For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)
For 30 years, “Alice” had been carrying around a terrible burden of guilt and shame over something she had done in her twenties. She had sought out therapy, belonged to support groups, and gone through spiritual counseling, but nothing had helped her to feel God’s forgiveness, nor had anything helped her to forgive herself.
One day I was in church praying, and she burst into the sanctuary, asking if we could talk. As she once more poured out her self-recrimination, I was saying my prayers for the right words to say to her. Instead of any words being given to me, I was given an image. It was the life-sized crucifix that hung over our sanctuary.
I said, “Alice, I want you to look up at Jesus on that crucifix. I want you to see His love, grace, and forgiveness. What do you believe is more powerful—His grace or your sin? Do you really feel that what you did 30 years ago is greater than what Jesus did for you on Good Friday? And if Jesus forgives you, who are you to not forgive yourself? Do you think your opinion of yourself is more important than His?”
I’m not exactly sure what touched Alice, but grace broke through, and she began to sob. Alice was finally able to feel God’s forgiveness, finally able to let go of her shame, and finally able to forgive herself.
If you in any way identify with Alice, I encourage you to go sit or kneel before a cross. Remember all that Jesus has done for you and ask yourself the questions I asked Alice. I pray that you would stay before that cross and ask those questions until the grace of Jesus finally breaks through for you, just as it did for her.
- Why would anyone ever think that their sin could be more powerful than the grace of Jesus? Have you ever thought so? If so, why?
- It is crazy-making to accept the forgiveness of Jesus while not being able, or refusing, to forgive ourselves. Have you ever had a hard time forgiving yourself? If so, how come? Do you need some self-forgiveness now?
- Have you ever had a moment when grace broke through all of your resistances and shame like it did for Alice? If so, when? Do you need the grace to break through any resistance or shame in your life again?