Have you ever felt like God turned his back on you because of your sin? Our failures, especially when they’re repeated, can leave us in a place of confusion. After we sin, we can begin to feel as if the light of God’s grace is no longer shining in our lives. Here are four things that God does when we have failed:
1. When we sin, God is advocating for us.
An advocate is someone who stands beside you and supports you. According to the apostle John, it’s precisely when we feel as though God has left us that he’s right there beside us!
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1)
When we sin, we have Christ in our corner as an advocate, pleading our case before the Father. This should give you comfort that God is for you and your repentance. If God heard the voice of Moses when he pleaded on behalf of the Israelites after they had committed idolatry by worshipping a golden calf (Exod. 32:11), will he not listen to the pleadings of his beloved Son on your behalf?
2. When we sin, God is praying for us.
The shame that accompanies sin sometimes makes it difficult for us to approach God in prayer. It feels as though “God has wrapped himself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through” (Lam. 3:44). Take comfort in the fact that there is One who is holy, innocent, undefiled, set apart from sinners, and exalted above the heavens, who always lives to make intercession for you (see Heb. 7:24–25). Above the iron clouds that seem impenetrable, Jesus stands praying. Through him you can approach God in prayer even after you have failed (Heb. 4:16); and since he lives to make intercession for you, even when you are silent, Jesus speaks (Rom. 8:34). And not only Jesus, but God the Spirit also intercedes on your behalf:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom. 8:26–27)
3. When we sin, God disciplines us.
At first this can sound frightening, but it is meant to remind you of how much God loves you.
My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. (Prov. 3:11–12)
The sense of heaviness that often accompanies our sin may very well be God’s fatherly hand leading us to repentance. David, the king of Israel, wrote of his experience prior to confessing his sin.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. (Ps. 32:3–4; italics added)
When David came to the point of confession, however, he could proclaim, “You forgave the iniquity of my sin!” (v. 5). When God disciplines you, it is for your good, so that you might share in his holiness (Heb. 12:10) and not be condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:32). Don’t let the discipline of God lead you to despair, but let it be another indication of his kindness over you.
4. When we sin, God offers to feed us.
One of the most heartbreaking stories in the Bible is the story of when Peter denied Jesus. Jesus had never turned his back on Peter, but during Jesus’ hour of greatest need, Peter abandoned him. When a crowd confronted Peter about whether he knew Jesus, “[Peter] began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know the man.’” Peter then remembered that Jesus had foretold his sin, and began to sob (see Matt. 26:74–75). While Jesus was dying, Peter hid in cowardice.
Maybe you have shared in those tears and experienced the pain of betraying the Lord who has never done you wrong. It’s in this moment that we expect Jesus to say, “I’ve had enough of you!” But what did Jesus say to Peter and the rest of the disciples who had deserted him after his resurrection? “Come and have breakfast” (John 21:12). The apostle John tells us that Jesus cooked a meal for his fickle followers and invited them to eat with him. After you have sinned, Jesus offers to feed you, too. When the church gathers to take communion, Jesus is setting a table for you to come and be nourished by Him once again—a table where you can experience his love and forgiveness anew.
If you have been tempted to believe that God is done with you because of your failures, consider your advocate, Jesus, who is praying for you and guides you with his pierced hands. Hear Jesus inviting you to breakfast: “Come, and eat!” The food he gives is not bacon and eggs but body and blood; his body and blood, given to nourish you even after you fall. May the knowledge that God is still for you give you the grace to get up and give thanks, even when you feel weighed down by your sin.
Adriel Sanchez is the pastor of North Park Presbyterian Church (PCA) in San Diego, California. He has a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies.