Here are 4 things you can do to learn to forgive yourself.
Fact over Feelings
So many times people have talked to me and believe that they are past forgiveness. They think that they’ve done too much in their lives to ever be forgiven, but when I explain to them that God forgives all of our sins, cleansing us from every bit of our unrighteousness (1st John 1:9), they say they believe it but they still feel that they can’t forgive themselves. The problem is that they are putting far too much stock in their feelings and not enough in the Word of God. First John 1:9 is always true, regardless of how a person feels, so I try to show them that they must believe what God says and His Word is clear. We can be forgiven of all of our sins and made the very righteousness of Jesus Christ (2nd Cor 5:21), so no matter what they “feel” it’s no comparison to what God’s Word says. Feelings are shallow, unreliable and subjective, but God’s Word is powerful, always true, and objective. Feelings are subjective truth…they might be right or they might be wrong….God’s Word is always true, no matter what they feel like and facts are cannot changed by feelings. Which would you believe more? Feelings or facts?
A Higher Standard
Whoever feels that they cannot be forgiven by God, no matter what they’ve done, is actually setting a higher standard of forgiveness than even God holds too. If someone has repented and trusted in Christ, they are cleansed and forgiven, so why can’t they forgive themselves? It’s either because they have a higher standard of forgiveness than God or they feel that their sin or sins are too much, even for God to forgive. It might also be that they are living in sin. My question to them is, “How many of your sins were still ahead of you when Jesus died on the cross?” The answer of course is, all of them, so why do some believe that Jesus’ shed blood is not enough to cover their sins? Again, we go back to feelings over facts. If God says we can be forgiven of all of our sins, we’ve got to believe God. God cannot lie but our feelings often do. If you or someone you know cannot forgive themselves, then ask them, “Don’t you think that Jesus’ perfect life, suffering, death, and resurrection was enough to save you, and if not, why not?” Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), and He’s not going to save most of all who call upon Him but all of them. The Apostle Paul says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9). That should settle it.
It is Finished
Far too often I hear from believers that say if you’re not baptized, if you don’t tithe, if you don’t do this or that, you are not going to be saved, but isn’t Jesus enough? Do we really need to add Jesus + something else = salvation? God knew what He was doing by sending the sinless Son of God to die for those who all deserved the wrath of God, but when Jesus died for us, it was enough. Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), which means in the Greek means, “Paid in full,” so why do so many of us want to add something to what Jesus said is already finished? It’s just human nature for us to want to add something to our salvation. That’s why so many other religions in the world are about do this and do that. It’s not, “do, do, do,” but rather, it’s “Done,” in Christ.
Sadly, there are a few Christians who look and judge other Christians and believe they may not be saved. Many times it’s because they’re assuming the wrong thing, or it’s over something that’s not essential. They might say things like, “How can you do that? You’re a Christian,” but what they should understand is, believer’s aren’t perfect and they are (and I am) going to sin again, even after we’re saved (1st John 1:8, 10). If we are feeling judged or condemned by others, the good news is we don’t have to pass their standard. It is before God we will stand, and if God has forgiven us, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Rom 8:34), and “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom 8:31)? These are rhetorical questions and not questions that require a yes or no. Paul is asking these questions, not to receive an answer, but to make a statement. No human can condemn who God has received. No one or nothing can separate us from God, ever again, so if God is for you, who or what could ever be against you? Who can contend and win?
Reading the Word of God helps a lot when you’re feeling “unforgiven.” Chapters like Romans 8, Ephesians 2, and John 10 and 11 can help us ground our assurance in God’s Word, not in our feelings. We should not hold ourselves, or others, to a higher standard than God does because it’s impossible to meet a higher standard. You and I must cling to Jesus’ words, “It is finished” or paid in full as the truth (which it is). Now, there is no possible condemnation, no possible separation, and no possible un-forgiveness, and since God is for us, with us, and receives us, why are we sometimes the only one’s holding back on forgiving ourselves? Good question isn’t it?