My parents divorced when I was very young—nevertheless, hostility and harsh words plagued our home long after divorce papers were signed. I felt rejected and betrayed which resulted in anger and desperation. Inside our home, I lashed out at my brother and mother. Outside, I put on a façade of well-being and lied.
I told so many lies, even I couldn’t keep track of the truth. My lies weighed heavily on me. I was ashamed, anxious, and guilt-ridden. Defeated.
Friends in high school introduced me to Jesus Christ. I rarely went to church as a child but believed in God and even considered myself a Christian. These friends confronted me with a different kind of relationship with God—a genuine relationship.
As I accepted their invitations to youth gatherings and retreats, ironically, I felt farther from God. Their friendship made me feel false. If they only knew what a liar I was, I thought, they would reject me. But I knew I needed them—needed something they had.
It was at a retreat I heard the voice of Jesus for the first time. A youth pastor read these verses from I John 4:
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (NIV)
It was then I heard Jesus say in my head/heart, “I love you, Nicole. I died for you. I accept you. Receive my love.” Jesus’ love washed over me—it was a warm rush, a relief.
That was over forty years ago. Jesus forgave me once and for all but sin has strongholds and I still fall into temptation. As I grow in my understanding of Who God is—what Jesus did on my behalf—I am humbled. I confess my sin and repent, again and again. God is gentle, loving, and merciful. He doesn’t condemn. (Romans 8:1) His love makes me want to love others the same way.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. I John 4 (NIV)
My experience is not unique. God, in Jesus Christ, extends a lifeline to us all. He paid the price for all of us on the cross. Won’t you go to him today and lay your burden of sin at his feet?
He took the burden at the cross and in exchange extends freedom and life with God. I pray you will. Then you will sing with me—
“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. Psalm 13:5-6 (NIV)