Our guilt and pain . . . can even become avenues of life and light and love.
That’s the statement with which I ended last week’s post. So how can guilt, pain, flaws, and brokeness lead to something good? Something beautiful?
I believe there are 2 strange and miraculous gifts we are given in and through our experiences of guilt, sin, pain, and failure. The first is the gift of conviction, and the second is the gift of a grace-story. And of course, we are given these gifts in and through the grace of Christ and his redeeming work on the Cross.
Read these 2 excerpts from my new Bible study Surrender Your Guilt and consider how God might be prompting you to receive and to respond to these gifts. (Excerpts are ©Kelli B. Trujillo, published by Wesleyan Publishing House, used with permission)
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Conviction vs. Condemnation
Jesus’ interaction with the woman caught in adultery (John 8) provides us with a powerful snapshot of the difference between conviction and condemnation. Did her sins deserve condemnation? Absolutely—and Jesus’ gracious actions toward her in no way “excused” the sin of adultery. But Jesus did not condemn her—the person she was. Instead, he spoke convicting truth into her life: “Go now and leave your life of sin” (8:11). Jesus directly acknowledged the sin and told her to leave it behind. Rather than the hopeless, dreary, ever-worsening, and (for this woman) even deadly future of condemnation, conviction offered her hope, clearly envisioning for her a new way of being. God’s gift of conviction helps us see that we can be set free and start anew!
Like Jesus’ interaction in this woman’s life, the Holy Spirit consistently speaks the same truth into our lives. The Holy Spirit dwells within us (John 14:17), reminds us of Scripture’s teachings (14:26), convicts us of sin (John 16:8), and guides us into godly living (16:13). As we listen to the Spirit in our lives—stirring our conscience when we’ve done wrong—we begin to see and receive conviction as the gift that it is!
God knows our sin—it isn’t hidden from him (Psalm 69:5). And so the Christian life isn’t meant to be one of hiding, denial, shame, weariness, or dark and discouraging secrets! Instead, we freely embrace the (sometimes painful) gift of conviction. We deal with our sin frankly and openly with God through the practice of confession. We seize hold of the grace-empowered opportunity to change.
Praise God! For he gives us regular opportunities to grow closer to him as we deal properly with sin and brokenness in our lives. Guilt need no longer drive us from him in shame and hiding (see Genesis 3). Instead, through the grace of the cross and the Spirit’s ongoing work in our lives, it can draw us near to God. Dwelling in grace means gladly receiving and even embracing the gift of conviction.
Consider: How do you normally respond to a “guilty conscience” or a sense of wrong in your life? Stuff it? Ignore it? Berate yourself? Let it drive you away from God?
How is God inviting you to start responding differently? To be more sensitive to the Spirit’s role of conviction in your life? To more freely and regularly practice confession? To rely on his power in a life characterized by humble repentance?
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Your Grace Story
“The great spiritual call of the Beloved Children of God is to pull their brokenness away from the shadow of the curse and put it under the light of the blessing,” wrote Henri Nouwen. When we pull our story out of the shadow and into the light of God, we realize the story isn’t really ours at all—it is his. It is God’s Great Big Grace-Story, told again and again, in unique and diverse ways, in and through each of our lives.
You don’t have to be a perfect, I’ve-got-it-all-together-now Christian to share your testimony. (That person doesn’t exist—A story like that is a bunch of bologna!) Sharing your testimony is about being an authentic, reliant-on-grace, sometimes-still-struggling human being. It’s about courageously and vulnerably inviting God to reach through your story to speak to those still waiting to hear the saving message of his grace.
It can be frightening to tell our real stories—to bring them out from behind a façade of perfection or emotional protection—but God can use even our past shame or ongoing hurts to draw others to him. As Nouwen wrote, “embracing [our brokenness] and bringing it into the light of the One who calls us the Beloved can make our brokenness shine like a diamond.”
How freely do you share your testimony with others? How open are you with words of honesty about God’s redemption in your brokenness? God’s healing for your wounds? God’s hope for your future?
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Explore God’s grace in greater depth by journeying through my Flourishing Faith study, Surrender Your Guilt. And be sure to stop by next week to read a powerful interview about authenticity and your grace story with Elisabeth Klein Corcoran.