If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll remember Barry’s post on forgiveness and Corrie Ten Boom. It reminded me of one of the letters Mark Driscoll wrote in Death by Love. It was addressed to a young man who was a Christian. His father often beat him up while he was growing up. Many times the son would put himself in harms way so that he would take the worst of the beating to protect his sisters. He had so many scars from childhood and the pathetic father he had. Then, the father becomes a believer. Now the son is left with many questions and a myriad of emotions. Now that his father is a brother in Christ, how does he let go of the past? Is he just supposed to forget everything and act like it never happened? And how does the father live with what he’s done? It was definitely one of the most powerful chapters in the book. This theme of forgiveness has caused me to look deep inside my own heart.
On one hand, I’m happy to say I’ve never really been wronged to such an extent that I’ve felt it hard to forgive someone. The person that I’ve had the hardest time forgiving is myself. Even after I have received the forgiveness of the person I have wronged and have asked for and received forgiveness from my heavenly Father, I have difficulty forgiving myself.
And then, there is the cross. My sin is as ugly as a Nazi guard, as wretched as an abusive father, as damning as the murder of a pastor. Yet the ultimate just judge chose his son to take my punishment. He took the wrath that I deserve. Freedom in the purest sense is now mine forever and I’m a slave no longer. Yet, I find it so easy to be comfortable with those chains…to want to put them back on. I put myself as a judge higher than God and withhold forgiveness from myself, as if I was the judge with the final say in the matter! What seems like humility is really just masked pride.
We have a fine line to tow in realizing our own wretchedness and guilt yet at the same time being fully alive and proclaiming His forgiveness. The Psalms have been a great place of refuge for me when I wrestle with these issues. Psalm 51 has been particularly insightful. David wrote this psalm after the prophet convicted him of his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. In David’s plea to God, he says that “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (verses 3-4). The brokenness we feel in these moments can either lead us to worship or to despair. Thankfully, David chooses the former and shows us how to turn our sorrow into worship.
“Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” (11-13)
This guides my own prayer, “Lord, by your joy, get me through this despair and restore me to yourself. Let me use this experience to teach those who have fallen like I have about your forgiveness!”
Do not let your sorrow be wasted. Like David, let it cultivate in you a heart of humility and worship.