I Am Forgiven
Principle 7: Though we will fail, there is always grace and forgiveness for those in Christ.
I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more. Hebrews 8:12
The recovering addict often suffers from tremendous shame. Though his family members pleaded with him, though they prayed for God’s intervention, the addict has repeatedly burned their trust. He’s stolen, lied, and continued using, despite promises to the contrary. In his pursuit of the drug above all, he’s caused profound sorrow for those he’s supposed to love the most.
In his sobriety then, the addict begins to understand the depth of his betrayal. In understanding, the shame can be overwhelming. What have I done? There is no immediate fix to this. Some will insist that the addict must forgive himself. This though, doesn’t begin to fix any of the disasters he’s created.
When in this situation, I became obsessed with trying to repair my circumstances and broken relationships. My counselor told me the only thing I could do to fix everything else, was to first work on my sobriety. She insisted that I was trying to solve the wrong problems. I required transformation before I could repair anything else.
Today’s passage offers what the addict most needs to address his shame. The addict can’t immediately fix all the hurt he’s done, but he can be forgiven and restored to the one relationship he needs above all. In God, he finds the freedom to follow something beyond himself. This is the beginning of change and it is the only way to address all of his other life problems.
This was not difficult for me to accept intellectually. I knew God forgave me. It was tremendously difficult to keep my mind there though as I was consumed with being forgiven by those I’d hurt. I simply couldn’t fix those things at that point though. What I needed, was to cling to God’s forgiveness, accepting that my relationship with him was the most important thing about me.
Going forward in recovery, we must keep this perspective. We haven’t yet been made perfect. We will still fail. The temptation is, that in our failures, we allow our shame to again overthrow us. I’ve failed again. I’m hopeless. I might as well just quit trying. Once the bag of chips is opened, it’s natural to just finish it.
To this, we must insist upon seeing the greater reality. We’re still forgiven. God still loves us, and we aren’t beyond redemption. If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ (1 John 2:1). Christ died not only for our past sins, but for our future failures. We do not lose our relationship with God when we fall. He still loves us, and he’s still the answer to our brokenness. In Christ, we find forgiveness, the only adequate answer to our shame and failures.
Author’s Note: I’m currently writing through the principles that have helped me understand my condition as a Christian who still has very real struggles with my destructive appetites. I’ll include the full list here for reference.
- God created us to live in communion with Him, but man’s sin fractured that communion.
- We all struggle with flaws in our corrupt flesh nature, though it has different manifestations in all of us.
- When we come faith in Jesus Christ, we are born again into a new, perfect spirit life and restored to communion with God, but we still carry this gift in a flawed flesh life.
- Though God may graciously deliver us from some thorns of the flesh, some battles are lifelong, requiring the ongoing work of denying self and following Christ.
- We may always feel the gravity of the flesh, but we are not to live enslaved to it. We are meant to know and experience freedom daily in Christ.
- The Christian life (discipleship) is a continual process of abandoning (crucifying) the flesh nature and following Christ.
- Though we will fail, there is always grace and forgiveness for those who believe in Christ.
- Though we are forgiven, we are not to use grace as an excuse to continue in our destruction.
- God’s eternal forgiveness does not absolve us from practical, earthly responsibilities and/or consequences.
- As we all labor, we must be continually honest about our battles. It is not helpful to construct a facade of perfection. In fact, such a facade is detrimental to recovery, sabotaging it.
- We should regularly meet together with other believers with the purpose of spurring each other on to the pursuit of God.
- God provides the only adequate replacement for our pursuit of self. This is core to recovery and identity. Though we try to find purpose, joy and fulfillment in self, we find the answer to our deepest needs only in God.
- Transformation (sanctification) is not an automatic process. It is our responsibility to daily do whatever it takes to deny self and follow Christ. The Holy Spirit always does his part. We must do ours.
- God allows the daily battles and honest struggles of recovery to deepen our awareness of our constant need for God.
- Our eternal identity as Christians is in our new life in Christ. Acknowledging our persistent flesh life and its battles does not deny our position in Christ bur rightly identifies the forgiveness and power that alone can be found in Christ as we daily experience life through Him.
- God saves us from ourselves. We must tell others what He has done for us.