As Christians, we are quick to offer the grace of our Lord to the world, but we often parcel it out meagerly to ourselves. To me, this is the most difficult part of forgiveness.
Consider King David, who committed adultery and then murdered the husband to cover up his offense. When his sin was exposed, David repented, and the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to tell him, “Your sin has been pardoned.” Even though David knew he was forgiven, he had lost his joy. He prayed, “Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones you have broken may rejoice. …Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me by your generous Spirit” (Psalm 51:8,12, NKJV).
Why was David so disturbed? This man had been justified before the Lord, and he had peace through God’s promise of forgiveness. It’s possible to have your sins blotted out of God’s ledgers but not out of your conscience. David wrote this psalm because he wanted his conscience to stop condemning him for his sins. David couldn’t forgive himself. Now he was enduring the penalty for holding onto unforgiveness, an unforgiveness directed toward himself, and that was a loss of joy. The joy of the Lord comes to us as a fruit of accepting his forgiveness.
I have been greatly impacted by the biography of Hudson Taylor. Taylor was one of the most effective missionaries in history, a godly man of prayer who established churches throughout China’s vast interior. Despite this, he ministered for years without joy. He was downcast over his struggles, agonizing over secret longings and thoughts of unbelief.
In 1869, Taylor experienced a revolutionary change. He saw that Christ had all he needed, yet none of his own tears or repenting could release those blessings in him. Taylor recognized there was only one way to Christ’s fullness: faith. Every promise God had made with man required faith. Taylor became determined to stir up his faith, yet even that effort proved vain. Finally, in his darkest hour, the Holy Spirit gave him a revelation that faith comes not by striving but by resting on the promises of God. That is the secret of tapping into all of Christ’s blessings.
Taylor forgave himself for the sins that Christ had said were already cast into the sea. Because he rested on God’s promises, he was able to become a joyous servant, continually casting all his cares on the Lord.