“Why can’t I forgive myself?”
That’s a question is a real struggle even for Christians. It was a struggle for David, God’s own chosen king with a heart like God’s.
David committed two of the most haunting sins: adultery and murder. Then he struggled with forgiveness. What did that look like?
Fatigue and lack of spiritual energy. Despair that kept forcing him to relive what he’d done. Religion became a burden more than a blessing and he withdrew, resenting God. Paralyzing fear that didn’t want to make things better or take risks of faith and growth. Quickly blaming others for problems that felt overwhelming.
Ever felt that way? Why does that happen? Is there a problem with God’s forgiveness? Impossible. God is perfect and his forgiveness is perfect.
Complete. A free gift that always works (Psalm 103, Ephesians 1). When I can’t forgive myself, I’m my biggest problem. Because I want my own version of forgiveness that really isn’t forgiveness. I create unrealistic expectations of myself, try to pay God back for my wrongs, insist that I’m better than I behaved, or very often believe that I need to be punished and take that task upon myself to beat myself up in some way.
It’s all a cover-up, folks. It doesn’t work. It can’t work. Only God’s designed forgiveness actually forgives.
So remember this: forgiveness doesn’t happen to anyone without first happening to God. Nobody can forgive themselves. But God can forgive anyone, any sinner, even the worst, even repeat offenders. Even you. Because God forged forgiveness first. Jesus paid everything you’ll ever owe to God for your sins when he sacrificed himself on the cross.
Maybe you caused an accident, committed adultery or had an abortion. Maybe you hid something unethically in a business deal or failed to report a crime. Maybe you served in the military and can’t forget the things you saw or did. Maybe you neglected your family, physically harmed someone, or realize how much your rebellious years hurt your parents.
Forgiving yourself isn’t your job.
Forgiving you is God’s job, and he’s already done it perfectly. Lovingly. Pray to God for forgiveness because he understands and listens. Pray in total truth and transparency, even as God becomes vulnerable to you with his grace. Pray while immersing yourself in God’s Word so that you not only confess the sins that bother you now but you discover, in prayer, sins you haven’t yet confessed.
“Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them, and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Psalm 32:2).
PRAYER: Dear forgiving God, I can’t forgive myself because forgiving me isn’t my job, it’s yours. My version of forgiveness is flawed, while yours is perfect. Already accomplished in Jesus’ sacrificial payment for sins. Soothe me with this truth today. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: Read Psalm 32 slowly today, taking at least 15 minutes to quiet your soul and mind. Nothing in the world is more important right now. Nothing else is calling you away. Spend this moment with God in his Word, and in prayer consider this two questions:
- Find 3 words or phrases that describe David’s condition when he couldn’t forgive himself.
- Find 3 words or phrases that describe God’s forgiving grace that changed David’s heart.