CBP: Why did you write Embrace Grace: Welcome to the Forgiven Life?
Liz: Ever since the publication of Bad Girls of the Bible in 1999, I’ve received thousands of letters and emails from dear readers struggling with forgiveness issues. Over the years I’ve responded to each woman with the truth of God’s grace, showing her how to find assurance of God’s forgiveness in his Word. Finally I realized it was time to combine their heartfelt questions with my answers and appropriate Scriptures, creating a book designed to help women at any point in their spiritual walk truly accept the grace God offers us. Embrace Grace was an absolute joy to write: the most personal, from-the-heart book I’ve ever written. Reader response has been everything I prayed for and more. God is so faithful.
CBP: Have you found that many women have not forgiven themselves for their past or even present mistakes?
Liz: Most women, actually! Sometimes we still bear the shame of big flashy, splashy sins from our past; other times, seemingly small, nagging sins plague us on a daily basis. Either way, sin is sin and separates us from God, and so it must be addressed. Embrace Grace is meant to put to rest, once and for all, the comment I hear so often: “I know God has forgiven me, but I can’t forgive myself.” As I respond in the book, “It sounds reasonable, this need to forgive ourselves. A natural, human desire. Yet it’s the absolute opposite of grace, which is supernatural and beyond human ability.” To suggest God’s forgiveness is not enough, that our forgiveness matters more, means we’ve (unintentionally, of course) elevated our opinion above the Lord’s. Ayeee! Getting that perspective helps us let go of the need to forgive ourselves. Plus, forgiving ourselves is not a biblical requirement. It’s just not in there! God clearly says in his Word, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). His work on the cross truly was enough. We can’t add to grace, nor can we subtract from it. God’s grace is a finished work.
CBP: How did you come to feel forgiven and that God had a place for you in his love?
Liz: Therein lies the problem: we want to feel forgiven, feel loved, feel worthy of his grace, and yet faith is not about feelings. Faith is about the fact of Christ’s atoning death on the cross. His grace covers our sins, whether we feel forgiven or not. A feeling-based faith is easily “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” (Ephesians 4:14) But a fact-based faith exists apart from our emotions. Whether we feel it or not, we are forgiven! I came to that place of accepting God’s amazing grace 25 years ago when two coworkers shared their love for God and his Word. Because I knew they genuinely cared about me, I was willing to listen. Wise souls that they were, they didn’t say, “Believe in God.” Not at first. They said, “God believes in you, Liz. God loves you. God has a plan for you.” Once I realized God did indeed cherish unlovable me, I embraced his grace with both arms. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)
CBP: Is it about getting your act together or getting together with God?
Liz: Truth is, we can’t get our acts together—not on our own. Anyone who has done 12-step work knows Step One is admitting we are powerless. I know how hard that admission can be: it’s humbling, even embarrassing, to admit we can’t live perfect, sinless lives. But the sooner we accept that truth and get together with God, trusting him to handle things, the better!
CBP: So if we know we are forgiven why don’t we feel this grace?
Liz: We’re back to feeling again! (smile) Believe me, I get it: I’m a highly emotional woman whose feelings run hot and cold (and seldom lukewarm) all day long. But feelings can get us in trouble. I heard from a dear soul just this week who used the word “feel” eight times in one short email! Rather than saying, “I know I am forgiven,” suppose we said, “I believe with all my heart I am forgiven.” Now the truth of forgiveness has moved from a purely intellectual agreement in our heads to a more grounded place of understanding in our hearts. “I know” only takes information; “I believe” takes faith. And then (this is where it gets exciting!), what if we took one more step forward and said, “I will live as a forgiven person, loving and forgiving others as God has loved and forgiven me.” Now, that is the Forgiven Life! When you experience God’s grace flowing through you, giving you the power to forgive someone who has wronged you, you will indeed “feel grace”!
CBP: Is there an answer in His Word to every circumstance/situation, if we would just search His Word?
Liz: I believe God’s Word does have all the answers we need, though by “answer” I don’t mean a specific “Thou shall/shall not” statement that addresses every possible situation in modern life. For example, the word “abortion” doesn’t appear in any translation of the Bible that I checked, yet it’s a very vital issue for Christians to consider. When we read in God’s Word, “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3), we can conclude that children belong to God and are conceived and born according to his will, not ours. The best way to find the answers to our questions is to study the Word as a whole—a chapter at a time, rather than a verse here and there—so we can begin to grasp the Big Picture of what God is trying to say.
CBP: What about women and perfectionism?
Liz: Men suffer from this too, of course, but women seem more likely to beat themselves up for being less than perfect. When we discover that the word “perfect” actually means “complete,” then a verse like “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) makes more sense. Our heavenly Father is the only one who can complete us—perfect us—bridging the gap between our insufficiency and his all-sufficiency. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect on our own; he wants us to be dependent on him.
CBP: If we don’t embrace grace are we holding ourselves back from moving forward?
Liz: Yes, but the good news is, our Sovereign Lord will keep nudging us forward until we get where he wants us to be! The best way to speed that process along is to get out of God’s way. He can and will accomplish great things in us and through us, if we’ll simply relax in the certainty of his unchanging, everlasting love.
CBP: Thank you Liz for helping us to Embrace Grace!
Liz: Bless you for the joy of chatting about a subject so near and dear to my heart!