We all know that the first step to becoming a Christian is to ask God for forgiveness; to accept Jesus as our Lord and to repent of our old lifestyle as we seek after His. And we know that the next step is to forgive other people and to be free of the anger, hostility and resentment that we’ve carried toward them. Yet, there is another part to this healing that many of us overlook and this is that the petition for forgiveness begins at home.
Many of us don’t realize that we have to forgive ourselves for things that we’ve done or not done and that have become tormenting burdens we carry in the back of our heart; things that we can’t change and that we truly regret; things that we think about often with pain and remorse; things that keep us captive in the shadows of the enemy and that prevent us from receiving the fullness of God.
Some of us aren’t even aware of these burdens until someone points them out to us. Then once we realize that we have not forgiven ourselves for something that’s affecting our life, our eyes are opened and our heart cries out to God. We are able to come to Him in prayer and “cast all of our burdens” onto Him and truly get the release from this weight that we’ve been carrying.
“…casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” … 1 Peter 5:7
Some of us are aware of the burden, but we struggle with it because every day we see the results of what we did or didn’t do to someone and we can’t forgive ourselves for causing this injustice to them. We can’t be free when we know that they suffer because of what we did even though whatever it was may have been years ago and long before we knew Jesus. Or even though it may be something that we didn’t even know we did at the time and the weight of the guilt weighs heavy.
The Apostle Paul knows what it is to have done terrible things because he had many innocent Christians killed in his mislead quest to serve God. He thought he was doing what God wanted him to do, but when he was saved and repented, he was sickened by what he had done. He pled for God’s forgiveness and so the Lord forgave him and filled Paul with His Spirit, and Paul was able to forgive himself because he knew that if he had been serving Christ at that time that he would never have hurt anyone. And we have to think the same way.
Each one of us will stand before God to account for the things that we have done while we were here on earth. The good things that we have done to His glory will be noted, but the bad things that we have done – and that are all under the blood – will not be recognized because they are forgiven. The thing we did that we harbour the guilt for has been forgiven by God, too. We are the only one who won’t let it go.
This guilt – or unforgiveness – will keep our heart polluted with a burden that will continue to give the devil glory for something that he got us to do. God forgave us for it, but we won’t forgive ourselves so the effects of this sin will stay with us and will rule over us – and keep us from God. The devil smirks on because he still has a piece of us.
We need to give this burden to God. It may take many times of coming to Him and pouring it all out because the wounds are deep within us, but if we diligently cry out to Jesus and ask for His help, He will help us. When King David struggled with guilt, he cried out to God until he got this release.
“Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.” … Psalm 51:14
Faith is our lifeline to God, so if we have faith to accept Jesus as our Saviour, faith to believe that we are forgiven, and faith to know that God has a purpose for us, then we have to act on that faith. If we believe that Christ has forgiven us then we (being filled with His Spirit) must forgive ourselves and get rid of the guilt that Satan has put on us. We need to put our faith to work and break all ties with the devil.
“…..faith without works is dead”. … James 2:20
Some may argue, “It’s not that easy. I’ve physically hurt a person who can never be healed and I feel sick about it”, or “I was a bad parent and now my child is messed up and doesn’t know God”, or “My parent died angry at me for things I’d done”.
We can’t turn back time. We can’t change what we’ve done, but God forgave us for all of our sins when we came to the cross and repented. Now we need to come to God and ask Him to help us get past them so we can forgive ourselves. We need to pray and believe that He will help us.
Each person is responsible for their own salvation, and that includes the person we’ve hurt. They must come to God and seek forgiveness, as well, and ask for His direction and blessing on their lives. We cannot carry this burden for them. This is something they have to do on their own, and if they choose to not forgive us for what we’ve done to them, then that is their choice.
“….choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….”… Joshuah 24:15
God does not leave anyone out in the cold. That’s why we’re here, filled with His Spirit and working on His behalf to reach out and show God’s love to people who have suffered physically, mentally, emotionally and every other way. Even the people who were hurt by something we did will have opportunities to come to God and seek forgiveness and healing for their own lives.
This doesn’t mean that we become non-caring or complacent toward someone we’ve hurt in the past; it doesn’t mean that we brush it off as “oh well, they’ll get over it”. It means that we no longer carry the guilt for our actions because we know that Jesus has forgiven us.
In some cases this person or their family might be hateful toward us, but instead of holding onto the guilt emotion, we can lift them up in prayer every day and pray for their salvation, and ask that the Lord bless their lives and fill them with His Spirit. We can turn our guilty feelings into a positive action and give God the glory for our healing – and for their healing.
We cannot change what we did in the past, but we can live a Godly life today and be a positive influence for what happens in the future. We might never be able to tell this person that we’re sorry, or maybe we’ve apologized a hundred times, but they won’t accept it. This then becomes an issue between them and God because WE have done all that we can do.
When we forgive ourselves then we can more easily feel the love of Jesus and we can know that our body is the temple of His Spirit. We’ll know we have the victory when we can turn the guilt that we’ve carried into a mission of faith to lift this person up to Heaven and win their soul for Christ.
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” … John 14:27
Michael English sings a beautiful song called Please Forgive Me. It will bring you to the foot of the cross when you close your eyes and put yourself into the words of this song. God is faithful and He’ll heal you and restore you and bless you.
Michael English sings from his heart, Please Forgive Me.
“Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” … Psalm 106:1