In the last three months, I have read these phrases..."I can't forgive myself" OR "The person you need to forgive is yourself" OR "Forgive yourself for your mistakes and faults." Most of the time these phrases are then connected to taking care of yourself or showing yourself compassion....I will not be speaking to those phrases today, but I will be at some point. Lately these phrases have really caused me to question and at times causes a bubbling deep within. I'm discovering that the questioning and deep bubbling (which is really emotion) are flags for me to recognize. I'm learning to speak to my Abba about these flags and ask for a revelation of who He is during these particular times. What I want to do here is go into a little depth of why I believe that it is impossible for me to forgive myself and why I believe it is actually very prideful to think I can.
'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 26:18 This is one of the scriptures that comes to mind. In this chapter of Acts, Paul is sharing about his conversion and in verse 18 Paul states Jesus' words that He is sending Paul to the Gentiles to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness and that they may RECEIVE forgiveness of sins by faith in me. Forgiveness within the context of Acts 26:18 means a sending away, release, letting go, pardon. This means that forgiveness must be received and the last part of verse 18 states 'by faith in me.' That's Jesus talking to Paul that eyes opened, turning from darkness to light, receiving forgiveness occurs through faith in Jesus Christ. This reminds me of Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Our salvation is through faith and is a GIFT of God, NOT a result of anything we can do. Forgiveness itself is a transaction of sorts according to the meaning in Acts 26:18...a pardon of sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21 states, For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. So our gift from God was Jesus being made to be sin, so that in him we can become the righteousness of God. Now that's a pardon....Jesus, becoming sin, taking on the wrath, becoming our propitiation, enduring what we deserve so that we may receive what we really don't deserve, forgiveness.
I've come to this simple realization...I am nothing without Jesus (John 15: 5), a word that I've learned is depraved or corrupted. I am destitute, meaning I am without and cannot even be capable of having anything without Jesus. I am completely needy and created to depend. What the world claims is independence, 'I can do it', 'I'm capable to work this out,' or even 'I must forgive myself.' This mindset is prideful or another way of saying it would be 'stinkin' thinkin.' Simply put, it's sin, as stated in Acts 26:18, it's the darkness. I know it seems very backward to think that dependence is being a part of the light, but that's a Kingdom mindset.
Forgiveness is not something we possess, it's something we've been gifted through Jesus Christ. Receiving is a very difficult action to take, especially when culture tells us that we must earn to receive. That's actually the beauty of forgiveness....there's no way to earn it. For centuries, the Israelites worked at sacrificing the 'right' animal, following the guidelines set before them, but God....God knew that nothing would come close to severing the gap between Himself and His people EXCEPT a pure sacrifice. Jesus Christ was the only one who could. What Jesus did, we could never do. One must be in a position of complete humility to receive and when it comes to receiving forgiveness, one must remain in that humble state. Matthew 5:3 comes to mind, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Poor in spirit basically means, one who knows they are depraved. When we look to self help books or self help 'tactics' like thinking positively, or creating mantras or even seeking counsel from individuals who 'coach' us how to better ourselves we are trying to work for something that cannot be worked for. Forgiveness is a gift. We can't earn it, we can't be better people to receive, we can't do ANYTHING to get it, we simply must receive.
What does that look like, you may be asking. Well, it looks like this....Jesus, I don't know you that well, I really don't understand what it means to receive, I want to know, I'm tired of trying to be better, I'm tired of working so hard to earn what you did for me. Please help me, I recognize that you died on a cross to pardon my sins and I want to receive what you are giving.
Now, find someone who knows more about this forgiveness stuff than you. Find someone who is willing to walk with you as you grow in knowing Jesus and as you grow in becoming more dependent on and in Him. Find someone or some people who can help you. I look forward to hearing from you if you have questions, need prayer, or even disagree with what I've shared here. I pray that as believers in Jesus Christ, followers of The Way, disciples of our Lord and Master, we stop striving and trying to work for something that is a gift. I also pray that we live this way....that we live as a humble people who are always in a position of knowing we are no better than anyone else in this world, we didn't deserve what we were given....we simply get to continue to receive.
Blessings in the truth & grace of Jesus Christ.
Jodi Sell-Grove is a follower of Jesus Christ, wife, mother of two young adults, an empty-nester, a student, podcaster, founder of of a non-profit, and a woman who loves sharing Jesus through her relationships.