“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”
1 Peter 2:24
I don’t know what particular set of events, genetics, or personality make-up in me contribute, but I have been one who, in the past, was absolutely consumed with guilt. There were times when my guilt was appropriate. When I stole a piece of candy at the store on vacation when I was 6. When I lied or gossipped behind a friend’s back. The list of my infractions could go on. But there have been times, too, when I’ve turned from my sin through God’s power, asked forgiveness, yet did not feel forgiven at all. What does that mean? If Christ says that I am forgiven, then isn’t it so?
I came to accept Christ’s payment for my unrighteousness when I was 17. Understanding that there was nothing I could do to overcome my sinful nature in my own power, I fell head over heels in love with a Saviour who came to earth and said He would make it possible, and then did. Jesus, the Son of God, lived a sinless life, was fully God and fully man, able to empathize completely with our weakness and struggle, and the only one able to overcome through a perfect life and sacrificing that perfect life on behalf of every human who would receive the gift. This news absolutely changed my life. For a time, my faith seemed so solid. I genuinely felt forgiven when I asked for it. It seemed there was unlimited power to overcome the things in my life that weren’t pleasing to God. It was obvious, I was a new creation.
As time passed, the feelings became less powerful. And somehow I connected my faith with my feelings. I doubted that God was continuing to forgive and work in my life because I didn’t feel it. James says that if I say I believe, and my actions don’t show it, I don’t really believe and I’m lying to myself. (James 1&2) He didn’t seem to think feelings were as relevant as actions in connection with my beliefs.
I see this same paradigm, not just with faith, but with all of God’s gifts. For instance, Love. “Love is a verb. It is a choice, not a feeling.” Wise words that stuck with me and rang true in my core. After 9 years of marriage, I can say I agree wholeheartedly. When everything is not about me. When things do not go my way. When I do not feel romantic or have butterflies in my stomach. When I am hurt. Love is not a feeling. It is a choice. It’s interesting that psychology tells us that there is a circular behavioural pattern involving: thoughts–>feelings–>actions. That you can choose to change one of those and the others will automatically be effected. For me, dealing with the thoughts and actions arena has proven most helpful. And I love that God reminds us through Paul that, “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy–think on these things.” (phillipians 4:8) Word in, Word out. When I change my thoughts or actions, slowly but surely, my feelings line up. I cook dinner when I don’t feel like it because I want to love my family, warmth oozes in. Give a massage to an achy husband– love in action, a butterfly flutters. Suddenly, I am feeling love. With Service: give to someone in need, feel more blessed. It is the same with forgiveness; Fall short, fall on knees, fall on grace; get up with the knowledge that I am white as snow, eyes catch a glimpse of Him. Feel it or not, I’m forgiven because God said so. When I can’t choose the feeling, I can choose the thought, the action. It is a hard process, but so worth it. I had never read the Bible before I was 17. I have never hungered for anything like I do the Living Bread. I need it. My process has been messy. We’re all a bit broken. That is why He came. That is the good news! That when I don’t feel it, He is true. That when I am so infantile and have so much to learn, He is the Grace I need to get where He is leading. I can trust and believe by acting like it and thinking like it.
Word in, Word out. Change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
Have you heard the Good News of what Jesus has done for you? Yes, you! Jesus said, “For I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.” And when the “church people” of Jesus’ day saw him eating a meal with folks who were looked down upon in their community they questioned why He would eat with the “sinners”. Jesus responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” You see, Jesus had nothing to offer the folks who thought they had it all together. Even though they claimed to love God, follow all the rules, and even deprive themselves for ‘religious’ reasons, Jesus said they were “hypocrites”, “white washed tombs”, and “snakes”. So, if you find yourself among the “not enough on your own”, knowing there is an inner life that He sees and desires to make right, there is a place in His Kingdom for you. He is the Door. We can only enter through Him. His death on the cross is what we can accept for our righteousness. This is where we all begin the real life. You can take a step in faith by seeking more. For more on new life with Christ, read the Bible, begin to talk to God, (I know that sounds crazy, but He is real and He wants to have a relationship with you), find other Christ-followers.