My name is Chelsea, and I’m a recovering earnaholic.
If there was a support group for me (although, hello, I know it’s the Church), I might start out with this line: I’ve spent much of my Christian life working for God, for an identity of my own, instead of receiving His life and all He has for me.
Earlier this year, I realized (thank you, Holy Spirit) something striking: my greatest desire wasn’t God, but to be good enough in all eyes (my own, others, and His). In my experience, earning love is a sin masquerading as not that bad. It is a mixture of fear and pride buried deep under the idol of image management. It’s a habit often rooted in self-satisfaction, not God-my-All. And it’s colored by a need to be worthy by our own standards, not what God has declared to be true.
In this life, there is sin we’ve battled our entire Christian life, sin we have grown comfortable in, or sin we’re continually wearied by. How do we wrestle down sins that don’t easily appear to be sin, without glorifying them as part of who we are? How do we live the life we now live in the flesh by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us? (Galatians 2:20) Below are strategies I have found helpful, no matter how imperfectly I execute them.
1. We apply the gospel to every moment until the response is as natural as breathing.
In a sentence, what is the gospel? “The gospel is the good news that the everlasting and ever-increasing joy of the never-boring, ever-satisfying Christ is ours freely and eternally by faith in the sin-forgiving death and hope-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (John Piper)
The gospel can be a jolt of energy when we feel exhausted in our sin battles. The gospel can be healing balm when we feel broken by the weakness of our flesh. The gospel can be a source of joy when we realize we are not alone in our wrestling. To be these things, the gospel of Jesus can’t be a cloud floating above us, drifting, it must be vigilantly applied to every thought and feeling.
2. In the face of weakness, instead of folding inward with shame, we can rehearse what we know is true.
One I quote almost hourly is Isaiah 41:10. Or Isaiah 30:15. Or Hebrews 10:14. Or Matthew 11:28. Or Psalm 145.
Memorize passages of Scripture that fix your mind on God. In the face of anxious, prideful, image-focused feelings, rehearse what you know about God, even in moments you don’t believe it entirely. Take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and surrender to the reality that God is greater than our hearts, He knows everything, and we have confidence before Him (1 John 3:19-22).
3. We can eliminate unnecessary distractions to our enjoyment of God.
My earnaholicism rears its head when I try and live up to (self-imposed) impossible expectations. As a result of the pressure, I have a habit of escaping. I escape to social media, movies and books, and activity, filling my soul with measly joys.
We must get rid of anything that hinders our capacity to know and enjoy God. God is the most beautiful, interesting, unchangeably good relationship we’ll ever have. If we make the space, He will engulf our heart, mind, and soul with such wonder and grace so that the longing for what we formerly considered satisfying dwindles to almost nothing (Colossians 3:1-17).
4. We can always ask for more of Him.
The God we love, obey, and encounter is an inexhaustible resource (Romans 11:33).
A lie we believe sometimes says we should feel guilty about asking for more. Satan inches insides and accuses us for not ‘getting it yet,’ or ‘still wrestling with the same sin.’ But our Father says, Come, and keep coming (Isaiah 55), to draw near with confidence, not shame (Hebrews 4:16).
His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). He is able (and delights) to do more than could ever imagine or dream up (Ephesians 3:20-21), to keep and sustain us. We are not His employees who muster up our own abilities; in Christ, we are made God’s children (Galatians 3:23-29). He has joyfully made Himself our Father (1 Corinthians 8:6), and He never wavers, falters, or changes.
May we apply the gospel, meditate on what is True, enjoy our Father and King, know confidence in His presence, and experience the freedom Christ died to purchase.