Laying Aside “Cherished” Sins

Recently I’ve been reading a book by Bruce Demarest, entitled, “Stages of the Soul”. He states, “Cherished sins block the flow of God’s love and conflict the heart with anxiety and remorse.”

Those words - “cherished sins” – grabbed my attention. Could I actually be guilty of “cherishing” certain sins? (Not that I felt good about the possibility, but I did need to consider whether it might be true of me.) Through our journey of this past couple of years - and particularly after our arrival in Oregon - I believe I have cherished some sins; wrapping them around me like a cloak. I’ve enveloped myself in distress and spiritual despair, due to a lack of trust in Him. It’s amazing to me that I could cling so strongly to behaviors that are so destructive.

Somehow, by fighting God for control, I thought I could shorten my journey and make it easier. Have my efforts paid off? Have I gained any ground by desperately clinging to my cherished sins? Of course not. My actions have only made my heart more anxious and my distress more severe.

C.S. Lewis said, “God cannot bless us unless He has us. When we try to keep within us an area that is our own, we try to keep an area of death.”

Thankfully, God has used this challenging season in my life to help me spiritually grow and recognize more deeply my need for Him. These months of transition have given me the vital and necessary opportunity to identify my “cherished” sins more clearly. As I lay them aside, the Lord graciously invites me into deeper relationship with Him.

Several years ago I heard a song recorded by Annie Barbour. These words reflect what God has done…and is continuing to do…in my heart and soul.

For My desire is to heal your heart
In ways you can and cannot see
That you might know the priceless child you are
That you might know Me

-      Julie

God’s Love

During one of my recent sessions of schooling (in the mountains near Palm Springs, CA), we were asked, “Would we work so hard to prove ourselves if we deeply believed…if we really and truly believed… that God loved us?”

I pondered that question for a few days and thought it might be helpful to look in the Scriptures to see what God says about His love for us. As I read and pondered many of these Scriptures, the Heavenly Father helped me to see that my understanding of His love was influenced – in both good and bad ways - by my earthly father’s love.

I know that God is different than those fathers who are uncaring, abusive or neglectful. My dad was none of those things. He was good to me; sweet and caring. I miss him terribly, even though he’s been gone more than 25 years. But because he grew up as the youngest of 12 children, with a father who was firm and had strict rules (to the point of harshness at times), my father saw “discipline” as damaging. So he was gentle…very gentle. Particularly with me. As his youngest child and only daughter, I received a great deal of grace, because my father wanted my world to be easy and comfortable.

But as I got older, the world flowed into my life, despite his protection. He had hepatitis when I was in junior high, a heart attack when I was in high school, and many other adverse experiences. The very protection he wanted for me; the protection he provided to me as a child; became an impossibility as I grew older and as he grew more frail.

My parents were wonderful people and I will always be indebted to them for their great love and encouragement of me. Unfortunately, though, I concluded that God would love me in exactly the same way as my parents; that His love always would be like their love.

And I’ve lived with this improper view of God’s love for most of my life.

Needless to say, recognizing that I had a distorted perspective of God’s love was an eye-opening experience for me. I’ve read the Bible, I’ve faced discipline from God before, and I’ve certainly had difficult seasons in life. But the stress of this current season of transition, combined with the length of God’s seeming silence, caused me to lose my spiritual footing. I felt as if He had abandoned me. After all, if He really loved me, wasn’t He supposed to protect me from pain and hardship? But He wasn’t protecting me…in fact, He sent us to Oregon in the most difficult time of year (gray days, lots of rain) and then He has allowed delay on several fronts (finding a job, sale of our house) that actually has made life more difficult.

So during the end of my trip to California, and continuing during these recent days, I’ve been meditating on a number of Scriptures that provide a better understanding of God’s never-ending love for me.

Psalm 86:13 – For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.

Psalm 103:2-5 – Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 119:76 – May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.

Psalm 145:8 – The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

Isaiah 38:17 – Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.

Eph. 3:16-19 – I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Heb. 12:5-7a – And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?

Heb. 12:10 – They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.

I John 3:1a – See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

I John 4:9 – 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.

I am thankful for all that God is teaching me; for the ways He is giving me a better understanding of who He is; for His incredible gift of love to me. And I am grateful to be learning that His love is higher and wider and deeper and better than the wonderful love I received from my Mom and Dad.

I still don’t have answers for many of the questions that face me today, but I do have assurance – great assurance – that God is at work. That He has a plan. And that I am His well-loved child.

- Julie