I was completely cured of the illness that had plagued me for so many years. I no longer felt like a victim. I was a survivor! I was a conqueror! I had faced my demons and defeated them.
Wait, let me be honest…I really can’t take any of the credit.
Let me tell you my story
On Ash Wednesday, 2009, I sat in a church pew all alone. My children were either in the nursery or with their Daddy at home, I can’t remember exactly. I had never been to an Ash Wednesday service and I suppose I was too excited to really take in any of the details.
What I do remember is one statement from the pastor. She said something like this,
“don’t give up something for Lent just so you can brag to people about your struggle. Lent is a time for you to give up those things that keep you awake at night, the secrets held within your heart that only God knows about. Give up the ugliest part of you. Give it to God and He will wash away your sin.”
My life-long experience with so-called “Christians” was that they bragged about giving up Coca Cola, chocolate chip cookies, donuts, television, or whatever other superficial vice they thought was kinda bad. They ate fish every Friday and it always seemed like a competition to see who could hold out the longest. Every person I knew failed in their fasting…usually within the first week.
See, I was a new Christian. I had just gotten baptized the year before and I was excited to experience Lent and join in.
But when I heard this message, it rocked my world. I never knew that I could give up the ugliest parts of me and let God handle them. But it kinda made sense. After all, he’s big enough, right?
As I sat in that church pew, I prayed hard.
There was so much sin in my life.
I regretted so much.
I felt so wicked.
Which sin was I going to pick?
I could have written them down, put ’em in a hat and drawn one, but God had a better idea. He shared a vision with me of a sin that I had struggled with for many years. As a matter of fact, it was a struggle I was dealing with at that very moment.
It was a deep-seeded sin that I felt powerless against.
I was convicted, though. I knew God was going to perform a miracle in me. I knew he was going to release me from my shackles and dance with me in victory!
But the 40-day journey was not easy.
Imagine trying to remove a red wine stain from white carpet. If the stain is left to sit and dry, removing it becomes difficult. Then imagine spilling more wine on the same spot over and over again and just simply ignoring the spot. The longer a stain sits, the deeper it becomes embedded. You may be able to ignore it, but one day someone will point it out to you and you’ll have to face it.
I didn’t want to face this sin publicly.
I didn’t want anyone to rub my face in it and tell me how horrible it was.
And so, I prayed. Boy, did I pray…
I asked God to carry my burden.
I begged Him to cleanse my heart and my mind.
I had to acknowledge my struggle almost daily. I had to review my life and my past transgressions and really come clean – admit to God that I was a sinner, that I was completely powerless against this enemy and the only way I was going to overcome it was by His strength and because of His mercy.
That is a hard thing to admit when you’re prideful. It’s even harder to admit when the world around you dismisses your sin as not-so-bad.
Although I’m not ready to disclose my sin, I know you know what I mean. I know you have felt the same. I know, because you’re human!
But there is hope!
I trusted God to take away my sin. But you know what? He had already done it! God has forgiven me of all of my sins – and He forgives you for all of your sins – because Jesus willingly laid down his life as your sacrifice.
The only work you have to do is to trust Jesus. Trust him to break the shackles that you hold yourself in. Because…it isn’t that God is holding you captive – you are holding yourself captive!
So, my prayer for anyone who reads this is that you will release yourself from the prison of your sins. Give them to God. Let him carry the burden that weighs so heavily on your heart and mind.
Trust in the sacrifice of Jesus. Thank him for what he did to take away your sins.
Then walk tall, my friend. You are loved! You are forgiven! You are free!