Most people don’t like being told that they’re depraved. Even as a Christian, it took me a while to fully accept the doctrine of human depravity. Everything in your sinful flesh wants to defend yourself as a good person. In recent years, though, an understanding of depravity has actually quelled much anxiety in me and has been a light shining into the depths of my soul. I gratefully acknowledge that God has regenerated me and delivered me from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his Son, and that He is conforming me to His image. But when God reveals hidden sin in me or I struggle with a besetting sin now, I am less prone to be taken by surprise or throw my hands up in despair.
Thinking that you are essentially good and don’t need saving is just as exhausting as if you think that you can earn your salvation through your own merit and hard work. In either case, you end up spinning your wheels trying to prove your goodness (or relative goodness, if you’re a little more honest), which is a fool’s errand for a human born into sin. The doctrine of total depravity teaches us that there is no part of us that has not in some way been corrupted by sin. Armed with that knowledge, we can pray to God when he reveals our sinfulness, asking Him for forgiveness and that His Spirit would help us to put that sin to death.
I don’t want to give the impression that I’m not grieved by my sin. I pray that God would grant me a contrite heart when I do sin. But a repentant heart can approach the throne of grace instead of cowering in fear of God’s rejection. We may still get frustrated when we fall short. We may even sometimes struggle with believing that God has forgiven us. But understanding that God is the One who sanctifies us and that sin will not be completely vanquished in us until we enter heaven in glory, we can place our hope in the author and finisher of our faith—alone.