Dear Dr. B,
I have struggled to get on with my life. Things I’ve done in my past keep me from enjoying the present. It’s so hard to forgive myself because I hate what I did and how I behaved. I feel guilty and undeserving of my life today, which is not at all like my past life. I continue to carry the shame from decades ago and just can’t move on. Can you help?
Unable to Forgive Myself
I hear the guilt and agony in your words, but more than that I can feel the deep-rooted pain that emanates from the shame and embarrassment that you continue to carry deep within your heart from mistakes of yesteryear. Oh how I wish we could sit down over a cup of coffee or iced tea and just talk. If we did, one of the first things I would share with you is that the thoughts you are having of guilt and shame over past mistakes are not even your thoughts. They are thoughts spoken to you by the enemy of your soul, to convince you that you aren’t worthy: worthy of love, worthy of forgiveness, worthy of joy.
The enemy is a liar, who, according to the Bible “…comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that they might have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). You see, the enemy seeks to steal your peace, kill your joy, and rob you of your identity—and he will remind you of every bad thing you have ever done if it will help to interfere with your peace, joy, and your ability to stand confidently in who you are. But the other half of that verse is the good news! Jesus came to give you a full and abundant life, regardless of anything and everything that you have done. You are already forgiven for all the mistakes you have ever made or will ever make. That is why scripture says, “There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). If Jesus has already forgiven you for those mistakes, don’t you think it’s time you forgive yourself?
It’s the enemy of your soul who reminds you of your mistakes. The only way to overcome him and his tactics is to fight back with truth. Every time he tempts you to remember or dwell on your past mistakes, remember and remind him that you’ve been forgiven and redeemed because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross! Say it out loud. Faith comes by hearing, so speak such truths out loud. When the enemy reminds you of your past mistakes, thank God for His truth which says, “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19 NLT).
Frequently, it’s more difficult to forgive ourselves than forgive others for what they do to us. But remember, God has already forgiven you of whatever you have done. He already paid the penalty to wipe your debt clean. When you don’t forgive yourself, you are basically telling God that His sacrifice wasn’t enough; His death wasn’t enough. There is no greater price that could be paid. If you can’t look at it this way, look at it as the most expensive gift you’ve ever been given. Receive it with the most extravagant love that’s been offered. And it comes with a “no returns” policy.
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
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