I’ve got a fallen pastor friend that I’ve grown close to. I don’t think he reads my blog, but I hope he does. He has gone through some of the same issues I went through three and a half years ago when I fell from ministry when I committed adultery.
Him: “I know you’ll be able to identify with me on this. At least I think you will. You’re the only one who seems to understand what I’m going through.”
Me: “Go for it.”
Him: “Since my wife and I divorced a while back, I’ve been seeing someone. Everything is going great, you know? I feel like despite everything, life is good. I couldn’t work things out with my wife. We tried, but we moved on. I have been working things out with God. I’m cautiously seeing this woman. I’m part of a church and that’s going well. But…”
Me: “Let me guess. You feel like the bottom is about to drop out because you don’t think you should be happy.”
Him: “How did you know?”
Me: “You said you thought I’d understand because I’d been there before.”
Him: “That’s right. It’s been a long road and I know I have a long way to go still. I don’t believe in karma, but I can’t put my finger on what it is. It’s like I’m waiting on the other shoe to drop. It’s like I don’t deserve to be happy after what I’ve put everyone else through. Like I don’t deserve to feel this good. It’s almost like God is out there waiting to punish me or put me down the second things really start going.”
Me: “I know exactly what you feel. But I need you to do something. Take a deep breath for a moment and listen. What you’re feeling is normal. But what you’re feeling comes from several places.
“First, guilt. I know you’re still working things out with God. You have a long way to go with the sin you committed. God is still working on you and I know He’s forgiven you, but you still have to reconcile that to yourself. You still have a lot of guilt stored up. You don’t feel like you deserve anything good after you cheated on your wife and hurt an entire congregation, right?”
Me: “Next, your view of God has suffered a little. In fact, it may not have ever been exactly right. Mine never was. A lot of people see God as some dude up in heaven ready to strike us down the second we get a little bit happy. Worse, we see him as a cosmic killjoy.
“I’ve told you before about how much John 8 and the story of the woman caught in adultery means to me. She was taken to Jesus and they were ready to stone her. Jesus sent them away and He did not judge her. What did He say to her after that? ‘Is anyone left to condemn you?’ I would ask you the same question, friend. If you’ve reconciled to God, is anyone left to condemn you?
Me: “No one can stand as your judge if you are forgiven by the judge of all mankind. Only God can know that. And what does Jesus say next to her? ‘Then go and sin no more.’ Listen, Christ sees our flaws, took those sins and sacrificed Himself for them. We are, indeed, awful, wretched people. But He loves us. And thank God for that. But we are free from those sins when we are forgiven, right?”
Him: “Right. We are, but it’s difficult.”
Me: “Sure it is. Both me and my wife Allison still, at times, feel like we don’t deserve anything good in life. After we committed adultery, after I hurt an entire church, hurt my ex-wife, disappointed a community, hurt my family, I didn’t feel like I ever deserved to be happy again. And still those feelings come up once and again. But Christ doesn’t withhold His blessings from me. Do I still suffer consequences because of my sin? Sure. But I have been made pure by Christ and He no longer holds my sin against me.”
Him: “You’re right, but it’s still a struggle for me.”
Me: “And it will be. It should be. It takes time. Broken relationships with people take a long time to heal. Work on your relationship with God. Live a life pleasing to Him. Work on the relationships you have that are good. When you have a chance to make things right with people, do it. Say kind words to those you have hurt. Let them see the progress Christ is making in your soul. It happens, just not overnight.”
Him: “It does take time. Thank you.”
Me: “We can sin in a moment, but coming back from it can take a very long time. But Christ is worth it. And I promise you, He wants us to be happy in His will and the life He has for us. Enjoy the life before you. Don’t spend time worrying about the sin behind you that He has forgiven. Mend those broken relationships when you can. But embrace the gracious future.”
But then again, there’s always a dissenting opinion: