We pursue what matters most to us and sacrifice what’s necessary to reach that goal. Whether it’s time, money, or health, we must sacrifice something if we want to achieve our goals. But, there’s often an unaddressed dichotomy as regards to what we want and what we’re willing to sacrifice to get it. We don’t know the best way to get what we want. Therefore, we don’t know whether our sacrifice will get us to our goal.

We can struggle for decades to reach a goal only to fail. A doctor informs us we’ve ruined our health. Our dream house has a rotten foundation. We discover our spouse is having an affair. Our church-plant goes bankrupt.

All these things take a significant toll on us. We do our best to understand what could, should, and would have been if only we’d said or done it differently. We tried to create the best: the best version of ourselves or our home, marriage, and church. But we didn’t achieve our goal. Our blood, sweat, and tears didn’t help. All our sacrifices couldn’t prevent our life from being derailed.

We all struggle with goal-setting, sacrifice, and failure. Some pass through and come out stronger. Others descend into depression and self-destruction. We’re unsure of ourselves. Lines get blurred. Sacrifice turns in on itself. Self-sacrifice in service to self-destruction now dominates our behavior. Our health breaks down. Our house, marriage, and church suffer neglect because our goals were not met, and our sacrifices seem to be for no purpose.

It’s inescapable. If we want something, and it’s important to us, we must sacrifice something to get it. But, we don’t have to end up broken down and depressed. It’s all about perspective. Where is our focus? Do we imagine God’s impressed with our sacrifices, so we deserve the best? Have we even thought about God as we sacrifice ourselves and others as we chase after our goal? Do we use God to prop up and justify achieving our goals, at any cost?

We confuse our success and failures with God’s judgment of us.

It’s easy to get obsessed with our goals. Then when we achieve our goals, we say, “Thank you, God, for this blessing!” But, if we don’t meet our goals, we think, “God, what did I do to deserve this?” We confuse our success and failures with God’s judgment of us.

Our sacrifices don’t sway God one way or the other. They never have and never will. Concerning ourselves and our neighbor, our sacrifices can be a great good. We can improve ourselves and our neighbor’s lives. But, concerning God, our sacrifices are worthless. The only sacrifice God delights in is Jesus’ life freely given for the sin of the world.

Jesus’ sacrifice sets us free from wrestling with the ultimate worth of our sacrifices. We are justified through his blood. We are reconciled to God through his suffering and death. All our sacrifices spring from the blood of Jesus. We sacrifice for others in particular because he first loved us and sacrificed himself for us.

Now, whether we succeed or fail in reaching our goals, we look nowhere else than to Jesus freely promised and given for us. He is our comfort. Then we see that God isn’t pleased or angered by our sacrifices. He gives his Son for us instead. As a consequence, we can be glad and love ourselves and each other.

We can love God because we know, through Jesus’ sacrifice, that the Holy Spirit doesn’t come to those who sacrifice the most to achieve the best. God sends his Spirit to those who believe the Gospel of Christ. From the Gospel and the faith it creates in us, we’re free to sacrifice. We’re free to succeed and fail at reaching our goals because our comfort isn’t in our sacrifices or our success or failures. Instead, our comfort comes from the blood, wounds, and death of Christ, our Savior.