When I was a very young woman, I loved a young man and he loved me. We spent over three years together and adored one another. But like many young people, I didn’t have the necessary wisdom or emotional maturity to navigate a relationship. To make a very long story short, I hurt this young man and he met—and married—someone else.
Before he became acquainted with his new girlfriend, I went to him with a deeply remorseful heart and asked for forgiveness, but he didn’t grant it. For several years, I sought his favor repeatedly with an ocean of tears and apologies, but to no avail. My heart was desperately broken and for years after our breakup I doubted I would ever recover. I was certain nothing good could come from what happened. Condemnation, self-hatred, and rejection defined me. Sadly, because this young man didn’t forgive me, I didn’t forgive myself. Because he didn’t give me a second chance, I didn’t give myself a second chance either.
In my thirties, the sting of this broken relationship lessened, but it was still part of my story. I never felt closure and several failed relationships only added to my belief that I had permanently ruined my life and any chance of experiencing love.
Then, in my early forties, after years of praying for a mate and never feeling loved in any relationship like I had with this young man, I believed the lie that I would never marry because of my past. I thought, “I had one chance when I was young and I blew it. Now, I am reaping the consequences of the bad decision I made twenty years ago. I made my bed; now I have to lie in it.” In a moment of deep grief, I called a close friend and shared my thoughts. She said, “Shana, that’s not how God works.”
Later, after I married when I was forty-six, I realized I was missing something important about God’s grace: that it’s like an umbrella that covers the timeline of our lives. It’s like this:
From birth to death, God’s grace—or His unmerited favor—covers every moment, every circumstance, and even every sin. His covenantal sacrifice on the cross guarantees it. It doesn’t mean He approves of sin, but that His plans for your life are greater than your sin. His favor is bigger than your sin.
But this isn’t how I saw God’s grace. I saw the timeline of my life like this:
At the times when I had blown it, and particularly when I had sinned against my boyfriend, I believed there were holes in the umbrella of God’s grace. That’s why I thought, “I blew it. I made my bed; now I just have to suffer.” But just as my friend said, that’s not how God works. If it was, then grace wouldn’t be grace because grace is undeserved.
Granted, sometimes there are natural consequences for sin. For example, if you murder someone, you may end up in prison. If you are unfaithful to your mate, they may divorce you. And, if you hurt your boyfriend, he may not forgive you. But, please hear me again. . . God’s grace is greater than your sin.
Grace doesn’t guarantee that the natural consequences of what you did wrong will be wiped away in the natural, but it does guarantee that God’s favor will follow you all of your life. God is not a one-chance God. He doesn’t say, “Three strikes and you’re out.” His grace guarantees that He is continually working in your life to grow you and bless you like a good and patient father does with a child that he loves. His never-changing, always-present unmerited favor is guaranteed as a result of the covenant that He made when He died on the cross for you.
No matter what you have done in the past, and no matter how you are failing in the present, His unmerited favor never leaves. That means that you are never, ever stuck in the consequences of your sin without God’s redemption, without Him turning something bad into something beautiful and without Him working to bless you.
Maybe you’re asking, “But what about God’s discipline?” Granted, the Lord disciplines those He loves. But His discipline only lasts for a season. It doesn’t last forever. God doesn’t punish us just to put us in our place. He disciplines us to help us grow. His discipline is always done in love.
God’s grace, His unmerited favor, is like an umbrella that covers the timeline of your life. There aren’t ever any holes in the umbrella of God’s grace, no matter what you have done. Because of Jesus, you will never, ever lose God’s grace. If you could, it wouldn’t be grace at all, would it?
Please share a comment here and let me know how God’s grace—His unmerited favor—has followed you.