Another Story Must Begin

Love and hatred. Romance and heartache. Forgiveness and vengeance. Mercy and injustice. These are the real-life elements that make a good story come to life. Such is the case with the classic novel by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables.

The story follows the struggles and triumphs of an ex-convict named Jean Valjean who’s living under a pseudonym and hiding from his past during the French Revolution era. He’s hunted down throughout the years by Inspector Javert, a man of principle who will stop at nothing to see that justice prevails—particularly as it relates to former prisoner #24601.

Though we’ll probably never experience anything remotely close to what transpires in the book (at least I hope you never find yourself swimming through sewage!), this story is universally beloved because it speaks to the inner conflicts we all face.

A Slave of the Law

To begin, we see in Valjean a bitter man who resents the label of shame he bears. He’s angry at the world and refuses to see any hope from within his dark hole. But the trajectory of his life is forever changed by an encounter with grace.

Valjean has never experienced the kindness that was shown to him; he doesn’t know what to do when offered it. His choices are to remain hardened in his pride and refuse to accept forgiveness or to allow this act to break his heart of stone and teach him to love. The rest of the story reveals the change that took place when the dam in Valjean’s heart gave way as he comprehended and accepted true forgiveness.

Meanwhile, the zealous Inspector continues his chase of Valjean, growing more confident than ever of his world ruled by duty, order, and justice.

Javert’s journey reaches its climax when his world collides with “the world of Jean Valjean,” one that celebrates mercy and forgiveness. The encounter unravels this man of iron. He cannot fathom why his enemy, Valjean, would show him mercy by letting him go free when he rightly could enact vengeance upon him.

Javert can choose to either remain hardened in his pride and refuse to accept forgiveness or to allow this act to break his heart of stone and teach him to love. Tragically, Javert never yields. He cannot cope in a world where mercy triumphs over justice, and so into the darkness he falls.

Suddenly I See

There’s an undeniable theme of redemption in this story that’s too beautiful to miss. While the analogy doesn’t hold up perfectly, it’s clear to see in Valjean and Javert the two extremes of a sinner’s response to undeserved grace.

When a bishop overlooked Valjean’s theft and deception, Valjean was awakened to the whirlpool of his sin and the wonder of grace. But Javert’s refusal to accept a comparable extension of mercy was his undoing.

There’s a similar, real-life scenario found in Luke’s account of the crucifixion. In chapter 23, a conversation takes place between Jesus and the two criminals hanging on crosses on either side of Him at Calvary.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (vv. 39–43).

Thousands of years of prophecies and promises of hope culminated when Jesus trudged up the hill to Calvary and was nailed to a cross. Both of the men hanging on either side of Him had front-row seats to this moment in time; only one of them recognized the man next to them as the Son of God. Both of them witnessed the miraculous story of redemption taking place; only one of them grasped the forgiveness Jesus offered.

Another Story Must Begin

The stories of the criminal on the cross and the criminal on the run are not unlike your own. The good news is the hope they received can be yours as well.

Through Scripture, the apostle Paul reiterates that Christ’s purpose for coming into the world was to save sinners—and then Paul declares himself the worst of them all (1 Tim. 1:15). In many ways, Paul was much like Inspector Javert—overzealous and intent on overthrowing anything that contradicted his own sense of righteousness. Probably the least likely convert in his day. But unlike Javert, Paul learned what it meant to love and to be loved with full forgiveness.

Who Am I?

Whether you’re the self-proclaimed sinner like Valjean or the self-righteous sinner like Javert, you’re a sinner in need of grace. The wonderful, miraculous truth is that no matter where you fall on this spectrum, God offers you grace through His Son (Rom. 5:8; Titus 3:4–7).

If you know you’re a recipient of God’s grace today, rejoice once again in His unfailing love for you!

But if you’re unsure of your standing before God and doubt whether you’re truly loved and forgiven by the Father, find hope in knowing that our God delights in you and desires you to know the Truth (1 Tim. 2:3–4).

Jesus relentlessly pursues you with more fervor than Javert could possibly muster and more love than Valjean could ever hope to extend.

He’s a God of justice who offers mercy in Christ. He’s the Holy One who redeems unclean sinners and declares them new, whole, and righteous (2 Cor. 5:17–21). The Author of your faith inserts a plot twist in your life tale, erasing your past and beginning a new story on a fresh, clean slate.

Because of Jesus, there is another way to go beyond a life enslaved to sin, and that’s a life saved by grace through faith in the crucified Jesus. This should make God’s people sing (Ps. 108:3–5)!

I’d love to hear from you.

  • Do you struggle to accept God’s forgiveness of your sin?
  • How does an encounter with God’s radical, freeing forgiveness change the way you live?

About Author

Leanna Shepard

Leanna began serving on staff with Revive Our Hearts in the summer of 2014. Though originally from Arkansas and now residing in Michigan, her citizenship is in heaven, having been adopted as daughter of the King at age ten. She loves a cup of hot tea with a good book, experimenting in the kitchen with a new recipe, and cheering for the St. Louis Cardinals.

HEY, GIRLS! We love hearing from you, but feel limited in the ways we can help. For one thing, we’re not trained counselors. If you’re seeking counsel, we encourage you to talk to your pastor or a godly woman in your life as they’ll know more details and can provide you with ongoing accountability and help. Also, the following comments do not necessarily reflect the views of Revive Our Hearts. We reserve the right to remove comments which might be unhelpful, unsuitable, or inappropriate. We may edit or remove your comment if it:

  • * Requests or gives personal information such as email address, address, or phone number.
  • * Attacks other readers.
  • * Uses vulgar or profane language.
  • hannah

    I think for my forgiveness form God is hard to accept because of all the wrong i’ve done in my life.

    • Karen Elaine Fulmer

      @disqus_x6wYTy0Z8e:disqus, don’t worry! Though some sins are more “serious” than others, God forgives all! It says in Romans 3:10 “…no one is righteous no not one.” All of us are punished forever, but God sent Jesus to be our mediator! When God looks at you, He doesn’t see you or the things you’ve done, He sees in your place Jesus- blameless, spotless, perfect sacrifice. I can’t exactly “totally understand” because I don’t struggle with this as much, but the Bible has a lot to say about it! 😉 Praying for you.

      • hannah

        Thanks @Karen Elaine Fulmer

  • Maria

    I was a believer but Satan lied to me i was too sinful and past mercy. He told me to commit sexual sin, i did it and thought that if im going to hell i might as well start sinning with satan. Some spirit enteted me and i tried suicide. I repented and was prayed and eventually the spirit left. Im now worried that i lost my hope because i didnt believe in grace and choose to go with satan….i hope nothing else than to be restored to salvation but not sure if i left god permanently by doing that…

    • Leanna Shepard

      Maria, you are very brave to voice these thoughts. I’m not going to pretend that I understand what you’re experiencing right now or that I have all the answers for you. But I want to zero in on one comment you made: “I hope nothing else than to be restored to salvation.”

      That desire, my friend, is a gift of the Spirit, and that should give you hope! The Bible tells us that we can’t do anything to earn or deserve salvation. It’s a gift from the Lord (Eph. 2:8-9). He woos us and draws to Himself (John 6:44). Even the act of repentance is something God grants to us (Acts 11:18, 2 Tim. 2:25-26). That means He’s doing something inside of you right now.

      It sounds like you’re experiencing regret and shame from your past. While I don’t know your story, I do know, Maria, that forgiveness and freedom IS possible through Jesus. Whatever you may have believed or done in the past, ask God today to take those feelings and doubts and replace them with a godly sorrow over your sin (2 Cor. 7:9-10). Repent of those sins. Believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior (Acts 16:31). Ask for the mercy and grace of Jesus to cleanse you and make you His child (Titus 3:4-7).

      Regardless of our past, Jesus says that whoever seeks Him will find Him. (Matt. 7:8) God is a kind Father, patient with us, and He earnestly desires us to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) and to be with Him.

      Praying that you seek Him and find Him today, Maria!
      -Leanna

  • Maria Wilson

    Thank you for this article! There are times when I feel unworthy of God’s grace and I constantly abuse it. But I am so glad that He is so merciful towardS mE AND GIVES mE ANOTHER ChANcE.

    • Leanna Shepard

      Amen!