Peter was a large, muscular man who served in the Vietnam War. His appearance was intimidating; yet, he was a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He faithfully attended church. He served others and was generous with his time, skills, and finances. He was the ideal Christian man except for one thing: he never really appeared to be happy. He wasn’t grumpy or mean. He was soft spoken and displayed a servant’s heart. He just didn’t smile very much. He gave no hint of joy. He was the strong, silent type who gave the impression of “I’ll help you, but don’t mess with me.” He was an anomaly.
I was a little anxious about meeting with him. He had scheduled an appointment over the phone and gave no hint about what he wanted to discuss. Shortly after entering my office, he melted into a chair and began to cry. I said very little as he shared his story with me.
While in Vietnam, Peter was a successful soldier. He was so good at his particular set of combat skills that he was chosen to be a part of a special CIA team that performed secret ops all over southeast Asia. He did not give orders. He took them and performed them. I will never forget him looking at me with tears streaming down his face, and saying, “God can never love me…I’ve done bad things.” Until this moment, I would have never guessed he was struggling with the truth that God loved him.
Seeking clarification I asked him, “Why do you think God does not love you?” He gruffly replied, “Because of the things I’ve done.”
I then asked, “Have you asked God to forgive you?” “Of course!” His gaze giving a hint of frustration. “So, you don’t believe God has forgiven you and that’s why you question His ability to love you?” I was intentionally pressing him. “Exactly,” he said, with a little fire in his eyes.
We spent the next several minutes talking about war, the evil man is capable of, and the blood he felt was on his hands. As we talked, I shared God’s Word and watched God’s Spirit chip away at the lies he had come to believe about the Heavenly Father. The truth began to set him free. It came full circle when he read the first two verses of Psalm 32.
Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
Instantly, something happened. It is hard to describe, but he changed in front of me. It was not a physical miracle. It was an emotional one that could be seen on his face. I did not know what the change was in that moment, but the next time I saw him I immediately recognized it. He had joy.
All of us have sinned and carry the guilt of our actions. Fortunately, most of us do not have the regrets Peter had, but we do have the same joyless, religious life. It doesn’t have to be that way. When we turn to Christ and accept the grace He offers from the Cross, four things happen:
God’s love for the repentant sinner is truly great and amazing! Let the joy of forgiveness fill your heart. It all starts with being honest about your sin. Tell God all about it.
Here is a song I’ve found encouraging. I pray it encourages you.