Sometimes we may find ourselves thinking or saying these things after an event which we see as completely our fault and the results are devastating. A mother turning away for one minute and their child disappears. Someone driving a car and causing an accident. You could probably think of other scenarios which leave someone feeling guilty, even though they are told it is not their fault, but the feeling of guilt just won’t go away.
True forgiveness from the heart means that I will no longer seek to punish or hold an offense against someone because of a misdeed or sin that has been committed.
As Christians we are told that the privilege of punishment and vengeance is God’s, not ours, so therefore, being forgiven and giving forgiveness should be easy to do. Sadly, this is not always the case.
Forgiveness from God
When we sin, we know that our relationship with God will be affected and He calls us to confess our sin to Him in order that He can cleanse us of our guilt. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. The sin is washed away but often we have to live with the consequences of our sin. God is able to take those consequences and weave them into our lives so that good will come from them and we will grow in our trust and love for God as He builds up our character.
Forgiveness from others
When we sin, besides sinning against God we frequently sin against other people, and we may find that we need to go to them and confess what we have done and ask them for forgiveness. Matthew 5:23-24 says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift”. This may seem harder than asking God for forgiveness, because our fellow human beings are not always as merciful as God. However, it is important that we are reconciled with those whom we have wronged in order to live at peace with others.
Forgiveness to others
Besides us sinning against others, there will be times when people sin against us. Initially we may be angry, hurt, feel betrayed or unwilling to be reconciled with those who have sinned against us. This is not uncommon, but if we desire to live lives that please God, He has commanded us in Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins”.
If our neighbor sins against us and comes to confess and ask forgiveness, we are showing God’s love and mercy to them in forgiving them. Sometimes it may take a while before the feeling of anger or disappointment disappears, but with God’s help we can truly forgive from our hearts.
Forgiveness to ourselves
This can sometimes be the hardest thing of all because it may be that we have caused something disastrous to happen, or we feel a complete failure and feel that forgiving ourselves is letting ourselves off the hook too easily. In this kind of situation, there are several things that we need to remember:
- God is in control of everything that happens. He may not have caused the disaster but He gave his permission for it to happen and He calls us to trust in Him that “He will work it together for good” (Romans 8:28).
- If we have confessed our fault in the situation to God, He has heard and has forgiven us just as He promised.
- Our enemy, the devil, loves to continually accuse us, remind us of our fault, and pile false guilt upon so that the real cause of us being unable to forgive ourselves is coming from him. His one main plan is to destroy God’s work and his people, and when we continue to feel burdened, guilty, and unforgivable, the devil is certainly succeeding his plan in our lives.
The remedy for this is to recognize where this feeling of guilt is coming from and realizing that we are believing a lie because every sin like this is forgivable and actually, if we have confessed it to God, we have already been forgiven.
So in Jesus’ name you can rebuke the devil and receive from Jesus not only the forgiveness but the feeling of forgiveness that He gives us when we confess our sin.
Can I ever forgive myself?
The answer is a simple “yes”. When God has forgiven us, no guilt remains. We are free.