When Peace Like a River


A peaceful river in West-Vlaanderen, Belgium

Can I Ever Forgive Myself?

Grief affects people in different ways. Some grow closer to their family members, others push those close to them away because of their perspective of the circumstances.

I found myself at odds with my cousin after the death of her dad. Any contact was ignored or responded with negativity.

"Give it time" was the message of hope I received from my Daddy. Waiting for the Lord is always best anyway. During these two years of rejection, I never once held a grudge for her. At times I would get upset at her attitude, but then I would remind myself that she was grieving in her own way, and I needed to be there when she would come out of these devastating emotions.

But I never could fathom not forgiving her.

After two years, my emails were finally answered. When I visited my home country last year, my cousin and I met again, just like in olden times, as friends who had never parted. I knew my Heavenly Daddy had come through, as He always does.

It is true that at times I have a hard time forgiving someone who has hurt me deeply, but this doesn't ever seem as hard to me as forgiving myself for things I've done to hurt my loved ones. I have discovered that I am not alone in this. Thousands of people face the same dilemma: They simply cannot forgive themselves.

Why?

Because we feel we need to suffer for our past actions. We feel we need to be held responsible.

But isn't this a question of control? Control of our pasts, and control of our future? Where we deem we deserve to be imprisoned emotionally for the rest of our lives?

But are those emotions warranted?

When Jesus called out the words, "It is finished" (John 19:30 NIV) on the cross, did he have exemptions in mind? Everyone is forgiven except . . . Me?

When by divine inspiration the apostle Paul wrote: "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. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Col 2:13-15 NIV) did God intend to ignore our tendency to suffer for our mistakes?

When urged to "Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Col 3:13 NIV), are we to understand that we are exempted from forgiving ourselves?

Our problem, my friends, when we cannot forgive ourselves, is that we assume we have a higher standard than God Himself!

If Jesus' sacrifice was satisfying enough for God's forgiveness, why do we think we have a right to not forgive ourselves? Ultimately we are rejecting God with such an attitude! This puts our own sins on a pedestal, way above the all-encompassing grace of God!

Isn't this a kind of idolatry?

By continuing to punish ourselves, we are declaring that Christ's suffering was not enough. His offer on the cross was not sufficient, His sacrifice deficient. We are rejecting our Saviour Himself with such an attitude!

When the apostle Paul declared: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Rom 8:1 NIV), it included anyone who wanted to bathe in God's grace, us included! No matter how much we want to suffer for past mistakes, we have been forgiven, and we either accept His forgiveness or we reject Him!

Freedom comes through forgiveness and forgiveness is a choice we have to make. We either accept God's offer, or we continue with our own doomsday scenario, alienating ourselves from the One we consider to be the Lover of our soul (See Gal 5:4)!

After all these years of carrying the burden of unforgiveness for my past actions, I realize that I never had to carry that burden at all! It was my choice to carry it! And in so doing, I was rejecting my Lord and Saviour!

Oh Lord, forgive us for our own self-righteousness in not being willing to forgive ourselves! We realize that this self-imposed imprisonment is for naught, for You paid the price for ALL of our sins, including the ones we want to make ourselves suffer for! We accept Your gift with open arms! We give You our unforgiveness towards ourselves and towards others. Shine in our lives, and help us to enjoy the freedom and peace You have offered to us. Thank You Lord for saving a wreck like me! I accept You fully now. Be my Saviour as well as my Lord. From now on I will follow You wherever You lead me. I love You!

Will you accept Jesus' forgiveness as well? Then show it by forgiving yourself!

Rob Chaffart

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