Have you ever wondered if you measure up to what God wants you to be and to do?
Well, I have.
In my earlier teenage years I went through a season that was difficult for me, because I was constantly striving. Constantly doing. You feel me yet? I constantly tried to follow a list of rules to be a vision of "perfection," constantly trying to obey and never mess up. I constantly tried to earn what I thought was God's favor. I knew He loved me no matter what. But even if I didn't say it out loud, in the back of my mind there was this idea that I needed to do more to earn His favor or delight. And it left me utterly exhausted. Because following a list of rules I'd created for myself still didn't ever make me feel like I measured up.
And I bet you feel it too.
It comes from a system that has become more obsessed with religion than with a relationship.
Yes, I said it.
Religion has actually become a problem in a way instead of a solution or an answer.
Because instead of religion creating a safe place where people could be loved and healed, it has turned into a place where people are judged and held up to a list of standards they can never achieve on their own.
But the truth? We weren't ever called to religion to begin with.
I am a Christian. Saved by grace, redeemed with love, and cherished forever by a King that left His throne to rescue His princess. I am loved infinitely by the God of the universe.
But I am not religious.
Because there is a difference.
Religion has become a list of do's and don'ts that has clouded our thinking. It convinces us that if we follow this rule or that rule, or we don't break this rule or bend that rule, then we'll receive God's favor. It tells us that if we do all these things then God won't be mad at us. It gets us trapped inside of a cycle that constantly has us doing more and more to try to earn what we could never earn on our own. And the biggest problem? Religion has created a feeling of judgment in many Christian circles. Why? Because it makes us think that by doing all these religious things or following all these rules, we're somehow better than others. And sadly, it can cause us to judge those who aren't following the rules we're following or judge those living, speaking, and dressing differently than us.
Trust me, I know. Because I lived it.
I lived that religious life that was all about do's and don'ts and chastening those who didn't look and act and dress just like me. And you know what? It didn't work. In the end, it left me more empty than when I started. And in the end, it left people judged who should've only been loved.
Because here's the truth.
Being a Christian is not about a religion at all or a list of rules. Being a Christian is about a relationship.
Being a Christian is this great love story that will change your life. Trust me, I know this too. Because, by God's grace I've lived this too.
You see, Jesus is calling you to a great adventure with Him. Jesus is calling you to be loved deeper by Him and to love others deeper with His love. That's His greatest commandment. To love others as He loves us. And as we sink deeper into His love, we're able to go into the world and love others despite our differences, despite our disagreements. Because love covers all.
I don't want you to mistake what I'm saying however. I'm not saying that being a Christian is a free ride where you can live however you want and do whatever you want. Sin has consequences. We are called to live a life following Jesus (Romans 6:15). But those rules you try so hard to follow? Examine your heart. Why are you doing them? Because you love God and you want to follow what you feel He is asking of you? Good. But if you're doing it for any other reason, listen close. Those rules are not going to earn you His favor or His love. Friend, you are loved completely and infinitely right now. Right in this moment. God loves you as much on your best days as He does on your very worst days. God loved you wholly on the day He found you and rescued you. Nothing you do can change that. Because His love does not depend on your performance.
You're free, friend. You're free to stop trying so hard. You're free to just rest in who He is and what He has done. You're free to just sink into His love and let it change every part of who you are.
Let go of this try hard life you've created for yourself. Stop judging those who don't look and act and dress like you. Just love them. Because the honest truth is that God loves them like crazy too.
So no, religion isn't the answer to the emptiness in your heart and life, because religion can't fulfill you.
Only a relationship with Jesus Christ can fulfill you and fill your emptiness inside.
So fall in love.
Let go and step into the love that's been waiting for you all along. Who can fully understand His love?
"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)
He loves you. A crazy, beyond your wildest imagination, unconditional kind of love that will blow your mind.
And nothing can take that away.
Isabella Morganthal (20) is a homeschool high school graduate who loves Jesus with all of her heart. She is a drummer, writer, creative arts director, and modern-day abolitionist.