“I want to believe it, but I can’t.”
It wasn’t the first time Kate had uttered those words (or similar words) in the small group that met in her living room. We had grown accustomed to Kate’s internal battle, and the verse we were talking about had set her spinning again: “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1). We were discussing the implications of that freedom and how God was pleased with her because of Jesus.
“God must be at least a little bit disappointed with me.”
Disappointment is what she had come to expect. Dads can do that to a little girl, as can teachers, coaches, spouses, and schoolyard bullies. When a person is told often enough that she is worthless, it becomes hard to disagree. The older that person gets, the more this external valuation becomes internally validated. Then along comes the ultimate truth of Scripture, which says encouraging things such as, “None is righteous, no, not one … All have turned aside; together they have become worthless” (Rom. 3:10, 12).
When I first met Kate, she had synthesized this scriptural Truth (with a capital T) with the experiential truth (with a decidedly lowercase t) of her upbringing into a toxic spiritual reality. All she knew was that she was in need of saving. That’s when she met Jesus. She placed her faith in Him and believed that one day she would be with Him forever, eternally free. Tragically the reality of her eternal salvation didn’t connect her with here and now. In this place, all she felt was His disapproving frown.
Kate believed in Jesus, and she was as devoted as they come. She met a wonderful Christian man and become an equally wonderful Christian wife and mom. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t shake this nagging feeling that God was tallying up her missteps, tsk-tsking every time she slipped up. Eternal forgiveness didn’t mean she was let off the hook today. Every day Kate walked around with heavy chains around her soul, and she’s not the only one.
Chains have become so much a part of our daily existence that we don’t even know that we are weighed down.