It was 11 a.m., and I was still in bed.

I wanted sleep; I wanted oblivion. Months of relentless work and the launch of a successful project had left me exhausted. I gave up time with family and sacrificed rest and weekends, I thought. Success is difficult because I care too much. I want to stop caring.

No, it wasn’t really the project that I cared about—I was worried about making mistakes. I’d always been afraid of failing, and my fear had driven me to a life that revolved around check marks on to-do lists and ensuring all details in every task were covered. “What is it about mistakes that makes you afraid?” a friend once asked. “Is it disappointing others? Losing control?” “It’s not being loved,” I said. The words came out of my mouth quickly, but I was surprised to hear them. Maybe my fear had already become so great that it could overpower my voice.

Of course, my fear wasn’t limited to work. In my relationships, a voice within always said, The love of another is like plaster on a wall. If you fail them, a chip will fall.

And although I’d been a believer in Jesus for many years, this was also how I understood God’s love. I believed that His love for me was dependent on how well I behaved. Consequently, I was in denial of my many sinful habits, since I thought that owning up to them would mean facing the “fact” that God’s love for me had dwindled!

Then one morning when I was experiencing quiet despair over these fears, I came across a familiar verse: “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). The words comforted me as they never had before. My hungry heart made my eyes devour them. Is it really true? Yes. Even while we were still sinners, God loved us.

He could have responded to us in any way He chose. We were defenseless, after all; our unrighteousness was an offense to His holy nature. But because God loved us, He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on our behalf. The blood He shed on the cross was the payment for our release from the debt we owed Him and from eternal separation from Him (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 1:7).

I’d believed that if I made mistakes, I wouldn’t be loved. But Scripture says God already loved me even when my sinful nature defined me as one who’d forever fail Him. Jesus released me from the penalty of being a sinner and took on my sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Ephesians 1:7 says, “[Christ] purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins” (See also Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:15). The Greek word translated “purchased our freedom” means a release brought about by payment of a ransom.

This is the hope-filled message of Easter! When we believe what Jesus did for us through His death and resurrection, and choose to follow Him as our Savior, His perfection becomes ours. No, it doesn’t mean we turn into sinless human beings, but our identity and standing before God are now forever defined by Jesus’ work at the cross. Through the sacrifice of His blood, God provides forgiveness, final and absolute. It transforms everything—how God sees us, how we’re to see ourselves, how we’re to live in this world, and how our physical death will be nothing more than the beginning of eternity with Him.

“I will forgive their wickedness,” God said of us in Hebrews 8:12, “and will never again remember their sins.” And when we do sin, as we inevitably will, God not only promises us forgiveness if we turn to Him in repentance, but also helps us overcome sin(1 John 1:9).

Because God releases us from our debt to Him, we can release others from their debt to us by forgiving them. It’s humanly impossible to forgive others in our own strength, and God knows this. He wants us to ask Him to help us. Just as it was His love that did the work of drawing us to Himself, it’s His love that will enable us to forgive others. It’s also His love that will absorb our pain.

Accepting God’s forgiveness and embracing a life that offers this forgiveness to others means putting a stop to a life defined by the lie that sin is more powerful than the cross. When we allow the reality of forgiveness to become ours, we give God unhindered access to work in us.

My prayer for you this Easter is that you’ll ask God to help you receive His forgiveness and then offer it to others. Doing so will lead you to new depths and joys in your life. Click the button below to start reading devotional articles that will help you reflect on the new life Jesus purchased with His death and resurrection.

– KAREN HUANG, Our Daily Bread Author