Links Daily Devotional

Simple Complexity

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions. (Psalm 51:1, ESV)

To play the golf well in different conditions, our skills must be multifaceted. We cannot simply putt well without driving well, or have power but not finesse. Of course, an imbalance can be long overlooked by playing certain kinds of courses that fit us best. But serious competitors will eventually encounter a course lined with tall pines where their simplistic answer of driving the ball over all obstacles no longer works. And a person with great putting yet a wayward drive will find herself stymied by difficult rough conditions.

Life likewise offers us difficult challenges. Relationships, for example, bring these kinds of complex, head-scratching puzzles. We feel hurt by someone, and we hurt this person too. We are faced with a feeling of grief at our heartache and underlying guilt from our own sin. What is a heart to do?

We most often swing over to the “either-or” type of solution. Focus on just the grief and hurt, and you’ll make it all about what the other person did wrong, justifying your own guilt based on that. This makes us feel better—case closed. But pride grows. Focus on just the guilt, and it becomes all about what we did wrong; we tell ourselves that we have no right to feel hurt because we are guilty. This makes us feel worse, but it’s still better than to feel unloved by the other person. Here our heart is closed, but bitterness grows.

Grief and guilt seem like oil and water, cats and dogs, toothpaste and orange juice. But they do exist simultaneously in us, so we must look to a “both-and” type of solution, where we are free to grieve the real pain that we feel from others, and we can grieve the pain we cause others in our selfishness and lust for power, approval, comfort, and control. We find healing for this complex grieving at the foot of the cross, where Christ suffers with us and where he also accomplishes justice for our guilt. We leave our confused hearts in his pierced hands there—with all our hope and assurance in his steadfast love.

The “both-and” approach not only makes sense of our intricate experience, but Scripture indicates it. God is both transcendent and immanent, and both one in essence and three in persons—the Holy Trinity. God is both just and mercy, wrath and love: we are saved by God and from God (Romans 5:9). We are both made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and spiritually dead in sin (Romans 5:12). On the cross, Christ became both sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) and propitiation for sins (1 John 4:10), he was both suffering and joy-filled (Hebrews 12:1-3), just and justifier (Romans 3:26). In Christ, we are both ungodly and chosen (Romans 5:6, Ephesians 1:3-4). But in Christ we are also simply and fully transferred into the kingdom of the Beloved (Colossians 1:13-14).

In today’s passage, David was appealing to God’s steadfast love after his grievous sin with Bathsheba. How dare he? How was he not overcome with guilt? David understood he was both sinner and beloved, and he appealed to God based on his steadfast love. Believer, this is what you have been given! When grief comes, remember that he delights in you and, one day, every tear will be wiped away. When guilt comes, remember he only has steadfast love for you; your sin is already atoned for, so that there are no courses, no tall pines, no rough that can stand between you and your Father.

Isabelle Beisiegel
November 18, 2014
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