Can you forgive yourself?
This week I dove in head first to a BIG topic. Forgiveness.
In my facebook Bible study group, we are going to be talking about it and studying it together. But before I can lead any kind of discussion or study, I have to take the time to really search out God’s Word and listen to what it says so that our discussion in the group can remain solidly based in truth, and presented in a way that leads the brave friends who do it with me closer to their Lord and Savior.
It’s a big job, but one I LOVE to do! I’m a person who learns by doing, and I remember through action. So searching God’s Word to talk about it with you actually helps draw me closer to Him in the process. It’s a great side effect 🙂
As I was getting ready to search the Bible, I made a list of questions that I and people in my group had about forgiveness. There are some really tough questions, let me tell you! But the one question I didn’t write down is surprisingly enough the one question that I’m having the hardest time answering:
How do I forgive myself?
This week in the news, we watched a beautiful story of selfless and Christ-like forgiveness in action. As I watched the video, I couldn’t even begin to imagine the strength and integrity that that young boy must have to make such a bold and sincere statement. But I also know, that apart from God, forgiveness like that is even MORE difficult. I know this because in the instances in my life where I had to forgive for something that I could justifiably stay angry for how wronged I was, I had to rely on God’s supernatural grace and strength to soften my heart to a place of true forgiveness. (Philippians 4:10-13)
But when it comes to myself, I have a very hard time letting go of personal guilt, and while I can forgive people, I find it nearly impossible to let myself off the hook for small mistakes, much less forgive myself for the bigger ones.
Why is it so hard to forgive ourselves?
Maybe it’s because we know ourselves too well. Or maybe it’s because we can’t get any distance between ourselves and our shortcomings. It could be a million different things. But one thing I’m seeing is that to forgive someone else frees you even more than it frees the other person. But trying to forgive yourself means that you have to be able to face the fact that while you mess up, you aren’t perfect and even if you move past this, you know you’ll mess up again.
Forgiving someone else means that you acknowledge THEIR fault and move past it, but to forgive yourself means that you have to admit your OWN fault and find a way to move past it and actually grow from it.
The good news is, God’s grace covers your own mistakes, too.
If you read the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis, I noticed in chapter 50, verses 15-20 that the brothers didn’t believe Joseph could forgive them. They knew how wrong they were and how awful the acts they committed against him actually were. But when they approached him asking for forgiveness, his response really got to me. He said “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (vs 20 NIV)
God’s grace and His death wasn’t just to forgive the acts that are committed against us, His blood was shed for you, too!
Whatever it is that you are holding on to, that thing that you can’t forgive yourself for, you need to give it back to Him. It’s a process, but I promise you that through His strength, you can find a way to forgive yourself. And the best part is, that once you can let go of your guilt and self-punishment, you can open yourself up to see how God can use even those mistakes for something bigger.
It begins with you
The process of forgiving yourself begins with you. Talk to God about it, seek out answers in His Word. Today the journaling prompts are going to be to help you start this process a bit. So grab a journal and find a quiet space. We’re going to do some heart work today!
I’ve got a long ways to go before I have all of the answers about forgiveness. I think it’s something we’ll continue to struggle with until that glorious day that we see Jesus again. But God’s Word has a lot to say about it, and we can keep learning and growing closer to God’s perfect truth.
In the meantime, try to be the best you you can. Turn away from the things that you do that you know you shouldn’t. Get a friend involved, have some accountability. (this helps a ton, even if it’s a little uncomfortable or annoying at times) In some cases you may need to reach out to a pastor or Christian counselor to sort through the things that haunt you. But that’s ok. Begin taking those steps, each step is a step closer to finding that forgiveness.
Bible Journaling Prompts
Apply what you’ve learned
♡ Grab your journal or a notebook. Write today’s date at the top of the page. I want you to free write and brainstorm some of the things that you struggle to forgive yourself for. Are these things that you are currently doing? Are they things from your past? Are they thoughts that you have?
Here is a prayer that you can write in your journal and use as a guide for your own personal prayers while you sort through this with Him:
Father, I come to you today aware that I’m struggling with forgiveness. I’m doubting that what you did on the cross was enough for me. I confess that I’m letting my shortcomings and mistakes diminish the power of the work you did for me. I’m forgetting that the gift of salvation that you gave that day was for me, too.
I pray that you will help me rest in your strength and that you will cover me with a grace that will allow my heart to accept the forgiveness that you so freely give. I humbly ask you today to show me the path to repentance and forgiveness for these things that I can’t forgive myself for.
I thank you for loving the unloveable and for giving me your Bible to show me example after example of flawed and broken people who You use for Your good. I pray that through this process I can recognize your hands at work and use these mistakes to show others to you. May you be glorified through this, and may Your beauty radiate through these ashes.
In your name I pray,
♡ This week, read through Psalm 116. Write out any verses or sections that remind you that God can work good through even the biggest mistakes.
There are things I still beat myself up on. Things that I did a long time ago.