recovery in Christ when life is broken

Showing items filed under “Faith”

Why I Can’t Forgive Myself

 

“I knew better. How could I have acted so foolishly? I can’t believe that I would stoop so low. I’m better than that. I don’t deserve to go on. I’m not worth forgiving. I’m worthless.”

Have you ever said one of these things to yourself? I have. Maybe you say some of these things to yourself every day, suffocating from guilt and shame because of a sin or mistake. Or maybe you spend your days obsessing about how to overcome the past, desperately searching for a way to somehow “forgive yourself.”

“Forgiving yourself” is common terminology used to describe self-release of personal guilt and shame. You don’t have to go far in recovery circles to hear someone say, “I know that God forgives me, and the person I’ve hurt forgave me, but I just can’t forgive myself.” Many books have been written on the subject. Even medical websites carry articles about the importance of self-forgiveness. The problem is that self-forgiveness is not a concept rooted in biblical truth.

If you think about it, no one in society has the authority to forgive themselves for something that they have done wrong. Teenagers can’t “un-ground” themselves. Prisoners can’t declare themselves forgiven and walk out of prison. People in a debt crisis can’t forgive themselves the remainder of what they owe. In all instances, we need a higher authority to pardon us or to declare that the debt from the sin is “paid in full.” Come to think of it, if we could forgive ourselves, we wouldn’t need Jesus.

But some of this confusion is semantics. When a Christian says, “I cannot forgive myself,” it usually means he is mistakenly holding on to guilt and shame for sins already paid for by Christ. He is struggling to truly accept Christ’s ransom for his soul as the lens through which he views himself.

God didn’t excuse sin, Jesus paid the debt of sin for us. Christ paid the debt of sin in full with his own blood, being nailed to a cross, so that he could offer forgiveness as a gift. Those who receive the gift are declared sons and daughters by God, forgiven, clean, righteous.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

 

A continual struggle with guilt and Shame is often rooted in one of these reasons:
  • Pride. Pride whispers, “I cannot believe I would stoop so low. I am above that sin.” Pride struggles to accept God’s charity; it wants to earn back God’s grace (an undeserved gift). A prideful person wants to think well of (or lift up) his or her sinful human nature.
  • Idolatry. God’s word is not authoritative for the person. He or she believes another claim more than God’s declaration of forgiveness (Satan’s lies, the accusations of someone they offended, a parent's voice, or his or her own thoughts and feelings).
  • Low self-worth or misplaced identity. When thoughts such as “I do not deserve forgiveness” or “I am not worthy of forgiveness” lead someone to feel guilt or shame instead of gratitude to Christ, he or she is seeking value and identity apart from Jesus. God claimed our lives as valuable to him through Jesus’ blood. There is no greater cost that the Father could offer than the life of the Son to purchase your soul. Christ’s ransom (not our own self-worth or merit) defines your true value and identity.
  • The person may not yet be saved from sin. He or she has not truly believed and received Christ’s sacrifice as the only payment that satisfies the total cost of sin. If someone has not accepted Christ’s sacrifice as the payment for his or her sin, God may be convicting that person of his or her guilt so that the person may turn to Christ and be saved from hell.

 

The truth is that we are all great sinners by nature, unable to overcome sin. We are capable of great evil. It is because of God’s great love for us that He offers forgiveness as a gift. God reclaims those who accept Christ’s undeserved, unearned gift and calls them forgiven, righteous children.

If you have accepted Christ, but continue to struggle with guilt and shame, pray first. Thank God for His complete forgiveness of all of your sin. Thank Him for seeing you as valuable enough to ransom your soul through the Son. Thank Him for naming you as clean, forgiven, righteous, and a son or daughter of God. Confess any pride. Confess if you have allowed something other Christ’s sacrifice to define your worth. Ask God to renew your heart and mind so that you see yourself through the lens of His word. Then, memorize scripture that claims who you are in Christ; your feelings will often follow your mind as you remind yourself of these truths. 1 Corinthians 6:11 and Psalm 103:12 are two great verses to write on your heart.

“Forgiving yourself” will never free you from guilt and shame. You receive freedom from guilt and shame when you accept Christ as Savior, trust that God’s claims upon your soul and identity are true, and allow His claims to define your life.

 

- Nate G.

in Faith

Five Things God Taught Me Through Tragedy

One day I was playing basketball during my lunch break and got a phone call that changed my life…” Jeff, you need to leave immediately and go straight to the hospital…your 2-year-old niece has been hit by a car and it’s serious.”  I remember the panic that ran through my body. My heart raced as I grabbed my keys—so many questions and no answers. By the time I reached the hospital, I took one look at my older sister (who was standing outside of the ER) and knew that my niece had died. Kara was gone. In 15 minutes, our lives had changed forever.

 

As information about the tragedy came in, it was more horrible than I’d imagined. My brother-in-law had accidentally backed over her while moving his trailer. My sister, along with my 5-year-old nephew, witnessed it.

 

That was twelve years ago, and our family still carries the scars of walking through this tragedy together. Though I wouldn’t wish this experience on my worst enemy, it is a part of a story that God has entrusted to us as a family. He ministered to us in very special ways during this time. You may have experienced something similar (or maybe something worse) but I write this to demonstrate that God can redeem, restore, and use really bad things in our lives to help us know Him more.

 

Though the Lord taught us much through this tragedy, I want to share 5 specific things: 

  1. Theology matters. (Psalm 119:111)

Questions about God and His character are thrust to the forefront when tragedy strikes; Questions like “Where is God?” and “Why didn’t God stop this from happening?” I’ll never forget my sister’s words as she was troubled by bad theology spoken by friends and family…with tears in her eyes she said, “Please tell me the devil didn’t steal my baby from me!” She was hearing from them that “that old devil stole your baby away” …as if God had somehow fallen asleep at the wheel. I went home that night and compiled many Scriptures to help her navigate her grief and give her a true understanding of God, His character, and his ways. 

  1. God’s presence is most potent in times of tragedy. (Psalm 23: 4, Mark 4:37-39)

I remember a strange supernatural peace that was present with us at the funeral home as we hugged friends who tried to comfort us...thinking, “Why are other people so despairing?” I remembered coming to the realization that God is an “ever present help in time of trouble” (Psalm 46:1). He provided a peace that transcended understanding during this difficult time. Some would call this “shock”- but that is too simple of an explanation for the power that we felt to be able to comfort those who were visiting us. 

  1. God speaks in little ways to remind us He loves us and is in control. (Psalm 73:26)

I will share one example (of many) that my sister relayed to me. My sister was having doubts as to whether she was a good mother to Kara, and even that “if she would have been a better one, she could have prevented this tragedy.” A few weeks after Kara’s death, she was cleaning my mom’s house to “give herself something to do”, when she “happened” on an e-mail that my mom had printed. This e-mail, from several months before, went on and on about what a great mother my sister is. It described several specific instances where my mom had noticed this about my sister. My sister cried as she read it, and said that it was as if God was whispering, “You see, I love you. You were a great mother.” 

  1. God taught me the “Ministry of Presence”. (Proverbs 25:20, Gal. 6:2)

Words were not adequate to either give me comfort or express the magnitude of my grief during the first few days of our loss. But, I remember who came to the funeral- the friends who took time out of their “busy” schedules to grieve with me-it was very powerful and important. And years later, my brother-in-law told me that the one thing that meant the most to him during our time together was that I was present and by his side (touching my shoulder with his) during the most difficult parts of the first few days of our loss—no words, just presence. 

  1. God gave me a special heart for others who go through similar tragedies. (2 Corinthians 1:4, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Since Kara’s death, God has used my experience with tragedy to comfort others who have experienced trauma. I feel a special calling to be there for others during hard times, and I am equipped to navigate the difficulties that come when tragedy strikes.

 

God never provided us clarity as to “why” this tragedy happened, but we felt God’s presence throughout it. We still treasure the many passages of scripture that God used to comfort us.

 

The following year, on Easter (I can’t make this stuff up), my sister gave birth to another baby girl, Jordyn Grace. Although we will always miss Kara, we treasure little Jordyn. When we look into her eyes, we are reminded of both the intense pain from the past and an amazing hope for the future. God is good—even when life (and death) doesn’t make sense.

-Jeff K.

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recovery in Christ when life is broken.