We all want our lives to count for something.
The world tells us that our value is tied to our performance; that who we are is defined by what we do. So, to make our lives matter, we're told to work harder, do better and earn more of the approval of others.
And we're so desperate to make our lives count, to be approved, to matter to someone or something, that we listen.
We toil to attain this ever far-off and abstract sense of value under the unrelenting scrutiny of others’ expectations. Even if we come close to crossing this horizon of worth, once the initial buzz of our success has passed away and the compliments stop coming, we are left anxious and hungry for more as it all turns to ash in our mouths. The fleeting sense of euphoria can only be sustained by doing more and doing better. We wearily begin again the march to get the next thing, conquer the next goal, cross the next horizon.
But for every hill we climb there is another looming behind it.
There is always another rung on the ladder, another must-have possession, another life-changing experience. We can always be a better friend, a better employee, a better student, a better lover, a better person.
Our successes are like sandcastles on the shores of eternity, destined to be swept away by the tide of time. The praise and approval we receive from admirers of our city of sand meets the same fate, leaving us empty and longing for something more.
Our diaries are full, but our hearts are empty. Our constant doing and incessant striving to make ourselves in the image of another’s expectations is a burden too great for us to bear. We are left exhausted with that same old question ringing through our hearts - what is it all for?
Our problem is not that we have aimed too high, but too low.
We are attempting to fulfil an eternal longing with temporary satisfaction. We are seeking something in the praise and status awarded by others that can only be fulfilled by someone who loves us and accepts us with an eternal, unchanging love.
That someone is God.
But God is a perfectly just God. He can’t overlook our wrongdoing and imperfection. Rebellion against an infinitely just God incurs an infinite debt - a debt none of us could pay. We have failed to reach the only standard that counts for anything in the scope of eternity: God’s.
It is a standard none of us could ever live up to, for God is utterly perfect. We have all missed the mark.
We have all fallen short.
This is our greatest predicament. We are barely able to meet unattainable human standards, never mind the perfect standard of God, who sees not only what we have done, but who we really are: broken, lost, and empty.
But God is love.
He longs for us. He created us for communion with Himself. He is not a vindictive, cruel, detached law enforcer. He is a perfect Father, and He longs to see His children come home. He isn’t characterised by vengeance, cruelty or indifference, but restoration, redemption and reconciliation.
He has made a way for us to know Him.
He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross to take the unbearable weight of our wrongdoing, our brokenness, our imperfection. On the cross, heaven’s perfect justice met heaven’s perfect love.
Only a totally perfect being could stand before a perfect God. That person is Jesus. He lived the life we could not live and paid the debt we could not pay so that, through His perfect sacrifice, we might be called children of God. That He might bring us before His Father. That we might be brought home.
In the economy of God’s love, we are told that we matter not because of what we do, but because of who we are. In other words, what we have done does not define us - the One who made us defines us. And He defines us as beloved children.
He wants us.
He longs for us – not because we have done anything to earn His favour or His love, but simply because He made us and cherishes us as His own. He throws wide the doors of heaven to the broken, the lonely and the lost. He welcomes into His house the saint and the sinner, the wretch and the king. When we are worthy of no more than the crumbs under His table, He offers us a seat at the feast, as His children.
He says you matter.
His verdict is not based on our performance, but on His love for us. That love cost Him the life of His son. His judgement is not like the judgement of humans. He looks not upon our works or successes, not upon the crumbling facade of our righteousness or the good deeds we have or haven't done. He looks into the depths of our hearts, He sees our true state. Our broken humanity. Our hidden wrongdoings. Our secret ambitions. Our hurt, our rejection, our insecurities. He sees what no human can see, nor would ever want to see.
And still He loves us.
We need to wake up to His love. We need to cry out to Him and say sorry for our life-long rebellion against Him. To acknowledge that Jesus paid the consequences of it with His life by hanging in our place, and that when we do, the righteousness we then posses is His, freely given to us. It is the only thing that makes us acceptable to God.
His gift of love is the only love that gives us true life. Eternal life. Not the counterfeit life experienced between heights of fleeting successes and transitory pleasures. Life that lasts. Life offered freely, without any catches.
He wants us to come home.
The way there is through a relationship with Jesus, by believing in Him and what He has done for us, by accepting our wrongdoing before God, and receiving His love and forgiveness.