Lindsey Carlson lives in Houston with her worship-pastor husband and their four active kids (all under age 10). Her home is filled with the sounds of childhood (galloping horses, swashbuckling heroes, and the occasional sibling brawl), the near-constant presence of music in some form, and volumes of great literature, old and new. You can catch her regular reflections on faith and worship at Worship Rejoices.
“If you could have one wish, what would you wish for?” someone recently asked one of my sons. Thinking long and hard, he didn’t wish for a puppy, for superpowers, or to go to the moon. Out of all of the things he could have asked for, he wished a specific struggle in his life would disappear. Essentially, he wanted a ticket out of pain and discomfort.
When he answered this way, a little piece of my heart broke. As his mom, I would love to snap my fingers and make that one wish come true, but I can’t. I am only his mother and not the granter of wishes.
If someone offered me one wish, I’d wish myself out of pain too. The pain I’d happily poof away from my life is pain caused by my own sin. That One Sin. That one, soul-crushing, besetting sin, whose weight has burdened my shoulders for the better half of two decades. Closing my eyes each night before drifting off, the familiar plea repeats itself from the depths within:
“Lord, if you could, would you please just make this one naggingly painful sin not a struggle anymore? If I could just be done with the fight…”
The Gospel + That One Sin
I ask the Lord for this, my one wish: to conquer That One Sin.
The thing about a besetting sin is it magnifies itself over God’s power, telling me I can’t overcome it and God can’t really either. That One Sin traps me in hopelessness, turning me away from the Savior and leaves me scrounging in desperation through the world’s scraps for answers and comfort. That One Sin, the one that jabs and pulls from every angle, convinces me the gospel isn’t reallyenough.
In effect, my inward confession basically becomes, “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus – and my final victory and perfect mastery over That One Sin.”
It sounds ridiculous, but it’s what I live daily. “If only God would free me from this indwelling and overshadowing sin-struggle, then, then I would live joyously in the mighty power of the gospel. Then I would feel God’s transforming grace!”
If I would stop toiling in my own strength and depending on my own merits, I would hear the Holy Spirit gently whisper, “Have you believed the lie, my child? Do you believe you must have both Christ’s righteousness and your own victory over flesh here and now?”
A Greater Reality
My own victory over sin is not what grants me God’s mercy or Christ’s righteousness. My reality is much greater. Christ did what I could never do: He lived a perfect sinless life, died a substitutionary death on my behalf, and now he pleads before the Father on my behalf.
When I am tired of my own sin, weary of the battle – I needn’t wish longingly for alternate escape routes. I need to look to the good news of the Gospel, Jesus who made a way for me while I was yet a sinner. He came for people like me: the sin-sick, weary, and broken. Even my ongoing struggles on this earth can’t keep me from Christ’s imputed righteousness for eternity.
The power of the Gospel is enough to transform even my greatest sin struggles. But if freedom hasn’t happened yet, or my sanctification seems to be slower than I hope, I need not doubt the goodness of the Lord and His abundant and forgiving mercy.
The Lord is not a powerless parent who hears my cry and stands helplessly by. He knows my struggle and has already come to my aid. He holds out his loving kindness and mercy, now. I couldn’t have wished for a greater response to That One Sin, than The One; for He saves once and for all.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”Hebrews 12:1-2