I once thought I had sufficient experience in taking care of fish and fish tanks, yet found myself needing urgent technical assistance one day. Some of the fish in my aquarium were mysteriously dying, especially the little catfish that formed part of the cleaning department in the lower level. As quickly as I replaced the dead ones, the new arrivals suffered the same fate within a week or so.
One day I asked the owner of a pet shop what was going on. It so happened he was a marine biologist. He explained whenever you change the water from any aquarium, you remove the delicate bacteria culture that sustains aquatic life. If you don't replace that good bacteria, the fish die by ingesting their own toxic waste which mixes with the bits of food in the gravel below. The good bacteria neutralizes the fishes' body waste, thus preventing any fatal toxic effects.
This insight not only helped me to remove the death threat, but also to see my spiritual journey differently. Like that good bacteria we need grace in our pursuit of godliness. Without it we can perish in the toxicity of our own self-contempt since we cannot fulfill even our own high standards -- even less God's holy commandments. Statistics say 80% of psychiatric patients are religious (Fitchett, Burton, & Sivian, 1997) to the point of pushing themselves off the proverbial edge.
The Christian faith isn't meant to pull us down into despair and loathsomeness, but to raise us up toward health, strength and everlasting hope. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he said,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -- Matthew 11: 28-30