As I’ve written before, my parents raised me in a Christian environment and took my brother, my sister, and me to church. But more than that, they lived Christianity.
My father shared the Good News of Jesus Christ with me many times as a child, and I can remember his reading from the Bible almost every night to us. He loved God and the stories of the Bible in a way that made me want to experience more of God myself. I knew that Dad saw something in Jesus Christ that made him want to put his whole heart into pursuing a relationship with Him.
From an early age, I was determined to see exactly what was so desirable about God that my father had found.
Around the age of nine, I was no longer content just to watch the way my father gave himself to loving and worshiping God. I started praying, really listening to sermons, and looking into the Bible for myself. I understood that God was completely perfect and holy, and that because of His justice He could not tolerate sin.
Then I saw the “bad news,” that I’d sinned in so many ways and was not able to clean up my own life well enough to ever approach God. I deserved death and hell. I really felt the emotional impact of this separation from God.
To answer an obvious question — no, it wasn’t sexual sin I felt guilty about. At nine, I had not yet felt any sexual urges. I was just concerned about my own selfishness, laziness, and rebellion against God.
I don’t know if I can fully communicate the depths of my inner turmoil — hopelessness, even — of my worst moments during that time. I was destined for hell, and I knew it. It was like my worst fears were certain to come true, and I could do nothing about it!
I cried and prayed with everything in me for God to help me, but I felt horrible, despairing. I was going through the Christian motions of life, but all I could think was: I am going to hell.
I was obsessed with this idea that I’d never have a right relationship with God.
The Bible and other Christians were telling me the “Good News” that Jesus Himself took my place, paying the full price for my sin so I could indeed have a right relationship with God. I thought that was possible, but I felt like it didn’t apply to me. I even prayed repeatedly for God to forgive me because of what Jesus had done, but I didn’t feel forgiven or believe I was forgiven.
Somehow, I knew there must be some kind of hope shining behind all these clouds of despair, but I couldn’t see it.
Later on when I started facing my struggle with same-sex attraction (SSA), it was good that I had already experienced this depth of despair. Because God did get me out of this terrible low point, I would later start realizing that He was strong enough to help me deal with the painful mess of my SSA.
Have you ever felt guilt, hopelessness, or despair at ever having a right relationship with God? What were these feelings like, and did you ever see them end?
* Photo courtesy Rabiem22, Creative Commons.