Have you ever gotten yourself into such a mess that escaping the situation seemed impossible? I sure have, more times than I can count.
If you have, too, I bet you’ll relate to this story.
After an event where I was speaking, Eliza* approached me with a simple request for prayer to feel God’s love again. She had gotten into something she wasn’t proud of and her shame was heavy.
I asked if she’d confessed this issue of ugliness to God. She had, but the shame remained and the temptation to return to her junk was strong.
We prayed for her to experience the love of God. When we finished praying, I asked how she felt. “I have peace,” she replied.
“Peace is good, but you didn’t come for peace,” I reminded her. “You came to feel the love of God. To be free of the shame and truly know God loves you, right?” She nodded weakly.
“Eliza, I think you know God loves and God forgives, but you don’t believe you are eligible for it anymore. You believe God loves and forgives others, but you think your sin is too big to forgive. Even if God forgave you, you can’t forgive yourself. Does that sound accurate?”
Her lip began to quiver as she slowly nodded her head in agreement.
“Eliza, I want you to tell me and tell God that you forgive yourself. I want you to say, I forgive myself.”
She stared at me, fear and disbelief filled her face.
Her mouth opened, but the words wouldn’t come out.
After what seemed like an hour, but was probably just a few minutes of agonizing silence, I took her hands in mine and gently said, “This is the fork in the road, Sweet Thing. You have to make your stand right now or you’ll be back here next week or next month or next year carrying an even heavier load of shame.”
After an eternity of us just staring at each other, she whispered, “I forgive myself.”
I paused for just a second, and then I softly said, “I don’t believe you. You’ll have to tell me again.”
Eliza blinked, then just a little louder, she said, “I forgive myself.”
“Tell me again like you mean it, Eliza.”
“I forgive myself,” she said with more conviction.
“Once more, and make me believe it.”
“I forgive myself,” she said boldly.
“I believe you,” I said as I hugged her. I felt her body relax. I whispered in her ear, “I’m very proud of you Eliza. Your Father in Heaven is so pleased with you. And if your mama were here, she would be really proud of you, too.”
The sobs poured out. Relief entered in, displacing the fear and shame.
Girlfriend, there is always a way out. Confess that sin, it’s old news to God anyway. Repent of that thing that has you all bound up. Look in the mirror and forgive that woman. Then watch the door of your prison cage swing open.
Our prayer: Lord God, I come to you and ask that you relieve me of the guilt and shame and heaviness of this burden. I confess that I have done (fill in the blank) and I don’t want to do that anymore. Forgive me and restore my life. In Jesus Name amen.
*not her real name