Richard Exley Ministries


The Worst Thing I Ever Did
Posted on March 04, 2009

I recently read about a psychiatrist who asks each new client three questions. 1) What is the worst thing you have ever done? 2) What is the worst thing that ever happened to you? 3) What is the proudest moment of your life?

 If you are like me you would probably like to skip over the first two questions and go right to the third one. All of us like to remember our achievements, those bright and shining moments when we outdid ourselves. Yet, for many of us, even those highlights are tainted with the shame of past sins or the pain caused by some unspeakable tragedy. Many of us cannot accept our achievements because we are haunted with the thought that if others knew the whole truth about us they would know what a phony we are. Maybe that’s why that psychiatrist wants his clients to remember the worst. Maybe he realizes we can’t really accept our achievements until we have made peace with our past.

 If that’s the case, then the first step is to come to grips with our past – both the evil we have done and the evil we have suffered. No one likes to remember their sins but we must if we ever hope to be rid of them. Pretending they didn’t happen is futile.

 It may be helpful to remind ourselves that even the heroes of faith did not go through life unscathed. Normally we like to remember their proudest moments but it may be equally beneficial to recall their devastating sins. Not as a way of excusing the evil we have done, but as a way of reminding ourselves that God’s grace is always greater than our sins.

 So what was the worst thing Abraham ever did, or David, or Peter or Paul? As far as I’m concerned the worst thing Abraham ever did was to disinherit Ishmael (Gen. 21:8-11). Only God knows what psychological wounds the boy suffered as a result of his father’s rejection (see Gen 16:12). David was guilty of adultery and murder and his sins ripped his family apart. Peter denied the Lord three times, while Paul was a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent man.  If God could forgive them, if He could use them in-spite-of their blatant carnality, then there’s hope for us no matter what we have done (see 1 Tim. 1:13-16).

 So what is the worst thing you ever did? What is the one thing you hope no one ever finds out about you? When you have that evil deed fixed in your mind I want you to ask yourself if God can forgive you. David says, “[God] does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:10-12).

 Perhaps the worst thing I ever did was to destroy the faith of a young man whom I was discipling. Even now, nearly thirty years later, I can hardly bear to remember it. I have never been able to forget the hurt I saw in his face or the look of betrayal that clouded his eyes. He was in the wrong and I took him to task for it; not kindly in love, but in a mean-spirited way, out of anger and in public. Too late I realized what I had done and the words of Jesus burned me in my guilt. “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Lu 17:1-2).

 Sometime later I crawled to my journal and wrote:  “Sin has left me feeling like a stranger, unwelcome and unwanted. Alienation and estrangement are no longer just words, but a painful reality that leaves me wasted and wrung out. I don’t want to pray, I don’t want to come into God’s presence, I don’t want to face Him. I’m so ashamed. How could I be so sinful? I’m afraid. Has He grown tired of my repeated failures and my constant confession?

 “Still I come, for I cannot bear the pain and the burden of my sin alone. I know my sin has driven me from God, broken our relationship, built a wall, long and high. I have no excuses, no self-justifying logic. I cannot plead ignorance or extenuating circumstances. It is my fault. I’m to blame!

 “My self-inflicted punishment is more than I can bear and I pound upon the wall that separates us in frantic penitence, until my fists are bruised and bloody, but it does not budge. I try to scale the wall using the flimsy ladder of good works and self-righteousness, but my best efforts fall far short.

 “‘Lord, can You see me, sitting here in the deepening shadow of this imposing wall, bloody fists laying useless in my lap; splintered pieces of broken ladder scattered around me in mute testimony to my futile efforts at reconciliation?’

 “I weep in my fear and guilt. My bruised lips give birth to broken sobs of confession and that terrible wall begins to tremble. A stone moves, is shaken loose and comes tumbling down with a frightful racket, then another and another, until there is a cross-shaped hole in the wall.

 “A light shines through the hole, embarrassing me, and I withdraw deeper into the shadows. In the light I see a nail-scarred hand, reaching out to me, bidding me come. I want to grasp it but to do so I must let go of the rags that hide my naked soul. The conflict is nearly debilitating. The nail-scarred hand promises warmth and fellowship, but my rags are familiar. What if I drop them and reach for the hand only to have Him turn away in revulsion?

 “The darkness grows deeper, closes around me like a casket, chilling me with the touch of death. In desperation I drop my filthy garments and grasp the nail-scarred hand. It draws me toward the light and trembling I step through the cross-shaped hole in the wall. I emerge in the sunlight of His love and for just a moment I’m embarrassed. I attempt to cover my sinfulness only to discover that I’m clothed in the flowing garments of His forgiveness. My hideous scars are covered by His love.

 “Behind me there’s a horrible sound, like the rumbling of an earthquake.  I look back just in time to see that terrible wall come crashing down! I can hardly believe my eyes; that impregnable wall, which absorbed my fiercest attacks without a dent, destroyed by a nail-scarred hand and a cross-shaped opening.

 “I stare in hypnotic fascination for several seconds more, then His hand is upon my shoulder and up ahead I hear the sound of music and dancing. Someone is shouting, ‘The Father’s son is found, and He’s throwing a party to celebrate.’ I turn to my Guide, my Savior, and ask, ‘Am I invited?’

 He replies, ‘The celebration is in your honor. You are His son! You were lost but now you are found.’”

 I still grieve for the young man I wounded but I know I am forgiven and you can be too. No matter what you have done, God’s grace is greater than your sin! John said, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:8-9). In truth, the worst thing you can ever do is to refuse His grace and mercy.

 This is Richard Exley straight from the heart.

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Category: Life