How Can I Forgive Myself?
By Karen Jordan
My feelings often mislead me as I search for truth about myself and my relationship with God. My emotions usually reflect my current circumstances, and they reveal an image that often contradicts what I find in God’s written Word.
James 1:23-25 instructs, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourself. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.”
The mirror of God’s Word always reflects the truth. Usually, when I look into a mirror, I notice my worst characteristics. And if I stare at any of my features long enough, I begin to believe lies about myself. No matter how much makeup I put on my face or how often I color my hair, a few wrinkles and grey hairs always appear.
My faithful mirror also reminds me of past wounds and offenses. And when I focus on the present, my weaknesses and failures seem to outweigh my strengths and successes. As I daydream about tomorrow, doubts and fears cloud my hopes and dreams.
A friend once confided in me, “You don’t know what I’ve done—God could never forgive me!”
Despairing over her past, she could not believe that God would forgive her for the mistakes and pain she had caused others.
What does God’s Word tell us about forgiveness and guilt? In 1 John 1:9, we read, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
God offers His forgiveness. And if we choose to embrace His mercy and invite His refining process, we can discern between God’s conviction concerning our sin and the accusing voices of condemnation.
God’s conviction is specific—His Spirit speaks to our hearts and targets issues we must address to receive His forgiveness and cleansing. Condemnation brings unrelenting feelings of guilt, with no hope of mercy or freedom from the lies spoken into our subconscious minds.
Romans 8:1-2 tells us, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
So, what can we do with our feelings of guilt after asking for forgiveness? This encouraging answer comes from Philippians 3:13-14: “…one thing I do: 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.”
In Revelation 12:10-11, we understand that Satan, who is known as the “accuser,” will finally be utterly cast down. We also understand that we will overcome this adversary “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of [our] testimony”.
The accuser still whispers reminders of my imperfections, mistakes, and shame. But as I search for my true reflection in the mirror of God’s Word, I see a promise of forgiveness and cleansing—being “conformed to the likeness of His Son” (Romans 8:29).
Neither feelings of guilt nor false impressions of unworthiness can replace the confidence that God grants His children through the power of His Word.
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