This is the cry of my heart tonight, reader. I’ve got nothing else to offer, nothing else to bring. No words of wisdom. No lesson or learning.
No, tonight what I have is a broken and contrite spirit. A faint heart, an emotionally exhausted mind, and a discouraged soul.
And beneath it all, the smallest flicker of hope.
The last few days, God’s convicted me big time of some sin I didn’t want to acknowledge. And I don’t know if this is how it works for you, but when God convicts me of sin, he doesn’t seem to hold back much. It seems like he brings out the big guns. (Even as I write this, I can almost hear God chuckle to himself, as if to say, “Oh Megan, you think those are my big guns? You’ve got no idea.”)
And I know God’s character is gentle. I know he can be delicate and soft in his handling of his children.
But sometimes, he is the thunder and the roaring lion and always he is a jealous God and a loving Father, and so when God sees us wrapped up in a sin, especially one we are either oblivious to or in denial of, he sends in the big dogs.
Or at least, that’s what it feels like on the receiving end.
And hear me, I’m not saying God isn’t kind in his conviction. I’m not saying his discipline isn’t rooted in love. I’m not saying he inflicts pain, pours out his wrath, or sends us into a place of shame and condemnation.
But I think what he does do, is come into our lives with all of his power and authority, and he hits hard on the hardest parts of our hearts.
And when he does, I always react the same way: first, I cry. Second, I question.
God, why do you have to hit so hard? Why is your approach so intense?
And sometimes, I think the answer is simply because our hearts are so hardened or blind to a specific sin that the gentle approach doesn’t work. In those instances, he has to come in and convict us, not because he hates us, but because he loves us – so much so, that he can’t leave us living in our sin. That was the whole point of the cross, right? God’s love for us sent his own Son to the grave to rescue us from our state of death (John 3:16, paraphrase.) So, if we’ve made the choice to trust in Jesus, then we’ve also made the decision to entrust our battle against sin to him. And when we as his children actively live in sin without any conviction or awareness, then we live like we’re losing the battle.
And our victorious God will not stand for his children living like they’re losing to sin when he died to secure our victory over it.
So, I think sometimes God hits hard when he convicts because he loves us too much to see us blindly or adamantly living in the chains of sin. Sometimes he knows the only way to lead us back to the path of life is to knock us hard off the path of sin. And if we’re walking down that path blindfolded, unaware of our sin, then getting hit by linebacker Jesus is of course going to hurt a little more.
The thing about God though, is his conviction is also one of the sweetest gifts he offers. How sweet it is to be loved by a Father who not only bore the punishment for our sins and our shortcomings, but who also loves us too much to leave us in our sin. How sweet it is that he is always a Father who cares about our righteousness more than our comfort – not because he doesn’t care for our comfort, but because he knows the most comfortable lives we can live are ones free from the grips of sin.
So, I think God hits hard with his conviction because sometimes, we need him to. And because sometimes, there is no alternative route to our hearts, there is no gentler way to bring us to repentance. But he is always gentle, and always merciful, and always gracious – even in the moments when his conviction hits hard. He may be the one who knocks us off the path of sin, but he’s also the one who catches us as we fall. He may be the one who breaks our heart for what breaks his, but he’s also the one who turns our heart of stone to a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26, paraphrase.) He may be the one who convicts us of the sin we’re living in, but he’s also the one who lived the life we never could and died the death we deserved to make a way out when we’re tempted to give in.
God convicts us hard because he loves us hard.
But I think there’s another reason God hits as hard as he does. I think it’s because he knows our enemy is hitting hard, too. He knows the enemy is not gently beckoning us into sin. He’s not easing us into it. He’s not soft in his approach. He’s not halfheartedly trying to steer us away from God.
No. The enemy is actively pursuing us with everything he’s got every moment of the day and every second of the night. He’s strategically setting traps, dangling temptations, and enticing us to step out of the light and into the darkness. He “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 3:8, ESV.)
The enemy knows when to strike, where to strike, and how to strike. He’s aiming to bring children of righteousness down. He’s aiming to strip us of our dignity, our freedom, and our intimacy with God.
And though the war is over, the battle is not. Though God declared victory through the resurrection of Jesus, the enemy’s final defeat is still to come.
And our enemy knows he’s on limited time. His days are numbered.
But oh, with those numbered days, he will do all he can to strangle the children of God with the sins that so easily entangle.
The enemy is limited. But he’s not done. He’s not done wreaking havoc on our lives. He’s not done shooting strategic arrows at our weakest spots. He’s not done accusing, shaming, condemning, and tempting.
So, God knocks hard on the hardest parts of our hearts because he isn’t just there to knock us off the path of sin, he’s there to knock the enemy’s strongholds down.
When God confronts us about our sin, he’s also confronting the enemy’s presence in our lives. When he comes to rage war against the sin we won’t let go of, he’s also raging war against the enemy’s hold on that area of our lives.
Don’t think I’m here to say that the enemy is the reason for all our sin and shortcomings. I write this with full awareness that the ugliness that lurks within us is ours alone. And the sin we choose to commit is a choice. As believers, we are not bound to sin. We don’t have to choose sin. We have been empowered and enabled to choose a different way. “No temptation has overtaken [us] that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let [us] be tempted beyond [our] ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that [we] may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV.) That’s what Jesus was all about. Setting us free and giving us the choice to live in obedience.
But though we are no longer slaves to sin, that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped choosing it.
And while the sin is ours, the enemy is surely helping us choose that sin as often as possible. He’s sticking close, lurking nearby, always ready to strike against us when the moment is right and our hearts are ripe for the plucking. When we are weak, worn out, wearied with the trials of the day, the enemy is there, ready to dangle temptation and entangle and strangle us with sin.
So, when God comes in all his strength and power to convict us and challenge us in our sin, he’s also coming to remind the enemy that he doesn’t have the right to build that stronghold of sin in our lives. He’s coming to remind the enemy that he doesn’t have the power to lock us back up in the chains that He died to free us from. The enemy can entice and tempt, he can accuse and strike when we are weak. But he cannot turn slaves of righteousness back into slaves of wrath (Romans 6:17-18, reference.)
So, when God hits hard, and it leaves us feeling like all we’ve got to offer him is our mess, we have to remember that those heavy blows are evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence within us. That battle is evidence that God is working in us and for us. “For godly grief produces repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10a, ESV.)
Does it feel good? Of course not. (Hence the crying I mentioned before.)
But is it for our good? Yes, and amen.
God’s conviction isn’t cruel. It’s one of the kindest things he does. Because though he comes with power, though he hits hard, his heart is gentle and his approach is safe. He knows how to handle his children’s hearts. And he loves us too much to leave us in our sin.
Though it may feel in the moment like he’s hitting us with waves of rage, it’s actually our sin crashing against his holiness within us. It is a result of the war for our souls. And it is evidence that that war has been won. Because after conviction, we recognize that those waves of rage were actually waves of mercy raging war on our behalf. Raging war against our sin and raging war against our enemy.
So, tonight, I can give my mess to God, knowing full well, that he loves me enough to not just convict me of my sin, but to carry me out of it. I can accept the hard hit of conviction because God put my mess on the cross, laid his bloody body to rest, and rose again with my victory in hand. Even as I sit on this side of sin, repentant, but still broken, still battling, I can rest in the knowledge that the war has been won and the fight is not mine, but God’s (2 Chronicles 20:15, reference.) I’m not alone in my conviction. I’m loved in it.
And so are you, friend.
Conviction doesn’t feel good. But it is for our good.