joy and unconditional love when you approach him. It is truly astounding!
Now for the tough news. You might struggle with this sin, disease, or disorder for a month, a year, or off and on for the rest of your life. I don’t know. My own struggles haunt me like ghosts. They come back unpredictably and randomly. Please do not wait until you hit rock bottom to truly rely on Christ’s power and strength. He knows that even as a Christian you are still going to sin. You cannot expect to do a tough workout regimen for one week and then be fit for the rest of your life. In the same way, do not make the mistake that after coming to God in repentance and prayer and deep study once, twice, or years will automatically fix your problems. It is a daily and moment-to-moment reliance on God’s grace and power that wins the war. He is constantly refining you and drawing you near even in the midst of your pain. Therefore, each time it comes back, do not wait until you’ve tried everything else before turning to him. You will fail each time. Indeed, I don’t care how many times you have to rage war against it. Know that glory can be produced through your suffering and “that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
Therefore, remind yourself of your need for God’s grace daily! Also, remind yourself that the enemy will attack you the rest of your life at your weakest points and in your weakest moments. You will be in a battle for the rest of your life. And you know what, it’s ok because God is well aware of your flesh and he still loves you, he will still teach you, and he will never forsake you! He is always with you whether you choose to come to him immediately (or if your dumb like me and try to solve your own problems)! This does not give you an excuse to treat these battles flippantly. Remember that this is a war. War is ugly. It’s not fair or polite. However, we know that “The War” has been decided by Christ’s victory over the grave. Despite this, the enemy will never let you be comfortable and he will constantly be trying to separate you through tactics such as shame and guilt which you have been freed from.
Therefore, accept the fact that you will struggle but rejoice in knowing that God can turn this into good! This is a war…prepare yourself to battle every day but know that our God is mighty and the more you depend on Him the stronger you will become. Do not let shame separate you, my brothers and sister. God’s love is not based on conditions. Run to Him with love, prayer, and obedience and prepare yourself for the struggle.
P.S. I am not saying that sin is ok. It’s a dragon that should be killed ruthlessly. However, recognize that you will have to fight it daily and do so knowing that God’s love for you is truly unconditional and that turning to Him in prayer, faith, and obedience is your absolute only chance at victory. Hope you have found encouragement through this and please feel free to reach out over Instagram (adaniell97) or Facebook with any questions.