There is a reoccurring pattern in my life. Over and over, I discover myself in a deep hole of some habitual sin or another. I become convicted of disrespecting my parents, treating my sister terribly, worrying, procrastinating (aka not honoring God in my work), holding anger against specific people, etc. Each time I am convicted of these things, it devastates me. But instead of turning to God for help, I only tell Him how sorry I am and prove it by curling up in a metaphorical ball inside myself and staying in that place of brokenness, pushing everyone, even God, away.
I think, “I know God will forgive me. But I don’t deserve His forgiveness. I need to fully experience this pain so I will actually change and stop sinning. Then I will let myself accept His grace.”
Have you ever felt that way?
I forget how God looks at me. I forget that He says, “Child, come home to My arms. When I look at you, I do not see your sin. No, for I already took care of that once and for all on the cross. When you first turned your heart to Me, I removed from My sight all your sin, past, present, and future. You are no longer condemned, nor will you ever be, for you are in Me (cf. Romans 8:1). Come here, beloved daughter of Mine.”
Thanks be to my Abba, who never gives up on me, who always pursues me, even in my darkest moments. He breaks through my prison of self-induced penance and reawakens the joy of salvation in me. My beloved Father is so good. Praise the Lord—His love endures forever.
I need to realize that the only thing that can truly keep me from repeatedly sinning is God’s grace. As Leland sings, “I don’t see my brokenness anymore when I’m seated at the table of the Lord” (“Carried to the Table”). When God opens my eyes and I find that He has carried me to His banquet table, He has made me part of His bride, I am overwhelmed by His love. I can no longer see my shortcomings, on which I was fixated before. All I can see is Jesus. “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves us” (“How He Loves”).
God’s love is a powerful thing. Of course it is. It is part of His nature, and He is God.
His forgiveness is the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced.
If you are struggling right now, let me tell you as someone who very much understands, maybe not your specific circumstances, but what you are going through: don’t give up. Don’t wait, either. God loves you. He died for you. If you believe Him, He has wiped away all your sins. He waits for you with open arms.
And it is never too late. As my two favorite bands testify, “[e]very breath is a second chance” (Switchfoot, “Always”), and “[f]orgivneness can be given when you think it can’t, because with every passing second comes a second chance” (Relient K, “Fallen Man”).
Let me end by repeating to you this story a truly gifted speaker once shared at a camp I attended:
Suppose you committed a terrible crime. Suppose you murdered someone—and not just anyone. Say you murdered a mother and her children.
You are arrested and put on trial. The evidence is there, the judge knows you’re guilty, you know you’re guilty. There is nothing you can ever do to make it right. Nothing. Because you murdered them, and you can never, ever undo it.
You are convicted and sentenced to death. For years, you sit in your prison cell, waiting to die. You know you deserve it. You know you can never make what you did right. And you’re sorry, so deeply sorry. You deserve to die. So you wait to die.
Then, finally, the day comes. The guards come and put chains on your wrists and lead you away. They lead you to the room where you will be injected with fluid that will kill you. You are about to step through the door, and you have a small hope that now, somehow, your death will restore some small measure of rightness to the world.
You’re in the doorway, and the unexpected happens. Someone says, “Wait.”
You and the guards turn around, and you see the father of the family you murdered standing there with his only remaining son, who is now an adult.
“Wait,” he repeats, looking at you. “My son has agreed to die in your place.”
That is ridiculous. Yet the guards are taking off your chains and putting them on the son. No longer are you frozen by the absurdity; now you are paralyzed by shock. As you watch, the guards lead the son into the room, to die in your place.
The father is still looking at you, with a tear falling down his face. “You’re free,” he says. And then you feel it. You feel that you are really free. All the guilt, all the pain, everything that has bound you inside as surely as the chains once bound your body, is gone. You are free.
But then the father says the most shocking thing of all. “You’re free. And now, I want to adopt you. I want you to become my son (or daughter) in the place of my dead children.”
Love came down and rescued me.
Love came down and set me free.
I am Yours;
I am forever Yours.
Mountain high or valley low,
I sing out and remind my soul that
I am Yours;
I am forever Yours.
~Brian Johnson, “Love Came Down”