“Do you dare release the person you are today from the shadow of the wrong you did yesterday? Do you dare forgive yourself? Forgiving yourself takes high courage. Who are you, after all, to shake yourself free from the undeniable sins of your private history —as if what you once did has no bearing on who you are now?
“Where do you get the right —let alone the cheek —to forgive yourself when other people would want you to crawl in shame if they really knew? How dare you?” (Lewis B Smedes, from the book Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve)
Have you felt this way? Sometimes we can accept God’s forgiveness for others (and even that is hard to understand). But we have a difficult time forgiving ourselves! Different scenes from our past play over and over again in our minds. These are ones that we wish we could erase forever from our memories.
If only life were constructed so that we could hit a “delete” button and make certain events go away! But unfortunately, that’s not the real world in which we live.
The Journey of Forgiving
Just like any act of giving or accepting forgiveness—even forgiving ourselves, it often involves a journey to get to the place where you are free from its imprisonment. Some journeys are shorter than others. And some take a lot of years, and tears. They involve a lot of work, soul-searching, reading, and praying. They also involve being intentional to get beyond the search.
But for those of us who have reached that place of peace, we can tell you that it is worth the journey to get to the other side of the deep sorrow that can dump upon your very being. It can poison your soul and who you become in the future. That may be one of the reasons why God tells us throughout the Bible to forgive.
A few examples from God’s Word are:
- “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
- “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)
- “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Admit and Confess
God also tells us throughout the Bible to admit and confess the wrongs (our sins) that we have done. If we do this with a sorrowful heart God will forgive us. A few examples are:
- “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)
- “I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I confess my transgressions to the LORD’ —and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).
- “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
Ask yourself, what could be holding you back from extending yourself the gift God has willingly handed to you?
Accepting God’s Forgiveness
First, you need to realize:
“It’s not just your ‘past’ that is forgiven. ‘YOU’ are forgiven as a person— past, present, and future. You’ve been clothed with the righteousness of Christ. This means that when God looks at you, He sees the goodness of Jesus, not you. There’s nothing that you can ever do to make that any different. You’re what the Bible calls ‘in Christ.’ That means you are forever without condemnation in God’s eyes. (See 1 Corinthians 1:30 and Romans 8:1.) Your problem is that you don’t feel that kind of acceptance. You’re still judging yourself according to your own standards and conscience. So, two things have to happen…”
To learn more, please read the Lifeway.com article written by Dr Henry Cloud:
Consider whose standards you are using in deciding if you are worthy of being forgiven. Are you setting your standards higher than God?
A man named Bruce wrote the following concerning that question:
“I heard this advice offered once for someone with that problem. Do you think that you have a higher standard than God? If he has forgiven you and sees you as perfect through the blood of Jesus who are we to say that we are not? If we don’t forgive ourselves, then we are saying we have higher standard than God!”
It may be a mystery to you as to why God could forgive you after all the wrong you have done. But the Bible says that if you sincerely confess and are sorry, God grants you forgiveness. It is a gift of mercy, and accepting it is an act of obedience and faith. It also gives God the opportunity to display His love in and through you.
“To forgive yourself is to act out the mystery of one person who is both forgiver and forgiven. You judge yourself; this is the division within you. You forgive yourself; this is the healing of the split.
“That you should dare to heal yourself by this simple act is a signal to the world that God’s love is a power within you” (Lewis B. Smedes, from the book Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve)
You can take a lesson from the Apostle Paul (previously named Saul). He zealously persecuted the church and was partly responsible for the death of at least one person, Stephen. (See Acts 7:54-60.) And yet after he came to faith in Christ, he made the following remark. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
He came to the place in his life where he didn’t dwell on what he did wrong in his past. If he had, he may have been stuck in his life. He then wouldn’t have had the freedom to do what God wanted to do through someone who was forgiven.
Confessing and Releasing
“Paul learned to [release] his own sins after he had confessed them and made things right. We need to learn the same lesson of forgiveness today. All of us encounter potentially devastating experiences. How we respond to these situations determines our own well-being and the well-being of others.
“Forgive and be forgiven. …Keep short accounts with God and men. Don’t lock bitterness and guilt within the closet of your soul. Allow the Holy Spirit to shine His divine spotlight in your heart. Let Him clean out every closet in your soul. Then claim Gods wonderful promise, ‘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) (Luis, Palau, from the Crosswalk.com article “Forgive and Forget”)
The Apostle Paul eventually wrote:
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners —of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:12-17)
The commentary for the Life Application Bible says the following about this statement:
“People can feel so guilt-ridden by their past that they think God could never forgive and accept them. But consider Paul’s past. He had scoffed at the teachings of Jesus (“a blasphemer“) and hunted down and murdered God’s people (“a persecutor and violent man“) before coming to faith in Christ (Acts 9:1-9). God forgave Paul and used Paul mightily for his kingdom. No matter how shameful your past. God also can forgive and use you.”
And He will, as you yield to Him. God can make good come out of the bad you hand to Him. Despite your past failures, you are to “press on” in doing that, which God wants to do in and through your life. As Paul said, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” God will use your failures.
It’s not that you should totally forget the wrong you have done and the pain you have caused in the lives of others. But you aren’t to make it a point to dwell there. If you did forget, you might repeat your failures again in the future. And that would make things even worse for all involved.
Accepting God’s forgiveness and forgiving yourself also does not mean that you shouldn’t make restitution, and reimburse or make good for damage you have caused. That would only be reasonable. But in releasing and forgiving yourself, you are putting your focus on how you can partner with God in helping others in the future—despite your past.
“When God forgives our sin and restores us to a relationship with him, we want to reach out to others who need this forgiveness and reconciliation. The more you have felt God’s forgiveness, the more you will desire to tell others about it.” (Life Application Bible commentary concerning Psalm 51:13)
As King David, who committed adultery and murder cried out to God, we can also pray:
“Search me O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
The Life Application Bible commentary says the following concerning the Psalm of David (Psalm 51) in which he cries out to God over the wrong he had committed.
“David was truly sorry for his adultery with Bathsheba and for murdering her husband to cover it up. He knew that his actions had hurt many people. But because David repented of those sins, God mercifully forgave him. No sin is too great to be forgiven!
“Do you feel that you could never come close to God because you have done something terrible? God can and will forgive you of any sin. While God forgives us, however, he does not always erase the natural consequences of our sin. David’s life and family were never the same as a result of what he had done. (See: 2 Samuel 12:1-23.)”
And even though David’s life and family and Paul’s life and future years were never the same as a result of what they had done, so will your life and the lives of those around you be forever different. But prayerfully with the help of the Lord, you will be able to bring some good out of the hurt.
It may be a long journey that you will travel to get there. But it will be worth it if you can participate with God in working good out of bad.
To help you further on this road, please click onto the web site links provided below to read:
There is another article you may find helpful to read posted on this web site. It’s important for everyone to recognize that the enemy of our faith works overtime to make us feel condemned and stuck in hopelessness. If we remain in that condition we won’t get to the place where we experience being drawn towards God. Instead, we will run away from Him shamed and alone (which is not God’s will).
Rather than condemning us in hopelessness, the Holy Spirit convicts us to draw us towards God. That’s where we confess to Him what we have done wrong to restore fellowship. We repent and change our behavior in the present and the future, and reach out beyond our past sin. This makes it possible to become “all Christ saved us for and wants us to be.” It is a story of redemption —which is what God is all about.
Condemnation and conviction are two different experiences. To read further, please click onto the link below to read:
Upon all you have learned from these articles, and that, which God has spoken to your heart, you may also want to pray through the following Psalm of David. It’s something he composed when the prophet Nathan came to him after David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and had her husband killed. May it bring healing to your heart as you pray and confess everything to our Heavenly Father, that comes to mind.
A Confessing Prayer
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love. According to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts, you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness. Let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
“Create in my a pure heart, O God. and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
“Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:1-17).
If you have additional questions concerning God’s forgiveness, please click onto the link provided below. There, you can choose to read more, or talk to someone who could address your questions. You can also email someone who could converse with you in that way. We pray the Lord will minister to your heart and your situation in a very personal and life-changing way.
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.
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Filed under: Bitterness and Forgiveness