The Relief of the Gospel – Part 1

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 · 
July 2, 2024
 · 
4 min read

Sunburns are painful and debilitating. They make even the simplest things in life challenging, and they hurt! Living in the Midwest with a family history of skin cancer, I do my best to avoid prolonged sun exposure. On two separate occasions, I have fallen asleep in the sun accidentally and woke up with second degree burns requiring medical attention! I don't wish sunburns on anyone, but I have determined one reason to be thankful for them. That reason is the soothing calm I experience when applying aloe vera gel to my fiery epidermis. Ahh, I can feel it now, the cool tingling sensation as I exhale and relax my tense muscles. It is truly sweet relief.

In my role as a counselor and pastor I have heard the gospel described in all kinds of ways. I've heard it referred to as a "solution" a "source of truth," a "weapon against the enemy," and even as a "how to" manual. However, I have rarely, if ever, heard it referred to as relief. Yet, in my life and ministry that has been my experience with the gospel repeatedly. Conversely, people's lives are absolutely filled with pursuits that bring anything but relief.

I want to talk about three ways in which I have consistently seen the Lord bring relief to people by applying the gospel to their anxious souls. This relief is felt in the areas striving for perfectionism or performance, the overwhelming feeling that you need to be more than human, and the drive to control the narrative in your life. In this first article, I will start with perfectionism and performance.

Perfectionism/Performance

Some find themselves pursuing perfection or performance. This inner monologue says that if you work harder and achieve more then you will be happy and fulfilled. It’s the inner critical voice consistently reminding you that you didn’t do enough or should have worked harder or performed more efficiently. As a podcast host and producer, I find myself experiencing this with every single episode and believing the narrative that the credibility and livelihood of the podcast is dependent upon my ability to produce it without flaw. This way of framing your identity creates high chronic anxiety and leads to an inability to rest or be satisfied.

In God's Word, however, there is so much relief. The "aloe vera" gel for someone struggling with performance or perfectionism comes from Ephesians 2.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

In the counseling office it is common when counselees hear this verse, they immediately take it as a reminder to not boast or be proud of what they accomplish. While that is a helpful thing to remember, I believe it shrinks one of the most relief-providing passages down to a simple call for humility. 

Instead, let me offer an alternate interpretation. Perfectionists tend to automatically assume that they're not good enough to deserve anything good because they could have always done "better." What I love about this passage is that, to me, God is agreeing with them. Through the writings of Paul, God is saying that on your own, you’re not enough, you never can be enough to deserve my salvation.

To me it seems like God is leaning into the perfectionistic view of self and agreeing in order to make his next and greater point. You aren’t good enough, but guess what? God is so kind and compassionate that He knew you'd never be worthy, so He determined that the metric by which He measures your worthiness was never your performance. His metric is His son Jesus' performance, the perfect Son of God. 

So, perfectionistic performers out there, when God looks at you, He sees you through the lens of His son Jesus and therefore sees someone completely worthy of being part of God's chosen family as we see later in Ephesians.

Beloved, I invite you to relax into God's presence today and remember that right now, at this very moment, you're not enough, but God chooses you anyway. So, when you fail to do everything perfectly, you're no less worthy of God's love and delight. Slow down today and spend some time simply meditating on this passage and this reality and maybe, just maybe, be okay with doing something well, even if it’s not perfect.

Ryan Berg has extensive experience and training in a variety of counseling areas, and has served as a counselor in the church setting for over 10 years. He is currently the Assistant Pastor of Soul Care at College Park Church.

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