Image Courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

Image Courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

If I could share only one piece of advice that will transform a trial into a triumph, a victim into a victor, inspire dancing where only mourning has been previously, it would be:

“Be willing to forgive. Early. Often. Always.”

There is no other single piece of wisdom that will be as transformative as we go through trials of life as…

…forgiveness.

I have found that forgiveness needs to happen in four different areas (at least):

  1. I choose to forgive myself even as I receive God’s forgiveness
  2. I seek forgiveness from others where needed
  3. I choose to forgive others who have wronged me
  4. I “forgive” God

I know that most of us get squeamish at #4, given that God does no wrong. But bear with me. I want to address each of these briefly over the next week or two. I will address each in order of appearance on my list.

Choosing to forgive myself. I have gone through my life making a boatload of mistakes. I have more regret than I know what to do with. If I let it, regret will bury me alive. I can do nothing to change the past. Consider what Paul has said:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
~ Philippians 3:12-14

If anyone could beat himself up for past failures, it would be the Apostle Paul. He didn’t just hurt peoples’ feelings and say mean things. He killed people. He left children fatherless, women without their husbands. He killed other peoples’ sons and daughters. Yet even Paul could say he pressed on and chose to forget what was behind. He extended the grace of God to himself. He forgave himself.

Certainly, if Christ can forgive Paul (and he has) and if Christ can forgive me (and He has), then I can forgive myself. This is vital to moving forward through the trials I face. Sometimes, the trials I face may be because of something I have done that I regret.

Practically Speaking

What does it look like for me to actually forgive myself? In my case, I need to sit down with a journal or with my laptop and start typing out my confessions to the Lord. This might be a “Things I Regret” or “Things I am Sorry For” list. After I write it, I speak it to God. In this list, I might include the names of people I have wounded and even the specific details of that wounding…how I imagine they feel or the damage that has been done. But I never leave it there. It is important to do the next step…

For each of the items on my list(s), I declare over each (it is best for me to do this out loud), “Jesus you have forgiven.” You could even use a red pen to write in bold print:

FORGIVEN

across each of the items on your list.

Type a bible verse next to each and say it out loud. Here are two that help:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature,God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. ~ Colossians 2:13-14

You can personalize this yourself. When I do it it comes out this way: Lord, when I was dead in my sins and in the uncircumcision of my sinful nature, you made ME alive with Christ. You forgave me all my sins, having canceled the written code with its regulations, that was against me and that stood opposed to me; you took it away nailing it to the cross! I choose to do the same, to forgive me for my sins and mistakes.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; ~ Psalm 103:11-13

Try personalizing this one to see what that looks like for you. It is such a wonderful way to bring the truth home.

Speaking truth to myself in situations where I need to forgive myself is imperative. Here are some truths to speak to and/or journal to yourself  again and again:

  1. When I confess my sins, God is faithful and just to forgive my sins and cleanse me of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
  2. Jesus paid the penalty that a holy God required by dying on the cross for my sins (John 3:16).
  3. If Jesus has credited me with righteousness, and chosen to apply his blood to forgive my sins, I don’t want to add insult to injury by refusing to believe that his sacrifice is enough.  Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  4. I can’t hate myself into positive change.
  5. God calls me to believe him–what he says about me and about what he has done for me. Forgiving myself is one way I can do that practically.

ASSIGNMENT:

1. Prayerfully evaluate ~ Are you living under the burden of regret?

2. Write a list of things you regret.

3. Over the top of each one, plaster the word, FORGIVEN.

4. Prayerfully consider the statements #1-5 above. Journal about each one, elaborating, or turning each into a prayer.

5. Select scriptures that speak to the need to press on and forget the past. Journal and personalize about each one.

Let’s choose to stand on the truth that GOD has forgiven us. As HE has forgiven us, we can forgive ourselves!

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