When I was a teenager, I started praying through the Psalms. One day, I decided to pray through Psalm 86. But that quickly came to a halt when I ran into this phrase, “Preserve my life, for I am godly,” (Psalm 86:2a, ESV).
Hmmm. That was a problem. I couldn’t ask God to preserve my life because I’m godly. I knew I was anything but that. That part of the Psalm could not be prayed. I could not call myself godly.
Do a speedy time-lapse and pause at a day earlier this month. I was sitting in a coffee shop, ready to start my quiet time. It’d been a long while since I’d read Psalm 86. I was no longer “teenage Amy.” Surely, I’d grown. But, once again, I found myself getting stuck at this part.
Surely, I’d grown. But, once again, I found myself getting stuck . . .
Why was I getting stuck? It was because I could see myself against the holiness of God. I was a stark-black silhouette against a pure white wall, and I could not immerse myself in it. I am not holy. I am not godly. Instead, I am a mess. I am weak. I am fearful. I cannot stand before a holy God and ask that He preserve me because I am godly.
If I was to say I was godly then I needed to make myself as white as the wall. If I only thought of others more . . . if I wasn’t so arrogant . . . if I could just get my life pulled together . . . if I wasn’t so afraid . . .
It’s an exhausting place to be, isn’t it? I say this because I believe it is quite common.
We see our true selves next to God and run to hide in the bushes, because we aren’t godly. We are sinful, and we try countless remedies to fix ourselves: Christian advice books, self-esteem talks, the sympathy of others, praying more, helping more, going to church, etc. If we can just master those steps to virtue, we can emerge from our “refuge of greenery.” Right?
If I was to say I was godly then I needed to make myself as white as the wall.
But, it doesn’t work. I know because I’ve tried. I might become more outwardly “moral,” but I don’t become more godly. We can’t fix ourselves. So, what is to be done?
Well, I did some research into what God has to say about our identity. Check it out:
- “But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” – Isaiah 43:1
- “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.” – Romans 8:29-30
- “As indeed He says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” – Romans 9:25-26
- “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” – Galatians 4:4-7
- “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” – 1 Peter 2:9
Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
Take heart with me, dear reader. Those are God’s words, not mine. You and I can boldly pray, “Preserve my life, for I am godly,” because the righteousness of Christ has been imputed on us. He has redeemed us. The reason I wasn’t able to pray Psalm 86 was because I was praying in the confidence of what Amy could do, instead of in the confidence of what Christ has done and declared: “It is finished,” (John 19:30). This is the great victory of the Gospel: you are loved and you have been set free because of the just and grace-filled work of our God. He calls us child, chosen, justified, beloved, mine. Rest in His words. This is who He says we are.