When we reflect on our moral failures, we may wonder what God thinks of us and fear that God may not accept us. Perhaps you can relate to some of the following remorseful statements of Tommy.
“Chaplain, I lost my faith in Vietnam. In fact, I thought God died in Vietnam. Now, I’d like to believe in God. I really want to have a relationship with God. Yet, I’m so afraid.”
“Of what are you afraid, Tommy?”
“That God will reject me. After Vietnam, I made a mess of my life. One huge mistake after another. No one, including God, could forgive me.”
“Tommy, so you think that your mistakes are greater than God’s power to forgive?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Well, I’ll share with you what someone once told me. I was once told that when I refuse to accept God’s forgiveness for my wrongdoing, I am usurping God’s position of pardoning sinful behaviors. When I refuse to believe that God desires to forgive me, I am really telling God that God’s loving mercy is not powerful enough to forgive me.”
“Wow. I never thought of how I am limiting God when I fear God is not able to forgive me and accept me.”
Over time, Tommy learned to see God as a loving, heavenly parent who longs to embrace us and assure us of complete forgiveness, mercy, and love when we seek it. In the Bible, we have a beautiful story of a waiting father. In this account, when the father saw his son returning home, his son surely didn’t look like he did when he left home. He didn’t smell like he did when he left home. When the father saw the son, he overcame the hurtful things that were said when the son left. He forgave the wasted resources. The father’s love prevailed through all the lonely, heartbroken days while the son was away. He rejoiced that his son was safe and home! When the son humbly approached his father’s home and the father saw him, the father ran swiftly in excitement to meet him and he kissed him repeatedly. Why all the excitement? Because the father had carried this boy in his heart since he left home. Now, he didn’t have to hold a memory, he could embrace the reality. His prayers had been answered, and he ran to meet his son. He hugged him and kissed him over and over again!
When we take a step of faith toward God, it is as if God responds by taking a great leap toward us. An ancient eastern proverb says: “Who draws near to me an inch, I will draw near to him a mile; and who so walks to meet me, I will leap to meet him!” James 4:8 puts it this way, “Come near to God, and he will come near to you.”