If you’ve missed out on other parts of this five part series, you can begin reading it here.
Fifthly and finally, be patient with yourself.
Remember that the wounds you have received didn’t come about overnight, and the healing won’t take place overnight also. It takes time, perseverance, and determination.
“Have patience with all things,” urges St. Francis de Sales, “but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them—every day begin the task anew.”
Several years ago, as I stood in line for the sacrament of confession about to confess for the umpteenth time a sin I couldn’t seem to quit, I began to fear that God’s mercy was running out. I didn’t doubt that God would pardon a person who turned to him after a life of the most heinous sins imaginable. What I did doubt was that he would continue to forgive me. How many times have I said, “I will never do this again,” only to return to that sin like a dog to its vomit (2 Pet. 2:22).
At that moment, by God’s grace no doubt, I was reminded of the incident in the gospel of Matthew when Peter approached our Lord with a question:
“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21-22).
Now what our Lord did not mean was that Peter was to forgive his brother 490 times and then no more. No, rather, “seventy times seven” signified perfection and consistency. It then occurred to me, if God’s forgiveness is not like that—perfect and consistent—then Jesus was commanding Peter to act in a way that was contrary to the nature of God.
The truth is, God is infinite in all of his attributes. In fearing that God’s mercy was slowly evaporating, I was unintentionally making God in my image. If you have ever been tempted to doubt God’s mercy as I did, or if you’re tempted to do that now, please ingrain the following words from St. Claude de la Colombiere into your brain:
I glorify You in making known how good you are towards sinners, and that your mercy prevails over all malice, that nothing can destroy it, that no matter how many times or how shamefully we fall, or how criminally, a sinner need not be driven to despair of Your pardon...It is in vain that your enemy and mine sets new traps for me every day. He will make me lose everything else before the hope that I have in your mercy.
Regardless of where you have been or what you have done, be at peace. The same God who forgave Moses the murderer, Rahab the prostitute, David the adulterer, and Peter the denier will forgive you also. All you have to do is seek that forgiveness with a contrite heart. The only sin God won’t forgive is the one you will not ask forgiveness for.