Two and a half years ago I wrote a piece on healing and forgiveness during my solitude. I feel compelled to extend my thoughts on that now. At that time, I focused more on forgiveness of others and healing for self-beneficial reasons. Don’t get me wrong, that piece still speaks to my life but there is so much more to it. I should preface this blog by saying that, in “Healing,” I referenced to others hurting you and needing to forgive them in order to receive healing. This can be extraordinarily difficult, however, I often feel that it’s more difficult to forgive ourselves.
I want you to think of the worst thing you have ever done. Got it? Now, if you’re looking at this thing honestly, can you say you are healed from it? You may have moved forward, by the grace of God, or it may still haunt you. Perhaps you feel as though you’ve received healing from it, but it’s simply absent from your mind because it’s so suppressed. Or even worse, you don’t feel that you deserve healing and continually live under the shame of it.
Forgiveness seems like a very straight-forward and uncomplicated subject in the Word. Christ has redeemed us back to God, we are forgiven by Him, and we are to forgive others as well in order to receive our own forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15, Mark 11:25, Luke 17:3-4, 2 Corinthians 2:10-11, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:13-14, etc.) Healing is pretty basic as well: Christ’s sacrifice provides this and by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5.) I don’t think any Christian would argue they need to forgive others, have grace, love thy neighbor, all of that. But what about forgiving ourselves? I personally haven’t found anything in the Bible that speaks directly about forgiveness of self. How important is it? A perk, or a necessity? How drastically does it stunt your spiritual growth, if at all? There is a point in everyone’s lives where they can unfortunately relate to Paul in Romans 7:15-24–
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Paul closes out Romans 7 with these thoughts. The beautiful thing about this is he rushes to open Romans 8 with this statement: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” He grieves and mourns over this battle with sin for chapters, and then he sums up the solution in one eloquently written line. No condemnation? That’s great news. However, this doesn’t solve the issue on forgiveness of self. The best way to understand the importance of this is to face the facts of what life would be like without (self) forgiveness.
If we did not forgive ourselves, despite God pardoning us, we would still be living in condemnation. Perhaps not God’s condemnation, but our own. I cannot imagine how God could truly utilize us as His vessels if we were in a constant state of reproach. Pastor, evangelist, and professor Dr. Mike Brown speaks about living in and through God’s self-portrait of us. This is applicable here because it’s impossible to carry out God’s assignments for us into completion if the view of ourselves is not aligned with His. Let’s use Gideon for an example — when the Midianites were oppressing Israel, the angel of the Lord came to him and said, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” Anyone who knows this story knows, at that moment in time, those were the last words you would be using to describe Gideon. However, God knew His plans for Gideon and He chose to view Him in the image of who Gideon would grow to be, not who he was now. However, for God to work through him and make him this mighty man of valor, Gideon would have to start viewing himself that way and putting the past behind him. We must do the same. We cannot be living in this idea of who we were, the mistakes we’ve made, or the sin that at one time entangled us. A time of repentance is vital, but beyond that, carrying that shame is impairing, furthermore, detrimental for us to hinder our future with torment over our past sin.
This pours over onto the question of spiritual growth. If we are unable to truly move forward on God’s path, then our spiritual growth is inevitably stunted and certainly restrained. If we find ourselves unable to fully approach the throne of grace due to sins that have since been repented of, there is a tremendous issue at hand. God is our Source, to life, to everything. If we are cut off from the Source, how can we live? It is impossible to truly fulfill the work of Heaven on earth if we are mentally, emotionally, or spiritually stuck in a particular moment of time in our lives. We have to move forward, seek first His kingdom and His face, live in the image of a new creation in Christ, and all of these things, including spiritual growth, shall be added unto us.
The reason it’s so deeply on my heart to express this is because if we don’t do this, Christ’s work on the cross was in vain. If we permanently impair ourselves due to fleeting or momentary sin, our work will be incomplete and Christ’s sacrifice is only beneficial after this lifetime. But His sacrifice wasn’t just meant for the eternal, it was meant for now. Our work now is eternal. We all somewhat understand, if only in brief epiphanies throughout our life, how truly immeasurable and great God’s love for us is. We are aware that our grace and love towards others is a reflection of God’s love. But people seem to forget that we are to love ourselves that much as well. You can’t love others if you don’t love yourself, hence “love thy neighbor as thyself.” This is a call to love others as much as you love yourself. So, let us forgive ourselves and keep our eyes focused on God’s image of us and what lies ahead.
“But one thing I do:
Forgetting what lies behind and straining towards what lies ahead.”
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”