“My new job improved our family’s standard of living, but it also led me into all sorts of questionable activities. I began to celebrate holidays, to participate in political events, and even to attend church. I was inactive as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for 40 years. The more time that went by, the more I thought I was beyond Jehovah’s forgiveness. I felt that I couldn’t forgive myself. After all, I knew the truth before I headed down the wrong path.”—Martha.
GUILT can be a crushing burden. “My errors loom over my head,” King David wrote. “Like a heavy burden, they are too much for me to bear.” (Psalm 38:4) Some Christians have become overwhelmed by excessive sadness, convinced that Jehovah could never forgive them. (2 Corinthians 2:7) Is that conclusion right? Even if you have committed grievous sins, are you so far removed from Jehovah that he will never forgive you? No, you are not!
“Let Us Set Matters Straight Between Us”
Jehovah does not abandon repentant sinners. In fact, he reaches out to them! In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus compared Jehovah to a loving father whose son abandoned his family and pursued a debauched life. In time, the son decided to return home. “While [the son] was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was moved with pity, and he ran and embraced him and tenderly kissed him.” (Luke 15:11-20) Do you wish to draw closer to Jehovah but feel that you are “still a long way off” from him? Like the father in Jesus’ illustration, Jehovah is moved with tender compassion for you. He is eager to welcome you back.
But what if you believe that your sins are too serious or too numerous for Jehovah to forgive? Please consider Jehovah’s invitation recorded at Isaiah 1:18: “‘Come, now, and let us set matters straight between us,’ says Jehovah. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be made as white as snow.’” Yes, even sins that seem as indelible as scarlet dye on a white garment are not beyond Jehovah’s forgiveness.
Jehovah does not want you to keep suffering with a guilty conscience. How, then, can you experience the relief that comes from God’s forgiveness and a clean conscience? Consider two steps that King David took. First, he said: “I will confess my transgressions to Jehovah.” (Psalm 32:5) Remember, Jehovah has already invited you to approach him in prayer and to “set matters straight” with him. Accept that invitation. Confess your sins to Jehovah, and share your feelings with him. From personal experience, David could confidently pray: “Cleanse me from my sin. . . . A heart broken and crushed, O God, you will not reject.”—Psalm 51:2, 17.
Second, David received help from God’s appointed representative, the prophet Nathan. (2 Samuel 12:13) Today, Jehovah has provided congregation elders who have been trained to help repentant sinners restore their friendship with Jehovah. When you approach the elders, they will use the Scriptures and offer heartfelt prayers to soothe your heart, lessen or remove your negative feelings, and help you to heal spiritually.—James 5:14-16.
“Happy Is the One Whose Transgression Is Pardoned”
Admittedly, you may feel that confessing your sins to Jehovah God and approaching the elders would be among the most difficult things you could do. David evidently had similar feelings. He “kept silent” for some time about his sins. (Psalm 32:3) Afterward, however, he appreciated the benefits of confessing his sins and correcting his course.
A major benefit was that David regained his joy. He wrote: “Happy is the one whose transgression is pardoned, whose sin is forgiven.” (Psalm 32:1, footnote) He also prayed: “O Jehovah, open my lips, so that my mouth may declare your praise.” (Psalm 51:15) Relieved of his guilt and grateful for God’s forgiveness, David was motivated to tell others about Jehovah.
Jehovah wants you to experience the relief of a clean conscience. And he wants you to tell others about him and his purposes, not with feelings of guilt, but with sincerity and deep joy. (Psalm 65:1-4) Remember his invitation “to get your sins blotted out, so that seasons of refreshing may come from Jehovah himself.”—Acts 3:19.
That is what happened to Martha. She relates: “My son kept sending me the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. Little by little, I became reacquainted with Jehovah. The hardest part of coming back was asking forgiveness for all the sins I had committed. But finally, I approached God in prayer and asked him to forgive me. It’s hard to believe that 40 years went by before I returned to Jehovah. I am living proof that even after many years, someone can be given another chance to serve God and be back in his love.”