Stolen Joy and Unpaid Debts
Sometimes when my son makes mistakes, I get angry with him. In all honesty, sometimes my anger is worse than what he has done! But it takes no time at all for me to calm down and to remember how much I love him and how much he means to me. I quickly remember that he just made a little mistake and that he’s learning. He doesn’t “mean anything” by his lapse in judgment—nothing nefarious anyway, at least not most of the time! But even if he does, he is sorrowful and recognizes that what he did was wrong and was hurtful. He is always remorseful and seeks forgiveness—and that will always be there for him. Under no circumstances would I ever withhold forgiveness or love from my son. Nor would God withhold it from me, His son. This is something that I, personally, need to reflect on more often.
Just as my boy is not the sum of his mistakes, nor am I the sum of mine. The same goes for all of us! And to be clear, that includes all of our sins. So that one big thing you did, the thing that eats you alive and keeps you up at night is not “who you are” because the entirety of our sins does not define us. Our sins are not our identity. But man, oh man, does it eat at us anyway! I’m sure that at one time or another, this is something we can all relate to. Why would this be? Is there a reason that we would hold onto these things? I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t want to feel this way about myself. So why? Perhaps there’s an enemy of ours who seeks some sort of gain from this pit of self-hatred and shame we often lock ourselves in. Or more accurately, we are losing something by remaining trapped in a pit of lies. That’s the key, I believe. Satan doesn’t gain anything, although he appears to. No, we lose something. That is how he maintains this facade of gain and power…by our losses.
This, I suppose, is why scripture says that he comes like a thief to steal, kill, and destroy. Because when our joy is stolen, the peace within us is killed, and our sense of self worth is destroyed, it is quite difficult to feel the love of God—and accepting His grace into our hearts can seem impossible. Why? Because we don’t feel worthy…in fact we’re convinced that we’re not worthy because how could we be? If God desires us to be close to Him and to live a life of joy and peace, how much more would Satan want the opposite for us! He likely knows he can’t beat God... But—and this is important: Satan can beat us. And this is, interestingly so, related to what I would wager is a man’s greatest fear: anguish and suffering falling upon his family. I know when it comes to pain or danger, I don’t particularly worry about what happens to me. But when it comes to my family—especially our children—this is where I worry most. I want to protect them at all costs. It would devastate me if something were to happen to them, and I think the worst thing for a parent would be seeing the lives of their children be ruined.
This is how God feels about us. It’s how he feels about you—yes, even you! Now, no one can wound God or make him worry in the ways that we do, but God does indeed care very much about our well-being. We are His children. And He loves us and sees us as worthy of being redeemed. He even took out a “life insurance” policy to protect us and guarantee victory for us in the end; he proclaimed us humans were worth protecting at all costs—the cost of His life. And if the God of the universe is willing to pay the highest price that could ever be paid for our salvation—the life of Jesus Christ— we would do well to recognize this great gift to us and rebuke the lies of the enemy that steal from us, kill us, and destroy us. As 2 Corinthians says of Jesus’ sacrifice: “One died for all, and therefore all died…that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” (NIV, vv. 14-15)
A friend recently told me that when we are struggling with previous sins and feel like we aren’t worthy, or we cannot possibly be a good person, what we are doing is looking to “fulfill a psychological expectation of a specific level of retribution;” meaning simply: We believe that because of what we’ve done or who we’ve been, we deserve a punishment that fits our crime. As he went on to say, this is a price that we cannot pay. No, we cannot properly atone for our sins on our own; this was the shortcoming of the law. The scales of justice would never balance in our favor. That is, until Christ came into this world and forever upset the balance of the scales, not only tipping them in our favor, but cementing the scales in our favor for all of time.
And so, when we wrestle with who we have been or what we have done, remember this: While justice does indeed demand a fitting punishment, a proper payment, a debt rendered…we need not pay a thing because our debt has already been paid—and it has been paid in full.