I have met with many women over the years of biblical counseling and discipleship who tell me that while they know God has forgiven them they don’t feel forgiven and they can’t forgive themselves.
This is a snare of the thought life. It is critical to understand that even though we are completely forgiven, we will not always feel forgiven, and we may not completely forget the sin and the events surrounding the sin.
In accepting the total forgiveness that is ours in Christ we are to “remember no more” our past sin, because God does not. We are not to dwell on who or what we were in our lives before Christ or even the sin we committed yesterday and repented of because God doesn’t dwell on it.
Honestly, there are some events in a persons life, some sin they have committed that made such an impact on them that while they have accepted the forgiveness of God there is little or no feelings of having been forgiven, no comfort, no joy.
There are things I was involved in prior to my regeneration by Christ Jesus that were that way for me. I knew God had forgiven me. I knew He threw even those things as far away as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and I still struggled with feeling I was forgiven at times. This led to the next natural step of thinking that maybe I had to “forgive myself.”
The idea of forgiving yourself is a psychological concept that has no place in the Bible or in the life of a Christian because it is completely false. The Bible never tells us to forgive ourselves. In fact, to think you have the ability to forgive yourself is totally contrary to the gospel!
So what do you do if you are a person who struggles with feeling unforgiven?
Begin by telling yourself theological truth and that comes with a whole truckload of Scripture. I have listed only a few of the hundreds of passages for you that talk about your forgiveness and why. I encourage you to remind yourself daily of their truths.
- For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
- For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures 1 Cor. 15:3
- …to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ Acts 28:18
- And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor 6:11
You must begin to live as though these things are true about you, because when a person is in Christ they are true about you- no exceptions. You need to learn to “think saved” because you are. When those doubts come into your mind, you must answer them with truth because truth is the most powerful weapon at your disposal. (See Ephesians 6:10-18). It is acceptable to acknowledge that that was once a part of your life, but not to be held hostage by it.
If you have frequent issues with feeling unforgiven you will need to consistently remind yourself of the truth. When I realized that I had believed the line about forgiving myself I had to take the same steps of learning what the Bible says about me as a Believer and then when those thoughts would come up I would remind myself that while the event I felt unforgiven the reality was that Jesus had died for that sin and it has been forgiven.
Cast aside the lie of forgiving yourself, and begin to walk in the truth!