Recently, I wrote of a very dark season in my life. I had been a Christian for decades, and had served in leadership in various ministries and churches. But all that time, I carried unhealed hurt that, in my self-sufficiency, I felt I could ignore. I also never addressed my subtle but persistent unbelief in God’s goodness and love for me personally. I was always able to connect with His heart for others—especially the innocent and neglected—but somehow it did not transfer over to an ongoing encounter of His love and favor in my personal experience.
I think many believers can relate. We know that the Lord loves us—at least, we give lip service to that truth. But in the deepest recesses of our souls, when we lie awake in the middle of the night, we find ourselves appalled and frightened by the darkness we feel is still within us.
Guilt can be a merciless and unmovable monster, screeching condemnation and clawing at our sensitive conscience. We feel overwhelmed and ashamed by weakness and failure. If we fail to recognize the incalculable pardon and mercy we have received from Jesus’ sacrifice, we will cower before its onslaught, aghast at the thought that God must be angry and disgusted with us, and frantic with fear that other people might discover what we are really like. Like someone in the bulls-eye of a tornado’s path, we are whirled ruthlessly in a maelstrom of questions:
Why aren’t I obeying/praying/reading Scripture/ministering as I should?
Why don’t I love God more?
Why do I keep sinning the way I do?
Will I ever stop failing? Has the Lord really forgiven me…….?
A few mornings ago as I prayed, my thoughts stumbled upon that ugly path as I began to recall many instances of dreadful failure from my “dark night of the soul.” I had been forgiven by God and man, but I still found myself sick at heart with regret about the wasted years of sin and unfaithfulness. I felt I personified Jeremiah’s words: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked….(Jeremiah 17:9). Surely my actions had proven that to everyone.
Several months ago, the Holy Spirit powerfully spoke to me the promise of Joel 2:25: I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust. Although I believe the promise, as I prayed it didn’t seem to have much reality in light of the parade of wretchedness reminding me of the incredible defeat in my life. I felt disqualified from any promise or fullness of what my life could have been as I knelt, ashamed and dejected.
Suddenly, I felt as if I was transported to the feet of Jesus, much like the woman caught in adultery in John chapter eight. I sensed Jesus asking me: “Where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
In an instant I realized the gracious truth of Romans 8:1 (There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus!) as I lifted my head and replied: “No one, Lord.”
He said “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
As His words washed over me, I was aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit and I was conscious of the awesome I AM overseeing the timeline of my life. I couldn’t see the details—my life did not flash before me—but somehow I knew at that moment HE examined it all, reviewing and sifting all the evidence.
And in that awareness, I heard His quiet, powerful voice: “Son, nothing is wasted.”
I was overcome as I realized that even in my weakest, darkest moments, He understood, with utter perfection, every desire and motivation of my heart. He was intimately aware of every howl of pain when I screamed and cursed in anger instead of crying out in humble brokenness. He saw every wicked craving that sprouted and flourished like twisted vines, choking my true desire to be satisfied in Him. He recognized that even as I attempted to numb myself so I would not feel the inferno of torment and despair that I carried because of my sin, I was crying silently with desperate hope that I might find a place of true repentance.
God Himself presides as Refiner’s Fire (Malachi 3) over each moment of our existence. As we humble ourselves in the fear of the Lord, He hears us and writes in His book of remembrance. He declares over us that we are His. In His mercy He reaches into our lives and extracts the precious from the worthless (Jeremiah 15:19).
You may feel that you have failed, perhaps wretchedly and repeatedly, as I did. But the Father has a different viewpoint. You may believe you have been unfaithful, you have sinned, you have spurned His love and grace, you have done things you should not have, you have not done what you ought. But God doesn’t look at outward appearances; He reads the heart. He is able to discern and nurture the true and precious promise of life He has placed within you. He is able to take even your failures and your weaknesses and extract what is precious.
Do not be afraid to run to your Father, who knows you intimately and perfectly (Psalm 139).
If I should shrink back from the light
So I can sink into the dark
If I take cover and I close my eyes
Even then You would see my heart
You’d cut through all my pain and rage
The darkness is not dark to You
The night’s as bright as day …
Time cannot contain You
You fill eternity
Sin can never stain You
And death has lost its sting
And I cannot explain the way You came to love me
Except to say that nothing is beyond You …
(Rich Mullins, “Nothing is Beyond You”)
Even though you may only see worthlessness and sin from the failures of your life, He perceives every pure seed of love and faithfulness. He has not forgotten every wavering resolution to obey Him. He remembers it all, and from the ashes of failure He extracts what is precious, purifies it, and creates radiant jewels for His eternal glory within you.
Nothing of value, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is forgotten.
Nothing is wasted.