When Mercy Meets Messy

Gwen Smith Blog, Broken into Beautiful, Confession, Devotions, Encouragement, Forgiveness, Freedom, Grace, Worth 16 Comments


A four-year-old girl was overheard reciting the Lord’s Prayer, “and forgive us our trash baskets, as we forgive those who pass trash against us.” When I first heard that story, I smiled. Then I thought of a conversation I had had recently with a girlfriend.

She is a Christian friend. But though she has “emptied her trash basket” of sin before the Lord in sincere repentance, she has not emptied it of self-condemnation. Not completely. She holds the trash basket lid on tightly.

She’s haunted by shame.

Haunted by mistakes that are no longer remembered by a holy God.

Haunted by sins that have been cast as far as the east is from the west.

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. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. (Psalm 103:11-13)

These memories haunt her regularly like a spine-chilling horror film monster. As much as she would like to move forward in forgiveness, she just can’t find the courage to scare the monster away.

In the New Testament book of John, chapter 8, we meet a woman caught in the act of adultery. The legalistic teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought her before Jesus. They publicly humiliated her in front of all the town’s people, saying to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:4-5)

Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger as they continued to question him. Finally, “He straightened up and said to them, ‘“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground” (John 8:7-8).

The crowd eventually thinned to nothing. The older, wiser men cleared first. Then the younger ones trickled away. When the adulterous woman and Jesus were the only ones remaining:

“Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:10-12).

My sister, do you see that our holy Lord delights to show us mercy? He does not condemn us as we deserve. The woman in this story was guilty when she was brought to face Jesus, but as she left His presence, her guilt was forgiven. Her trash basket was empty.

When we turn to face Jesus with repentant hearts, our guilt is forgiven as well.

This account of the adulterous woman teaches us about forgiveness and about judging and condemning others. But what does this lesson teach us about judging ourselves?

While my friend’s trash basket contained junk from other people, the lingering condemnation came from memories of decisions she’d made, things she’d done, and brokenness she has experienced because of her own choices. In her heart, she accepts the forgiveness of Jesus, but she can’t bear to forgive herself.

So many women won’t forgive themselves.

I know that self-loathing. I’ve lived it. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that forgiving yourself is easy. It’s hard—and, in a lot of ways, it should be! But I can testify that it wasn’t until I prayerfully allowed the stubborn, strong, and unconditional love of Jesus to pry my fingers off the lid of my trash basket and empty the condemning contents, that I experienced true freedom and complete forgiveness.

Is there something that you have not been able to forgive yourself for?

My friend, we need to stop beating ourselves up for sins of our past.

We need to stop allowing guilt and shame to chain us to unproductive living.

Jesus humbled Himself by becoming human, endured an excruciating death, and then defied the grave in His resurrection so that we could be restored to a place of complete healing.

Complete healing.

Second Corinthians 5:21 states that “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” If you are in Christ, the Bible says that your guilt was paid for on the cross of Calvary. Jesus carried the sins of the world on His shoulders so that you would not have to carry them on yours.

If you are holding on to un-confessed sin, the time has come for you to release your grip. God’s Word promises that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

None of us are perfect, just perfectly forgiven in Christ.

Take your hand off the lid and allow the Lord to empty your trash basket of every last condemning voice once and for all.

Embrace the freedom that Jesus intends for you to live in.



Holy Father,
Your mercy defies logic. I don’t deserve it, and I don’t understand how You could possibly forgive me for all that I have done. Please take my trash basket and empty it. Forgive me today and help me to forgive myself, and others, so I can live freely in Your amazing grace.
In Jesus’ name, amen.




Recite, write, and memorize these verse: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

Prayerfully share this with a friend who might need to read this message. If you feel like this message is for you today, post a prayer on my wall today and join the community of the broken. Don’t be afraid. Mercy meets us in the messy.

Broken and Beautiful in Grace,




Today’s post is an excerpt from Broken Into Beautiful. Every step of forgiveness begins with the heart of God. If you’d like to learn more about how your brokenness can be transformed into a picture of God’s beauty, get your copy today. To order the book go to Amazon or, for a signed copy, visit my web store.

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Comments 16

  1. Thank you for the blog. God has this amazing way of having us read, see, smell, touch and feel just at the right time. I have dealing with the same feelings as your friend for a long time.

  2. Thank you for this devotional today Gwen. It really spoke to me about the need to forgive myself. Dear Lord, I want to give to you my whole life and place it at the foot of your cross including the sins I have trouble releasing to you and to experience your forgiveness. From there to finally empty my trash bin as I may forgive myself and any unforgiveness of others. In the Name of Jesus, I pray…..Amen

  3. Father Lord, forgive me, have mercy on me and help me let go of every trash basket 9f sin, help me Lord to forgive my self, n never return back to that same sin, help me forgive those I still hold in my heart n let go of condemnation, reproach and judgmental attitude I pray in Jesus name amen

  4. Gwen,
    I have been needing to hear this devotional for several years. Thank you for your words that stop me in my tracks and make me realize over and over again how amazing our God is. Several times every day I beat myself up over mistakes and choices that I made when I was younger. I keep wishing that I never made those mistakes and how I just wish I could go back and change them. I have asked God for forgiveness many times but I have just never felt truly forgiven. It’s a struggle knowing how much I let God down. I have turned from those ways and am living a Christian life but my past still haunts me. I am so thankful for this message today. I am going to save this and read it every day until I can forgive myself.

    God Bless!

  5. My comment is I praise God for you ladies. Today I had a conversation with my 31year old daughter. She is so confused about life. She doesn’t know where she should be. she has always wanted to work with film business. For at less 4 years no opportunity has not come. She is a college graduate in film she said mom you can pray fort me he doesn’t hear my prayers what’s the use. I gave her the verse prov 3:5,6 please pray for her please that she will be open to hearing and listening to Him. Her name is Aimee

  6. So very very true but sometimes there are consequences for those sins. Sometimes it was a bad decision not intended to purposely sin. However, the consequences are devastating and when your old with no one to turn to, knowing where it can lead, it is very hard to forgive yourself. Maybe it is more regret, nonetheless, it is frightening. I began a book Five Hours in the Presence of God but I am paralyzed with fear so much that I cannot walk out my door.

  7. Gwen, thank you for sharing this today. I needed it! I beat myself up daily for the sins of the past and the woulda, shoulda, coulda things! God has wiped the slate clean, why can’t I? I know it, but I can’t live it. So again, thank you for this reminder. My prayer is for complete forgiveness of myself.

  8. Dear Gwen,

    Thank you for being obedient to God to share with such transparency. You don’t even know me, but God does! The timing of this devotional was God’s personal message for my life. As I seek the Lord today, I long to pry off the lid on “my trash basket” allowing His grace, mercy and forgiveness to overflow into my life. I need His complete healing!
    Thanks for sharing! Look forward to seeing you at GIG conference in 10 days!

    1. Post

      I just love how personal God is with us, Cheryl. Thanks for posting. Have an awesome day and I will SEE YOU SOON! 🙂


  9. Thank you Lord for forgiving me of my sins and transgressions and throwing them into the sea of forgetfulness. May I never look back in the rearview mirror, continue to live in the present, but look forward to the future with you as my guide.

  10. Gwen, you expressed exactly what God has been speaking to me and I ask that He allow my whole body to come into alignment with His perfect love and I receive my total healing from earthquaking shame roots passed from iniquitous blood lines sent to destroy my destiny. I have sent it all to the cross and ask my precious Heavenly Father to redeem me from the curse of Sickness’s. Prayer for healing is much needed as I run to the finish line. God is good all the time and the message of mercy on the land is speaking louder than sickness and disease. Kingdom healing be released!!

    1. Post

      Thanks for your post, Leslie! Shame has no root and no power in those who are in Christ. In HIS words, IT IS FINISHED. 🙂 Ponder Psalm 34:5 today, friend.

      Hugs and Blessings,

  11. Oh Jesus thank you for taking all my misses on the cross. I have such a hard time forgiving myself for stop living with you for ten years. The years my to you get children were growing up. They did not grow up in a believing home. Lord I so that you continue to pursue them. Lord please ho me to forgive myself fully so I can live free. Lord I so you to be with the women who read this blog and are crushed with guilt from past decisions they have regretted a thousand times. Also help us to forgive others.

  12. Holy Father, thank you for giving me a answer on my hearts questions about getting over my sins of my past. Thank you for allowing me the peace to know that Anita 1.0 is now by Your Grace Anita 2.0 and that I can live my life free from the guilt of my sins.
    I have mourned my sins and now know that they are no more. I thank you for knowing that you have only good plans for me and that I can trust you to guide me day by day and to rid me of those things that the enemy would love to leverage against me.
    I am humbled by your love

  13. I really needed this message today. My daughter’s fiancé recently broke off their engagement and called off the wedding weeks before they were to walk down the aisle. Also, I am waiting for my mammogram results to see if I am still cancer free. (A type of cancer with an 85% mortality rate.) Sure, it is easy to say I will give it all to God but mentally, not so easy when someone hurts your child or you fear the unknown when cancer is involved. I sure need to empty my trash can and fill it with love and peace.

  14. Dear Lord,
    I am a broken person, hurt by broken people. Lord I have confessed the best way I know how . I want to be set free. I am tired of struggling with this life . Acceptance of others . Lord you know what has been done! I confess my sin in wanting to be judge and want justice . Please let me release this and let you do your work only you can do . Please forgive me for wanting to do your job . . Thank you for your promise that you are faithful to forgive if we confess our sin . . Lord thank you for what you will do . I. Jesus name I pray . Amen!

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