The question is asked, often in the midst of severe brokenness, when the situation seems completely hopeless: “How can God ever forgive me?”
My wife, Grace, and I spend our winters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with International Seafarers Ministry, affiliated with Action International Ministries, visiting the staff and crew of various cruise ships as they call into port for the day and sharing with them the love of God and the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. We bring Bibles in various languages, offering them to anyone who has need, and we spend time interacting with many who hunger for biblical words of encouragement.
Once, a young female crew member asked for a private meeting, insisting that no one must know of this meeting. I agreed, with the condition of including my wife. We met the following day, and the woman wasted no time in small talk. With overwhelming grief and emotion she confessed that due to a “casual encounter” with another crew member, she had become pregnant and, in a hastily made decision, aborted the child at a recent port of call.
A young man confessed to me, with similar grief, how he had previously been involved in a life of crime, drugs, gangs, and violence before eventually being arrested, charged, and convicted. He longed for a deeper relationship with the Lord.
Both people had the same question. Convicted of their past sin and consumed with the ensuing guilt, they experienced the same crushing concerns.
“After all I’ve done, after I’ve fallen so far, how can God ever accept me to be in his family? How can God ever forgive me?”
This is the issue for many. It isn’t about outright rejection of the gospel of salvation; it’s more about authentic doubt that salvation could ever be possible because of the weight of what they had done.
We will never be able to convince people with our human words that God forgives them. We need to show them from the Word of God. How amazing it is, then, that we can lead people through the Scriptures to help them in their search. We can show them Hebrews 11 and explain that all these “heroes of faith” had some very disturbing things in their pasts. We can show them Psalm 103, where it is written, “He does not treat us as our sins deserve. … As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (vs. 10, 12). Even the dying criminal crucified with Christ was granted salvation in his last earthly moments. Christ has paid the penalty for all of us who believe.
With genuine repentance comes God’s gracious forgiveness. We praise him for the opportunities to share this gospel with those crying out from the heart for such peace in their lives.