You know the expression, “Can’t win for losing?” I felt this a while back. In fact, maybe like you, I feel it often. I’ve been a Type 1 Diabetic for over 30 years. This means that I need to take insulin to regulate my blood sugars throughout the day. The other evening, as I was headed towards bed, I found my blood sugar was a little bit high so I took a small dose to lower it. Since I already needed to take some insulin, I decided to take a little extra and have a quarter cup of ice cream.
A few hours later, at 2:30 a.m., I awoke because I had over compensated and now my blood sugars were too low — not an unfamiliar problem for a diabetic. Wanting to make a healthy choice, I grabbed a peach from the fruit basket only to take a bite and find it extremely bitter. I spit it out and got myself another quarter cup scoop of ice cream. Sometimes you can’t win for losing.
“Can’t win for losing” expresses a feeling of futility about how you can’t succeed because things keep going wrong. Sometimes life can feel this way. We have many idioms to express the same thought, like: one step forward and two back, damned if you do and damned if you don’t. We all know the feeling and when we hear other’s stories we can “Feel their pain.”
We can feel the same way in our walks with God. We want to feel close to God, but no matter how hard we try the further we seem to get behind. If that sounds like your journey, maybe you’ve felt like “Throwing in the towel!” But Christ brings hope to those trying hard; he brings rest.
Rest. Jesus came to bring rest to those trying to please God through their lists of everything that they are going to stop doing (speaking ill of neighbor or coworker, being impatient with spouse or children, stretching the truth) and the good things they will start doing — going to church, studying scriptures and praying everyday. Yet, no matter how hard we try the further behind we seem to get. So, we just give up – right?
The answer is found in trying less and resting more; to rest in Christ’s righteousness not our own. In Hebrews 4 the author uses the image of creation to illustrate this. We are told, “God’s promise of entering his rest still stands... For this good news — that God has prepared this rest — has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said, “In my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest,’” even though this rest has been ready since he made the world.” (Hebrews 4:1-3)
The rest we need comes from God and is found in Christ. Those trying to please God by their lists will spend their lives trying to justify themselves and will seek to lessen their failures by exaggerating their virtues.
As a result, we feel guilty. We feel unimportant. We feel naked and exposed. Lacking the rest found in Christ, we look for meaning in work, in our social media profiles and accomplishments. But we still feel empty, frazzled when all we need is Christ.
To some this idea of resting in Christ will seem too easy, but why would God offer us a hope that wasn’t attainable. Those who have sought to please God by “doing the lists” and still feel that they have hopelessly failed, maybe it is time to reconsider the formula being used. Maybe the right formula is “Jesus + Nothing = Everything.”
How is this possible? Too good to be true? Listen to how Paul explains it, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Isn’t this what we want, to be made right with God — to be called righteous?
In this life, “Can’t win for losing” just isn’t right. In Christ, my victory has been won! Everyone who trusts in Christ’s righteousness rather than their own are righteous. Knowing this allows us to persevere with hope and assurance. We can put off the lists and focus on what Christ has done. We can rest; rest in the finished work of Christ.