Another picture that our Lord loves to use is that of the shepherd who goes out to look for the sheep that is lost (Matthew 18:12). So long as we imagine that it is we who have to look for God, then we must often lose heart. But it is the other way about: he is looking for us. And so we can afford to recognize that very often we are not looking for God; far from it, we are in full flight from him, in high rebellion against him. And he knows that and has taken it into account. He has followed us into our own darkness; there where we thought finally to escape him, we run straight into his arms.
So we do not have to erect a false piety for ourselves, to give us hope of salvation. Our hope is in his determination to save us. And he will not give in!
This should free us from that crippling anxiety which prevents any real growth, giving us room to do whatever we can do, to accept the small but genuine responsibilities that we do have. Our part is not to shoulder the whole burden of our salvation, the initiative and the program are not in our hands: our part is to consent, to learn how to love him in return whose love came to us so freely while we were quite uninterested in him.
Also we can let ourselves off that desperate question, “Am I in the right place?” “Have I done the right thing?” Of course, we must sometimes acknowledge sins and mistakes and we must try to learn from them; but we should not foster the kind of worry that leads to despair, God’s providence means that wherever we have got to, whatever we have done, that is precisely where the road to Heaven begins. However many cues we have missed, however many wrong turnings we have taken, however unnecessarily we may have complicated our journey, the road still beckons, and the Lord still “waits to be gracious” to us (Isaiah 30:18).
If we let these things really speak to us, then we can surely accept our Lord’s invitation, indeed his command, to cast all our cares upon him (1 Peter 5:7) and let him care for them. We can give space in our hearts for Christ to dwell there, and it is faith that gives him space. We can let him dethrone us from being God in our own hearts, and establish there his own rule. We can then let him give us to ourselves, just as at the beginning he gave Adam to Adam. Then we can receive from him all that is ours, all our faculties, all our freedom, our capacity to take initiatives, to make our own decisions, so that our own true independence no longer challenges God’s sovereignty but is precisely a most wonderful expression of it, as we receive our freedom day by day, minute by minute, from the creative love of God.
—Simon Tugwell, O.D., Prayer