15 December 2017

Where is the Undo Button?

Sitting in the balcony of a church built in the 1920s, it was easy to feel a sense of warm tradition, but also a sense of God’s untouchable holiness. The pastor’s words echoed over the crowd and floated up to the balcony. His topic was conviction and the seriousness of sin. I thought about a friend whose actions were hurting other people. I thought about how sometimes, as brothers and sisters in Christ God calls us to do the uncomfortable and confront someone who is not making the right choices. Then the voice in my head started confronting me. “You cannot say anything to her,” the silent voice whispered. “Look at where you have messed up.” My own shortcomings began to play out in my head. Sins I had confessed, sins God’s Word says He forgave and forgot, but my tortured conscience refused to let them go.

The undo option is my favourite feature on the computer. I have accidentally deleted pictures, words, and whole paragraphs, but no worries, edit undo puts everything back to the way it was. If only life had such a button. It is so easy to mess up. I could fill a book of words I wish I had never said, and I would give anything to travel back in time and fix mistakes from past relationships. I wish I could undo all the times I intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone. “God please,” I pray. “Can I have a do-over?” But, life does not work that way.

God may not hand out do-overs, but He offers something much better – complete forgiveness. Psalms 103 shows the vast extent of forgiveness God offers. “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love, He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

Interestingly enough, this beautiful psalm was written by King David, a man who is remembered for the sin of adultery, but a man who God used in many ways and called a man after His own heart. I am sure David wished he had never slept with Bathsheba while her husband was away at war. Moses probably regretted killing the Egyptian slave driver who was beating one of his fellow Israelites, and there were likely days when Rahab wished her past was different. But with these three people, and with many other people in the Bible, God used them in spite of their sin- streaked pasts.

Everyone has a history. Whether you have been a Christian since you were a young child or a middle-aged adult, we unfortunately all have that ugly thing in common called sin. It is important to realise the damaging effects of sin and repent, but it is also vital to learn to forgive yourself as God has already forgiven you.

When it comes to forgiveness, there are times when it is easier to forgive someone else than yourself. Maybe it is because we know ourselves the best. We know our hidden sins. We know what we are capable of. God offers complete forgiveness through the death of His Son, but it is easy to feel that God’s offer is too simple, thinking there has to be some type of penance to pay. Beating yourself up mentally can keep you from being the person God wants you to be. God is saddened by our sin, but He also uses our past to bring others closer to Himself. The lies of Satan say, “God can’t use you after what you have done. How can you help anyone when you sin every day?” God says, “I forgive all your sins.” (Psalm 103:3)

Refusing to forgive yourself is actually saying that Christ’s death on the cross was not enough. Forgiveness from God can never be earned. It is a gift, and refusing to accept that gift can stunt someone’s spiritual growth. God knows we are imperfect sinners, and yet He chooses to use us anyway, growing us in spite of our sin, and using our weaknesses to bring Him glory.

Recently, I watched the movie October Baby which directors Andrew and Jon Erwin were inspired to make after hearing the true story of abortion survivor, Gianna Jessen. The directors cast actor, Shari Rigby, to play the role of the mother who attempted to have her child aborted. The directors wanted Shari for the part because of her talent and because she looked like the actor who would be playing her daughter. What the film directors did not know was that Shari had had an abortion herself many years ago. What I loved most about the movie October Baby is that it is a story of forgiveness. Shari said she was overwhelmed when she read the script and knew that God had created the role especially for her. Through the movie, she has been able to use her own story to minister to others and show the healing power of God’s forgiveness.

Letting go and embracing forgiveness not only brings healing, but it also opens up new doors for ministering to others who are struggling. God has a place for you in the body of Christ no matter what you have done or where you have been. It is a lie to believe God cannot use you. He wants to use you in great ways just like He used David, Moses, and Rahab. Do not miss out on the plans He has for you by refusing to forgive yourself.

Repentance and confession are important steps when it comes to dealing with sin, but 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” There is no undo button in life, but there is something even better – complete forgiveness.

By Ruth Uehle