What if the Person I'm Struggling to Forgive Is Me?
“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” Psalm 32:5 (NIV)
Do you ever feel like the hardest person to forgive is actually yourself?
I understand this. Deeply. I so wish we were sitting together having a conversation right now instead of you just reading these words on a screen.
When I was in my early 20s, I made a decision I wished with everything in me I could go back and change. I had an abortion. Knowing nothing could be done to reverse the decision I had made filled me with the deepest grief I’d ever known. Then every time something made me think of the baby, I was so horrified by the lie I’d been sold that this was just cells dividing … and not life that began at conception.
And then every time I would hear others talking harshly about abortion, I was filled with shame. It felt like a life sentence I would never be healed from.
I would say, “I can’t forgive myself.” What I meant was, “I don’t think forgiveness is possible for a person like me. And I don’t think I’ll ever be free from the shame of what I’ve done.”
Maybe this is where you are right now — struggling to overcome feelings of shame and regret from choices you wish you could go back and change.
That’s why it feels so important to share what I’ve learned with you. When I researched the concept of forgiving ourselves, I was a little shocked to discover it’s not in the Bible. I started to realize, just like we can’t accomplish salvation apart from God, we can’t bestow upon ourselves forgiveness. Forgiveness starts with God.
Since we are not the judge, we can’t pardon ourselves. So, when we feel like we are struggling with forgiveness for ourselves, what’s really happening is a struggle to fully receive the forgiveness of God.
Jesus gave His very life to provide forgiveness for our sins, which isn’t just a part of the Christian faith … forgiveness is the very cornerstone of the Christian faith. Forgiveness for our sins isn’t just a hope we have; it is the greatest reality for all who choose to receive salvation through accepting Jesus as the Lord of their lives.
Often what keeps us from walking as forgiven people is the struggle with feelings of shame and regret. These are very heavy burdens to bear. In my own life, I’ve carried many burdens. But the weight of shame is by far the heaviest I’ve ever known.
It’s a burden God doesn’t want any of us carrying. And I’m so thankful for these three things that eventually helped me fully receive His forgiveness and get out from underneath shame’s condemning weight:
1. I needed to have a marked moment confessing, repenting and asking God for forgiveness.
Psalm 32:5 reads, “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” I couldn’t do this by myself, because I wanted someone, a witness, who could forever remind me I had asked for God’s forgiveness and was, therefore, forgiven. I also verbalized out loud that I received God’s forgiveness, so I could have a definite memory of me acknowledging His gift of mercy.
2. I had to remember that shame and accusation come from the enemy.
Satan will do everything possible to try and keep us from sharing a testimony of the forgiveness and redemption of Jesus. And the enemy loves to hold people hostage to shame by keeping what they did hidden in the darkness. I was terrified to tell people what I’d done. But I did tell God I would share my story if ever there was a young girl in danger of making the same uninformed decision as I did. When I eventually let God use my painful choice for good, I started to see glimpses of redemption. Seeing God take what the enemy meant for such evil and use it for good didn’t take away my grief, but it did start to heal my shame.
3. I let my experience make my heart tender.
Knowing what it feels like to make a terrible mistake has given me more compassion when others make terrible mistakes. This isn’t excusing behavior we shouldn’t do in the name of compassion. But at the same time, having an attitude of compassion helps us to not shame others. I don’t ever want another human to carry the awful weight of shame, and I probably would not be as sensitive to others as I am now if I hadn’t ever carried that weight myself.
Shame and condemnation aren’t from God. Confess what you’ve done. Ask for God’s forgiveness. Receive His forgiveness. And then walk in His freedom. You can live the greatest testimony of truth there is … redemption.
Father God, I’m so thankful forgiveness isn’t something I have to earn or achieve. It’s a gift of grace I get to receive. Thank You that Jesus’ blood was enough to pay for my sin. Help me receive all You are offering me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (ESV)
Whether the pain in your life has been caused by your choices or someone else’s, healing is possible. Start finding life-giving freedom today with Lysa TerKeurst’s newest book, Forgiving What You Can’t Forget. Get your copy here.
You can connect with Lysa on a daily basis on Facebook.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Which point from today’s devotion did your heart need most? Share your thoughts in the comments.
© 2020 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.
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