This word makes me want to throw my arms up in a fit of joy and throw up my lunch all at the same time. I can’t even handle this word. I don’t really understand it, I can’t really comprehend it, and yet my entire faith walk is supposed to be based upon it. It hurts, it heals, and it frees. It renews, it restores, and it redeems. If given in grace, it can build up and strengthen; if withheld in anger, it can torment and lead to condemnation.
Forgiveness is one of the most powerful things in the entire universe. (Besides love, and maybe chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick.)
So let’s get free.
I messed up. Big time. Now, don’t get me wrong, I mess up multiple times a day, but many months ago I decided to take it to a whole different level. That happens sometimes when Sam decides that her way is better than God’s way. It also happens when Sam is scared or insecure or not trusting in the truth of God’s Word. So here’s the thing. If there was a trophy for the “Christian Hide-and-Go-Seek Sin Champion of the World,” I would have five of them stacked proudly on my shelf, because I always had a knack for keeping my sins hidden in the dark. But luckily for me, God has supernatural high-powered night vision goggles, and nothing gets past Him (wink wink). Thankfully, I am loved (and will always be loved) by a God who wants to turn my darkness into the light.
Psalm 32: 3-5 “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night Your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’ And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.”
God, in all of His mercy and loving-kindness, called me to confess and to repent, Jesus showed me how, and the Holy Spirit gave me the strength to follow through and actually do it. So I reached out to the people that God told me to confess to, and let me just tell you… it was more painful than stepping on a Lego…barefoot.
Some of the responses to my confession were seasoned with grace and love, while others seemed to be seasoned with cyanide. That hurt too. But you know what, I was finally free. My heart was right with God, I stopped hiding, and I spoke truth.
…So why did my heart still hurt so badly? Why did I still feel like I was suffocating?
This is the question I asked God, and faithfully, He answered. “Sam, you’ve forgiven others, you confessed, and you’ve asked for forgiveness from Me and from the people around you for your mistakes. But there are a few things that you are forgetting, sweet girl. My opinion of you is the only thing that matters, and when I say you are forgiven, YOU ARE FORGIVEN… but you have yet to forgive yourself. And that my child, is a choice.”
Dang. God is never wrong. I want you all to know that I have yet to master the art of “forgiving myself.” It’s something that I am learning how to do more and more each day. It’s something that requires complete humility and complete dependence on a gracious God who means what He says. It requires me to let go of any hopes that I can ever save myself, and it requires me to let go of the pride in my heart that tells me I don’t deserve to be pardoned. If the God of the Universe says that I am forgiven, then let it be so.
So on the days when my heart (or the devil himself) tells me one thing and my Lord tells me another, I need to remind myself of the truth. I will never stop desperately needing to hear the truth of the Gospel—and that’s not a weakness, that’s a strength. Since the Lord’s promises are true (and because God never lies), I can forgive myself and let go of my feelings of shame and hurt and guilt because His words say that Jesus already nailed those things to the cross when He died to set me free. He loves me in spite of my mess. He loves me in my darkest moments. He loves me at my worst, and He loves me at my best. He knew exactly what He was doing when He took my place and my punishment at Calvary, and He still knows what He’s doing when He vouches for me before the Father—standing up for me, advocating for me, and rebuking the accusations of the enemy.
We have all fallen short, but we also have a God who has picked up the slack and filled up the gap on our behalf. So as we love God and love one another (on both the good and bad days), let’s try to remember that…
Isaiah 44:21-22 “I, the Lord made you, and I will not forget you. I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.”