When talking about “feeling forgiven” one of the issues many struggle with is that of forgiving themselves for sinning. The classic response is for someone in this situation to say that they accept God’s forgiveness—but they just cannot forgive themselves for what they did. The result of this is anger at themselves, anger and excessive sorrow over their failure, and even a tendency to slip into depression over what they did. No matter how often they hear that God has forgiven them, they just will not forgive themselves for their actions, words, or attitudes. Let’s take a closer look at this to see if we can help some get over this hurdle in “feeling forgiven.”
A major issue in this battle is actually pride. I know that sounds strange because the pride here is masking itself in supposed humility. Ultimately though, this person is saying that they expected so much better of themselves. Is that biblical though? Psalm 16:2 tells us, “You are my Lord, I have no good besides You.” Then in Romans 7:18-19 we read this, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” These two Scripture passages let us know that in ourselves—we don’t have the capacity to live a godly life. Romans 7 is there to bring us to the same sense of utter helplessness that Paul knew. That led him to cry out, “Who will save me from this body of death!” His answer was simple—forgiveness and freedom were through Jesus Christ alone.
When we apply this to the whole idea of forgiving ourselves for failing, we come up with an interesting conclusion. It is only pride to think we will not fail if we are not walking dependent on Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit. If we are not renewing our mind with the truth of the Word—and putting sin to death by the Spirit—we are going to fail and we are going to sin. If we were to go back and examine how we were living prior to our choice to sin, these things would show up in our lives like emergency flashers warning us that a fall was imminent. It is only pride that does not look back and see choices that lead up to every sin we commit. It is only pride that says, “I can’t believe I sinned.”
The healthier alternative to not forgiving ourselves is to examine ourselves. There is a post-mortem analysis we ought to do after sinning that would reveal why we fell. We could call it CSI-Holy Spirit. Rather than pout because we blew it—we should take the Spirit’s hand and wade into what led up to the sin. When we do, we will not feel paralyzed in our failure. We will feel energized to a deeper repentance, a greater mistrust of ourselves and our flesh, and a greater dependence on God, His Word, and His Spirit to live a godly life in the future. Oh, there is one other thing too . . . we will embrace God’s grace that is the source of forgiveness—and the source of future change as well.