Each of us has a secret struggle we keep to ourselves. It’s the one thing that shames and embarrasses us. It’s the sin we keep going back to, the one mistake we keep making. We all have a temptation that beckons to us, promising us a more pleasurable, more enjoyable time. It tells us all the right things, uses the most beautiful and seductive words. It woos us and romances us, asking us to just this once give in. Just this once, take the risk. Just this once, do something that pleases yourself.
But it’s never just once. And the pleasure never lasts.
So we keep going back to the temptations. Time and again we give in and give ourselves over to them. We become lost in the temporary release they provide. We enter into a relationship with these things. But while we give everything, they only take and demand. Still, we want and long for them to fill those empty places inside of us.
They begin to have power over us as our craving for it grows. We slowly begin to need these things, these secret indulgences. They become our guilty pleasures and unconfessed sins. After awhile, we’ve given in too often. We’ve succumbed one time too many. We become lost in our struggle, in our will to overcome, and our inability to give it up. We’ve allowed these temptations to own a part of our soul, to reside in our heart. They have attached themselves to us, and they refuse to let go. They will not free us from their grasp.
And we are too weak to free ourselves, and maybe we don’t want to.
Or maybe we recognize that we quite simply can’t free ourselves. We slowly, once it’s too late, realize that our lusts and cravings are greater and more powerful than we are. They control us, mind, soul, and body.
God, the Bible and Church tell us, can free you. He can take your struggles from you and forgive you for every impure thought and sinful action. He loves you and will always accept you for who you are, regardless of the things you have done. You need only to repent, to admit your struggles, and He will help you turn away from temptation.
But for some, it isn’t so easy. For some, absolution isn’t a prayer away. For some, the guilt we harbor, the addiction to our desires has become bigger than an admission of wrongdoing. We know we’ve done wrong. We know that we are sinning. We know we are making poor choices. And we are completely and utterly ashamed of ourselves.
God, we think, couldn’t possibly forgive someone like me…
Someone who has made mistakes and bad decisions willfully.
Someone who does the wrong thing even when I know it’s wrong.
Someone who goes back to the same destructive behavior over and over again.
Someone who always has one more shot of vodka than I should.
Someone who spends money on drugs instead of tithing.
Someone who finds pleasure in casual sex instead of God’s Word.
Someone who would rather watch porn than go to church.
Someone who gossips about my neighbor instead of loving them.
Someone who hits my wife.
Someone who cheated on my husband.
Someone who is as un-Christ-like as it is possible to be
God would never forgive someone like me.
It’s a self-centered thought, the idea that your sin is greater than God’s love and grace. It’s a self-destructive thought, the idea that your sin is something that will always control you. It’s self-abusive, choosing our destructive habits over God’s grace. It’s delusional, the idea that you should be ashamed and embarrassed, left alone to suffer for your actions.
It’s the most difficult thing we’ll ever learn, the hardest thing for us to believe. We live so long with our overwhelming guilt that the thought of confessing it all to God, the idea that He wouldn’t be disgusted by our secret desires and cravings is beyond our comprehension. We are drowning in shame, and we can’t imagine God would want to pull us out and save our souls.
We are beyond forgiveness, we tell ourselves. We are unlovable. We are a lost cause.
Only you’re not. You are never outside of the realm of God’s amazing, incomprehensible, eternal love, forgiveness, and grace. You are always a child of God. You are always the person He loves and cares about more than anything. You are always the one He sacrificed His beloved Son for. You are always loved and always forgiven. You will always be shown grace and mercy, because you will always be given a second chance.
You need only to believe you deserve it, that you can have it, that it’s within your grasp. You need to believe that you can live without the shame and guilt. You need to believe that God will not judge you for your indiscretions and questionable choices. You need to believe that you can live in the present without repeating your past. You need to believe that you are worthy of love, worthy of grace, worthy of being saved.
And you need to understand that you will still make mistakes. You will never be perfect. Each of us will struggle against temptation and sin, what Paul called a thorn in his flesh. We will be plagued by them. But God says, “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Our weaknesses don’t mean we are weak, but that God is strong. To have weaknesses is to revel in the power of God, in His grace and mercy.
To struggle is to live life. To struggle is to be human. To struggle is to have experience. To struggle is to have a story, a story you can share. A story that can bring hope to those who might not see it. A story that allows you compassion. A story that provides testimony. A story that is worth telling and living. A story of grace. A story that God gave only to you.
So never feel ashamed or embarrassed of your story. Never believe you are unlovable or unforgiveable. Never imagine you are alone. And never give up.
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