“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
This weekend I spent some time with a friend that I have not seen in a long time. 20 years to be exact. As we sat and listened to each other and shared our experiences from over the years we hadn’t seen each other we actually started to share even more of our “way back in the past” times – things we hadn’t ever shared with each other. As I listened to her stories I realized that every single one of us has a story, a big story! Some of us have more stories than others, some of us have harsher ones than others. But nevertheless, we all have them.
I also realized that we carry the burden of our pasts around like a backpack and some like a ball and chain. We can’t seem to let go of the guilt, shame and worry that the past brings and it becomes a burden. One thing I hear more and more is that, “God can’t mean He forgives even me – I have done such horrible and dreadful things!” It hurts my heart to hear. How do we forgive ourselves? Do we have the power and the ability to forgive ourselves? No, only God has the ability to forgive us but we have the ability through Him to let go of the pain and shame, that is our part – to walk out the freedom we have in God, to not be the victim or the martyr but walk in the peace of what God has done for us.
There is a process – a process of making peace with God. To come to Him, with hearts and hands open to receive all that He wants to give us. The peace to know that when He says that He forgives us and does not remember our sins anymore that He is telling the truth. You see, God cannot lie. He is truth, it’s not a personality trait, it’s a characteristic – it’s who He is. But again, does He mean, the worst of the worst He can forgive? How do we then receive what He has given us and walk in the freedom of His truth?
Ok, one step at a time. First, does He forgive the worst of the worst? God does not make a distinction in His word that any sin is worse than any other. He states that “No one follows after God and all have fallen short of the glory of God” – so, If He states that, then we are all in the same boat. If we have sinned once, which we all have (and He says that if we have even looked on someone with lust, we have sinned), and fall short – then, we have all missed the mark. All of us! Every single one of us! So His forgiveness is for every single one, His promises are for each and every heart who wants to know Him, wants to be forgiven, believes in Him, and trusts in His word that says, “There is no condemnation in Him at all!”
On a side note: On of the most profound things I ever found out about God is that “He sees”. My past was not fun, there were many hurts and abuses and abandonments and neglects that were very painful. I read a book about a man that had lost his daughter and she was captured by a pedophile and a murderer and he murdered the little girl. The book went on to explain a conversation between the dad and God and God said that He saw and was with the little girl at that time. I was blown away – you mean through my blackest and hardest times, God saw me? I then started to study the Bible and look at the names of God to make sure this was true. One of His characteristics of who He is, is “El Roi” the God who sees. Even though I was not sure I wanted to know that God saw all that happened to me, it brought me the deepest peace to know it. Strange, right? He was there, He saw what happened and He loves me. How do I know that for sure? Because I am here today to talk about it. You see, you know that you have walked through the fire and made it because you are here to share about it. Right? Yes! That’s how you know!
Carrying these burdens – So, we can carry these burdens around with us of guilt and shame of our past. Even the burdens of us hurting others deeply. It is hard to know that you have hurt someone deeply and don’t even know what to do about it. One of the ways is to make amends with that person. Wherever they are, write a letter, make a phone call and close up the transaction. Yes, close it. Take the initiative, don’t make excuses, call it what it is and say you are sorry.
These burdens are not for us to carry. We have all that we need to walk in freedom and forgiveness because God has given us these things. Our spirits just needs to tell our flesh and walk it out. We need to live inside out! Yes, live inside out. God is inside those of us if we are a follower of Jesus and have asked Him to forgive us and that we believe in Him (His virgin birth, death on the cross to pay for our bad ways, and His resurrection over death to give us a future and a hope) and want to follow after Him and obey Him and walk out His will for our lives. Then, and only then do we have all that we need to walk in this freedom. Does it mean that we will never feel bad about our past? No. But, it does mean that we can use God’s word over and over to remind us and wash over us the truths that we are forgiven and set free.
So get with God and tell Him your heart, take that burden off and set it down, walk away, and remember…we have peace and rest with God!
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43:25
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Psalm 86:4-5
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33