Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. — Psalm 32:1,2 KJV
Tropical Storm Isaac taught us many lessons. One lesson that I learned is that the more quality time spent in preparation lessens the time one has to spend in recovery.
Now, isn’t it strange that the length of time it takes for the storm to physically hit an area and pass is usually shorter than the time spent in clean-up and recovery after the storm? Storms last from a few minutes to a couple of hours but the cleanup and energy used to recover last for days, months and, sometimes, years.
And the emphasis we place on preparation for natural storms is similar to our treatment and concern for other kinds of storms, moral, political, emotional and, yes, spiritual. We don’t spend as much time talking about preparation for disease, disaster, disruption and disappointment as we do about how to achieve success.
This is, after all, a success-oriented culture. We like to focus on the positive, learning how to set goals and achieve them, learning Biblical principles of life and applying them, always growing and learning and making forward progress.
Sometimes we talk as if the Christian life is one long, uninterrupted, series of victories and blessings as we progressively become less and less sinful and more and more holy. No setbacks. No reversals. No accidents. No storms. No stumbles. No struggles. No falls. In this idealized view, once we overcome a problem it never again causes us any difficulty.
Once we gain victory over a sin, it never tempts us again. Once we learn a lesson, we never have to repeat it. Once we attain a certain “level” of spiritual maturity, we never again are subject to the mistakes and struggles and sins that we had to deal with before.
There are no such “levels” in the Christian life. Yes, there is such a thing as Christian maturity, there is such a thing as spiritual growth. But the road of our spiritual journey isn’t a freeway where you just sail along at 70 miles an hour.
So here’s the question: What do you do when you fail? Not “How do you avoid ever failing?” But “What do you do when you’ve done wrong?” What do you do when you’ve failed your family, your employer, yourself? What do you do when you’ve failed God?
I’m not talking about mistakes, or errors in judgment or misunderstandings. I’m not talking about the times when you try your best and don’t achieve your goal. I’m talking about sin. Moral failure. Wrongdoing. Unrighteousness. I’m talking about knowing the right thing to do and yet doing the opposite. I’m talking about lying, stealing, deceitfulness, selfishness, gossip, pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger and greed. I’m talking about the times when you come to your senses and realize that you’ve messed up royally. You’ve hurt people. You’ve violated your principles. You’ve intentionally disregarded the teachings of the Bible. You’ve acted in such a way as to bring dishonor to yourself and the Lord.
Well, David, the writer of Psalm 32, says recovery from such times begins when we know that the Lord cleanses our sins. Whether the sin is defiance, a defect, a distortion, or deception. The Lord cleanses the sin of the penitent. Then David infers that the sin can be conquered, in recovery, when we spend time in prayer, finding a powerful place to experience His presence, being assured of His perfect peace and extending to the Lord our perfect praise.
Yes, all sins have consequences but one can experience a full recovery. One may be left with bruises, pains and scars, the result of sins committed intentionally and unintentionally. But the Lord helps us make full recovery.
So Tropical Storm Isaac came through and left trees down, power interrupted and water standing in streets but it appears that we may have a full physical recovery.
I pray that each of us can experience full spiritual recovery. I can testify that I’m a grateful “recovering” sinner, saved by grace.
The Rev. Dr. Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net. Website: WTRMinistries.com