Friday, March 8, 2013

Trading Frantic For Free

Your life might not be as out of control as Harrison Ford's life was in the movie Frantic. He is in serious freak out mode when he realizes his wife has disappeared from their hotel room while on a trip together in Paris.

However, you can probably relate to the idea of feeling frantic. Your to do list is unmanageable and your schedule is jam packed. All the moving pieces of your life are spinning out of control and you're not quite sure how to gain a foothold.

Or, you may be reading this thinking this doesn't apply to you. While your life may not be perfect, things seem to be running smoothly. The kids are doing well, you have food in the pantry and the bills are getting paid. The chaos seems to be at your neighbors' house not yours.

The truth is that whether you feel like it or not, life is a mess. On some level you would have to agree that this world is out of order. If we are honest we would say that things are not the way they're supposed to be. Even if all the moving parts appear to be running smoothly on the outside, there is a constant underlying sense that life is hard. Our struggles are many and no one seems to have the answers for the difficulties we encounter on a daily basis. If you have any doubt just browse the self-help section of your local book store. 
Are you able to pay the bills but deep down anxious about retirement? Are you struggling to meet mounting demands of college educations or medical care for aging parents? Did you marry your childhood sweetheart but realize now that underneath the twenty year anniversary you have an overwhelming sense of loneliness? How about the universal feelings of inadequacy? Every single one of us at one time or another has struggled with feelings of failure. We never measure up, we're always on the outside looking in, we're never part of the click and always left standing on the periphery. Those feelings alone create stress, anxiety and sadness contributing to the chaotic unsettled feeling we have when we put our head on the pillow at night.
As if that's not enough, let me add a whole other level of frantic. If you are a Christian , you are not somehow transported out of this mess. In fact, for many believers their faith is seriously confronted with the difficulties of life and they are left with despair and doubt. Despair because the Christian life is not what they thought or hoped it would be. Doubt because they are wondering if they really know God at all because life is still so hard.

For all of our frantic paces and failing faith there is Hope. Only when we get a glimpse of Christ and the life he lived for us can we be set free from the madness. You may be thinking "How exactly is that possible?" If we were sitting face to face, here is what I would say. But first, here is what I would not say:

I would not tell you to buy a new planner to help organize your to do lists, appointments and coupons. I would not insist that you prioritize your list and eliminate the bottom three items. I would not tell you to budget your time like you budget your money. I would not say you need to get your priorities back in line ie.: God, spouse, children, etc. I would not say you need to get up earlier and pray about all the ways you are running frantic.

While all these strategics might be helpful, not one of them offers relief for your anxiety because not one of these addresses the real problem. In fact, while they seem to make sense, what they will most likely do is remind you of how much you are failing and how guilty you feel. We have all set out to tackle our out of control lives only to realize that despite our best efforts and well meaning intentions, nothing changes.

Have you ever heard this? Jesus lived the life that you couldn't live and died the death that you should have died. That means for all of your inadequate and meager attempts to save yourself, you fell short. You missed the mark of perfection and the righteous requirements of the law. You broke God's holy law and stand condemned. But God, in Christ came into your mess, died for you and saved you to Himself. That is what Luther referred to as the "glorious exchange," in which Christ takes our sin and gives us his righteousness. 

But it gets better! 

Jesus died the death you deserve, but he also lived the life you couldn't live. Jesus walked this earth being made in human form. He took on flesh when he condescended to this world. He, being God came to live our life, only perfectly. Let that sink in. Why did God need to come to earth? Couldn't he have done this whole thing another way? Yet, Jesus took on bodily flesh and bones to live perfectly on our behalf. You know those times when you are tempted to lash out in anger at the one you love the most? Jesus was tempted in the same way. However, for all the ways we have given in to sin, Jesus did not. 

He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.1 Peter 2:22 

His perfection in life frees our imperfections here. We can rest in his perfect life lived on behalf of sinners like us. This amazing good news frees us in ways we have only dreamed of. We can now live and love freely not frantically. We can stop wringing our hands and start resting in Christ's perfect life lived and finished work on the cross.

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