May 28, 2013
I Can't Forgive Myself
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 (NIV)
The workshop had ended. Most of the moms had left the room while she fidgeted with her bag. I could see she wanted to flee, but willpower and a great desire for freedom kept her feet rooted to the floor.
We sat down and she blurted out: "I've been told for years that when I forgive myself I'll be free. But I can't do it. I've tried."
I reached for her hands. "I've searched in Scripture. It's not there."
She looked up in surprise. "What do you mean?"
Forgiving ourselves. It's not there.
There are a multitude of scriptures that show us how to offer forgiveness to others, as well as how to receive it. But none that asks us to remove the burdens from our own hearts.
Thankfully 1 John 1:9 offers a promise. When we hold up our sin before God, He is faithful and just to forgive all our sins.
Faithful to us? Yes, to us. But also faithful to who He is, and His plan for our forgiveness through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross as He bore our sin.
But it doesn't end there. You see, when we are forgiven, our sin is reframed. Yes it still happened. But God removes it from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). We are seen as covered in mercy, spared from the punishment that was ours to take.
My new friend had been trying for years to do a job that wasn't hers. By trying and failing, she saw herself as shameful. That shame affected every aspect of her life: her relationships, her role as mom, and her faith as she tried to please God through service or acts, all the while seeing herself as "less than."
I asked her if she was willing to allow Christ to do what she had been unable to do for nearly a decade. Rather than forgive herself, would she accept the gift of forgiveness Christ so willingly offers?
Later that week I received an email from her. She shared that when she walked through the front door that night, her husband said, "Something's different about you."
It's been nearly three months since this young mom stopped trying to forgive herself, and scooped up the generous gift of God's grace instead. She is still surprised by the transformation. But more so, her family believes she found a miracle.
One that had been waiting for her all along.
Perhaps you carry shame. You've been trying to forgive yourself, but realize you can't undo the past. You've said you're sorry. You have changed. But the guilt or burden remains.
Hand that shame to your Savior today, and allow Him to hurl it as far as the east is from the west.
It's not your burden to carry any longer.
Dear Jesus, You paid a heavy price for my sin, and yet I am still carrying it as if it is mine to absolve. I have said I am sorry. I am changing. But this burden isn't mine to carry. Today I joyfully receive Your gift of mercy and grace, and see myself as washed clean because of You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Do You Know Him?
The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness by Suzanne Eller
Visit Suzanne's blog for a printable of scriptures to tuck away in your Bible and a link to a powerful radio interview she did on the subject of forgiving.
Reflect and Respond:
Imagine a child carrying a large boulder on his back. There's a sign on the side of the road that says, "Place all boulders here," but he passes it day after day, the burden weighing heavier and heavier. What would you say to that child?
Today, speak to your own heart as a child of God through these scriptures.
• God desires to carry my burden (Psalm 55:22)
• My Savior paid a dear price for my shame (Colossians 1:13-14)
• God set me free, so today I will be free (Galatians 5:1)
• My God sees me through His love, so I will see myself that way, too (Psalm 103:12)
Psalm103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us." (NAS)
Galatians 5:1, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (NIV)
© 2013 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.
Originally published Tuesday, 28 May 2013.