Guilt sucks the life out of our souls. Grace restores it. No one had more reason to feel the burden of guilt than did the apostle Paul. He had orchestrated the deaths and prison times for Christians—an ancient version of a terrorist. Yet, Paul gave his guilt to Jesus, period. He surrendered it to Jesus! As a result he could write, “I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us.” Philip 3:13,14 (TLB).
What would the apostle say to the guilt-ridden? Simply this:
It is not easy to let things go when people do things that hurt us or someone we love. Although for many of us, it is harder to forgive ourselves even more. I like what Max Lucado said about the Apostle Paul because I can identify with that same feeling. Paul even called himself, “the chief sinner” (1Timothy 1:15) to his critics and fans. I believe Paul walked around a lot feeling some shame for putting people into prison and even giving permission to kill Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Like everything in life, “time” seems to heal wounds even if the scars remain.
In the third grade I was in the mood for bacon. I was home with my brothers and older sister while my parents were working. So I got into the refrigerator, got out the bacon, put it on a plate, and reached as high as I could to open the door to the microwave. (I had seen my family members do it a hundred times before.) I plugged in the numbers, 9-0-0 and hit start. I waited what seemed for eternity. When I heard the magical noise that my food was ready, I reached as high as I could again. Got on to my tippy-toes, used my two little hands to get the plate, and dumped grease all over my body and left arm. I was screaming and crying and running around like a crazy boy. I was in pain! Today, I am reminded of that tragic event every time I take off my shirt because the scar is really ugly. As a lifeguard and swim instructor, I rarely wanted to take off my shirt because it was not much of a “girl-magnet.” I was insecure with the scar. I had stories I made up about the scar. I even prayed that somehow the scar would shrink down to nothing as if nothing ever happened. Today it is just a scar. It does not hurt anymore. I am not really insecure about it because I have a wife who does not care. (Being overweight has now replaced the scar.) Matter of fact, until I wrote this devotional, I have not thought much of it. No one ever asks to see my body thank goodness. I rarely ever swim in a pool for it to be noticed and if I did, I would not care.
It is amazing how time can heal all wounds. It is amazing how Saul can change his name to Paul and become the “chief writer” of the Bible. It is amazing we all have sins and scars that may still linger, but we can turn it around as a testimony. Wake up today with a new start. Dust your boots off. Make some bacon again. Please never forget,
“Rejoice in the Lord’s mercy. Trust in his ability to forgive. Cast yourself upon the grace of Christ and Christ alone!”
When you do this, you can truly live!