The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:8-12
As I mentioned in my last post, I’m in a class at Celebrate Recovery through which the Lord has challenged me to let go of my resentments. To do this, I made a list of the resentments that I still carry – some big ones, quite a lot of smaller ones. Now I’m working my way through the list as I forgive each person who has hurt me.
Do you know who’s been the hardest person on the list for me to forgive? Like, by far?
I have done some awful things over the course of my life, some by accident and some not. I have brought hurt and pain onto myself with some of those actions and choices, but what’s much worse from my perspective is that I have caused harm and pain to others. In looking back at many situations, I now feel like I should have known and done better, and I’m ashamed. I find myself asking how I could possibly forgive myself.
As I asked trusted people for prayer as I go over this territory, it was mentioned by no fewer than three people that they struggle with forgiving themselves also. I felt like the Lord was speaking to me about the prevalence of this problem among Christians.
So how do we forgive ourselves? Well, I’m no expert, but here are some things that I’m learning as I go through this process.
First, I have to acknowledge my emotions about what happened. I’m sometimes the queen of denial, stuffing feelings down deep. These stuffed feelings keep bubbling to the surface, bringing the old memories back with them and making it hard for me to forgive myself. When I acknowledge my feelings about what I did, I take ownership of my emotions and they no longer control me.
Second, I remember that I am fully and completely forgiven by Jesus for everything I have ever done, thought or said that was not in alignment with His will and His character. It doesn’t matter if what was done happened before or after I came to know Him – I am fully forgiven. Jeremiah 31:34 says that He remembers my sins no more. That is, He doesn’t hold them over my head or throw them in my face in a shaming way. If He has so fully forgiven me, who am I to argue with Him? Because of the grace I have received from Him, I can give some of that grace to myself.
Third, I think what advice I would give to a brother or sister in Christ if they came to me for help because they were struggling over something they had done. Would I suggest that they beat themselves up some more because what they did was really horrendous? Of course not! I would remind them of the grace that is ours in Christ Jesus. Therefore, I choose to follow that same advice and give that same reminder of grace to myself.
Fourth, I ask myself if I still owe anybody an amends for something that is still bothering me. I get the advice of a strong, mature, trusted brother or sister in Christ before making an amends to someone. I want to make sure that my motives are right, and I don’t want to cause the person that I previously hurt any additional pain by reaching out to them again. In some cases, it may not be safe or appropriate for me to make an amends to someone, so I must talk it over first with that trusted person. However, after doing that, making an appropriate amends is a good way to help me forgive myself.
Fifth, I ask myself what I can learn from my past mistakes. Have I grown as a result of what happened? Is my step of growth in the forgiveness of myself or in the making of amends?
Finally, the Lord showed me that to not forgive myself is to say that Christ’s death on the cross was not enough to pay for all of my sins, and that is utterly false. When I don’t forgive myself, I’m saying that I have a better way of paying for my sins than what Christ offers. This is unbelief and it represents the height of a prideful attitude. It is time for me to get on my knees and repent of (turn away from) these deadly sins!
If any of this has resonated with you, too, would you like to pray with me today?
Lord Jesus, we come to You for help in learning to forgive ourselves. Forgive us for our sins of unbelief and of pride. Help us to receive Your forgiveness for the wrongs that we have done; wash us clean of them. Bring the freedom and peace that comes from knowing we are forgiven for ALL wrongs, big or small. Wash away our guilt as we confess our sins to You. Please help us to make amends in a way that is appropriate, and help us to learn from those mistakes and not make them again. Thank You, Lord, that You have removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west and that You remember our sins no more. We love you and ask these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.