Anyone who has followed me for long knows I have gone through a lot of junk and have been hurt by a lot of people. Though I will never understand the motives behind all that was done to me, I have forgiven those responsible, even if I choose to distance myself from them for the sake of my own preservation. But forgiving the people responsible for my junk and hurt was relatively easy – especially compared with the challenge of forgiving myself.
Like others who buy into the whole notion of worthlessness, as a young person I made choices I regret. And though I genuinely believe I came to saving faith in Christ as a teen, I did not live out my faith as I should have until my late 20s. I squandered years when I had the most time and energy to devote to Christ, and I have dropkicked myself all the way to midlife.
I’ll see a young woman backslide. Cringe. “Oh, dear Lord, was that me?” I ask. I see people look down their noses at people who commit certain sins and think, “Oh, Lord, what would they think of me?” A particular time on the clock reminds me of a pivotal juncture in my young life. “Oh, Lord, please forgive me,” I sigh.
Thing is, He has. And His words speak a rebuke to my feeble heart: Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13). But, Lord, You don’t understand. I am guiltier than others. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10). But, Lord, how can I ever be acceptable in Your sight? As fellow workers, we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1).
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! Why is it so hard for me to accept the grace that God so freely gives? Do I keep God in a box because I find myself too unworthy? Do I continually scrape the scabs of my heart because I don’t think I deserve to find healing?
But forgiveness is not optional. It’s part of the package. God extends grace and demands I accept it. He offers forgiveness and expects us to extend it. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you (Matthew 6:14). Though Jesus is speaking about outward forgiveness, the same principal – accepting and applying grace – applies to inward forgiveness. We must forgive, even if it’s ourselves. Even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do (Colossians 3:12-13).
God is so much kinder to us than we are to ourselves. We want to keep beating ourselves over the heads, and He is over it. It’s forgotten. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12). Oh, to be like the Lord and see my sin no more! Truly God is love.
Which means, of course, that hate – the root of unforgiveness – is of the enemy. And because we are still entrapped in our flesh, which is enemy territory, forgiveness is a process. So when anger wells up afresh toward those who have hurt me, I often find myself praying for those still alive, “Please, dear Lord, save their souls. Take their hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh.” It is impossible to hate someone for whom you pray.
So I must choose to love myself, one whose worth is significant in the eyes of my Creator. So significant, in fact, that He took my sin to the grave. And when the enemy of my soul accuses me, bringing on a wave of guilt, I can say, “Thank You, God, that you have forgiven me. Thank You that You love me and You see my sin no more.” I can choose to stand firm in His great grace, which is forever greater than my sin.