I had vulnerably shared at the Friday evening session of a women’s retreat how God delivered me from being a child abuser. During the Saturday afternoon free time, I enjoyed visiting privately with many of the women. One woman, Carrie, came into my room looking sheepish. I asked what was on her heart and she hesitantly began. 

“When I heard you share about being a child abuser, I knew you were the one I could talk to. You see, I’ve done something as bad as that and I haven’t been able to tell anyone. But when I heard you, I figured you were the one.” She glanced up at me quickly and then again averted her eyes.

Taking a deep breath, she whispered, “I had an affair with my husband’s best friend…” After pausing, she rushed on, “My husband has forgiven me but I keep feeling like I need to do something to earn God’s forgiveness. I tell him over and over again, ‘I’m sorry…’ but I never feel freedom from my sin’s shame.”

I expressed my appreciation for Carrie’s vulnerable sharing and we talked for a few minutes about how receiving God’s forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. Soon, it was as if a burden had been removed from her shoulders. She could look me straight in the eye and sat up taller. Confessing her sin to someone else seemed to relieve her of her burden. We prayed together and I took her through a process of asking God to forgive her and how she could believe He had. I sensed God was working an incredible healing in her heart.

After the evening session, she thrust a piece of paper into my hand. “Thanks!” she whispered.

Later in my room, I read what Carrie had written: “Kathy, after speaking with you, I went down to the river to pray. I told God that for the last time I was going to ask for His forgiveness, and then let it go. Then I did a sort of ceremony. I took the cup of tea I was drinking and said, ‘Jesus, this tea represents my sin and this river represents you.’ Then I threw the rest of my tea into the river. And you know what I noticed? The tea was immediately washed away! There wasn’t a trace of it anywhere! Isn’t Jesus wonderful?! Thank you for introducing me to Him–again.”

I was thrilled to read about Carrie’s new-found freedom from guilt. And the message of Isaiah 43:25 became even clearer to me: “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.” (NASB)

If you are holding yourself captive because you can’t believe God really wants to forgive you, God wants you to know that you can drop your sin into the river of His forgiveness and grace. His love is sufficient and He guarantees that the stain will be washed away. He doesn’t want you to carry any burden of guilt or shame. Jesus’ death on the cross for any and all of your sins is enough.