Relief is a hot commodity these days. Relief from the new strand of Covid. Relief from college loan debt. Relief from increasing mental illnesses. Relief from a stressed economy as restaurants and businesses close due to lack of workers.
Some of us escape reality, or even people, by refusing to talk to our spouse, relatives, friends, and God. Instead we pick up an inanimate object: our phones. We scroll and scroll and scroll down endless pages searching for anything to soothe the moment, until the battery dies. Even our phones need recharging. When I waste an hour (or more) on my phone I feel gross afterwards. It actually makes me feel worse.
John Eldredge writes, “Relief is momentary; it’s checking out, numbing, sedating yourself. Television is relief. Eating a bag of cookies is relief. Tequila is relief. And let’s be honest—relief is what we reach for because it’s immediate and usually within our grasp. Most of us turn there, when what we really need is restoration.” (Get Your Life Back)
Oh, how backwards life is. We refuse to nap when we’re young although there is time, but as adults, we claim we don’t have time, or we refuse to admit we “need” a nap.
Oh, how contradictory we humans are. We don’t dare come across as needy on the outside to others, but on the inside we know the truth. Some folks only reveal their true neediness to a therapist behind closed doors. We want relief, but don’t want to admit we need relief.
So sometimes, we meet our needs secretly. Sin is an attempt to get what we don’t have because we’re not content with what we do have. Or as Simone Weil put it, “Every sin is an attempt to fly from emptiness.”
There was a man who wanted relief and made no bones about admitting it. He publicly beat his chest in disgust. Sin can make you hate yourself. Luke recounts Jesus telling the story:
“Two men went to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ (18:10-13, NLT)
There’s a lot of psychology in Christianity. Need some relief for the battle between your ears?
When regret comes to visit, believe four words: The Lord our Righteousness.
When you can’t shake the guilt and shame out of you over something you’ve already confessed to God, say four words out loud: The Lord our Righteousness.
When you’re sick of sin, write four words on an index card: The Lord our Righteousness.
When you can’t get a memory out of your head, memorize four words: The Lord our Righteousness.
Those four words describe the theme of the scriptures in its entirety. Relief, real spiritual relief, can only be found in: The Lord our Righteousness (Jeremiah 33:16 b, NKJV) not in rubbish the world offers.