Does suffering or disability make us more righteous? Does it give us a higher moral standing with God? The correct answer is no, only Jesus makes us righteous, only trusting in His salvation puts us right with God. There is a subtle and unique temptation that can sneak into hearts of parents of kids with disabilities, the temptation to turn suffering into a form of self-righteousness.
Self-righteousness is when we start thinking we’ve earned something with God, that we are better than others and have developed our own grounds to stand on before God. We become morally superior in our own eyes and as a result Jesus grows smaller and smaller in our line of vision. Standing on our own righteousness and not relying on Jesus’ righteousness only leads to spiritual disaster. Joseph Alliene puts it bluntly, “When men trust in their own righteousness they do indeed reject Christ’s.”
Maybe that sounds crazy to you when you are in the trenches and all you can see are the loads self-denial and sacrifice you are doing on a daily basis. Because you are, and you do have a harder job than most parents will ever have. You do sacrifice in ways that are exhausting and often unnoticed. You cry tears in quiet places where nobody can see and have losses most parents don’t have. And this is why you and I are particularly more vulnerable to this temptation. How can this sin weave its way into our lives?
By thinking God is our debtor, that He owes us something, because we have suffered losses and hardships. We think we deserve smooth sailing and happy endings. Or at least days that get a little easier! But what does He promise? That He’ll give us grace to endure hardship, encouragement to take up our cross and strength to wield the armor of faith as we battle our own sin and the temptations surrounding us in trials of everyday life. Is God on the defensive in your mind? Are you demanding answers from Him, the hows and whys of your life? Have we become the judge on what is good and fair in our life rather than submitting to our Father’s hand?
Perhaps we’re submissive to God but we carry a “you wouldn’t understand” attitude into our relationships with others. Are we aloof when others tell us of their troubles that can seem insignificant to the daily challenges we’re faced with? This is a form of self-righteousness. We can think we’ve attained a higher level of godliness simply because we’ve gone through hard things. The truth is, suffering doesn’t make us better people. God’s grace is what changes us, and usually He does that through hard suffering roads. So again, the credit goes back to Him. To Jesus. Not us. Do others see Jesus in us? Or do they just see people full of themselves?
It’s not that God doesn’t care about us or that He asks us to stoically go through hard roads without a thought for ourselves. He just wants us to see ourselves in Jesus, that is where our value and righteousness lies. Not standing on our own two feet but desperately clinging to the Savior, carried by His righteousness and His provision. He wants us to understand that we are hopelessly and desperately lost without Him–our own feet too shaky, sinful and unsteady to walk this path. He wants to see Jesus in us. The words of God from 1 Peter 1:6-8 tell us:
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.
He invites us to come and lay our self-righteousness at the foot of the cross. To confess our sins and put our trust in Jesus, who is Righteousness personified, the only one who can cleanse us from our sins.
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