This week is for those of us who may have a hard time forgiving ourselves or letting go of past mistakes.
A few weeks ago, I stopped by mother’s house for a Sunday visit. That morning’s virtual church service had been amazing, and I was still high from the praise music and message. I participated on a Zoom meeting on the way there, and it was still in progress when I arrived. I headed to her living room to finish the call, away from other family members and conversation.
I was getting antsy as the meeting was taking longer than I had expected. I was really looking forward to seeing my extended family, for some reason more than usual on that day.
As soon as the meeting ended, I took off my earphones and overheard a conversation about my daughters. In retrospect, it was innocent banter, but for some reason what was being said rubbed me the wrong way. Out of nowhere anger bubbled up, and I proceeded to lash out at those involved in the discussion.
I then stormed out of the house. Yes, the same house I had excitedly walked into a short time earlier. After another confrontation on the porch, I drove off in tears, unable to calm myself down.
We were all still going through a rough time after my brother died, and it was difficult to navigate through my changing emotions, but that was no excuse for the way I behaved on that day.
I drove to a remote spot to sit and reflect on what just happened. One thing that my brother’s death revealed was how precious life and time with loved ones truly is. Tomorrow is not promised, and we’ll never know if an encounter with someone will be our last.
As I sat in that hot car, I beat myself up. How could I have been so selfish? After everything my family had been through, how could I ruin that beautiful summer day that had been calming and tranquil prior to my arrival? How could I destroy the peace that was so desperately needed?
I vowed not to take family time for granted anymore. I went back to the house, but the mood had shifted. Not much was said in my presence, and internally I continued to condemn myself for my un-excusable behavior.
When I returned home, I continued to replay the scene in my head, and questioned why I couldn’t have responded differently. I was having a hard time forgiving myself. We could never get that day and time back again.
I had spent a great deal of time the previous morning writing a devotional based on this week’s Strategy, encouraging readers not to live in the past with the pain of bad choices. The words were still fresh in my mind, but I was having a hard time connecting them to my heart, so the guilt stayed with me.
I went to study this scripture again, as was my usual custom, I reviewed it in multiple translations. With each version, the word now kept drawing my attention. As many times as I’ve read this in the past, I’ve never paid much attention to this conjunction. What happened before the now that eliminated the punishment of condemnation?
I went to investigate the previous chapter: Romans Chapter 7, verse 19 highlighted my predicament – when I want to do good, I don’t always, and when I don’t want to do wrong, I sometimes wind up doing it anyway.
For every opportunity to do good, evil is always right there as an option. And for as many times I choose to do good, there are still times when I don’t. And then I have to deal with the consequences after making a foolish decision.
I know this week’s example is mild compared to mistakes from my past. I’ve made choices that have negatively impacted my finances, my relationships, and my self-esteem. When struggling with the guilt of a life-altering choice, emotional recovery tends to be more difficult.
When this happens, I always come back to this scripture. Now I don’t have to condemn myself due to my behavior because Jesus lives inside of me. His Spirit is at work, continuing to transform my life and behavior. His forgiveness frees me from the confining prison of guilt and shame.
Furthermore, He helps me to make a better choice next time, and not continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. He gives me 2nd, 3rd, and 100th chances to do better. If only I could offer the same grace to others that I am freely given.
I still have to live with the effects of the choices I make, and when fighting condemnation proves to be harder than expected, I just keep reading further down in this chapter until I get to my favorite verse in all of the 31,102 scriptures in the Bible.
Romans 8:28 provides the reassurance I need to pick myself up and keep moving forward:
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (NLT)
Everything means EVERYTHING. Even the bad choices, including the ones we’ve buried so far back in our minds that we don’t want anyone to ever find out about. Yes, even those will eventually work together for our good.
There’s nothing like freedom from guilt of the past. It’s time to let it go.
Are you stuck in the past, and unable to forgive yourself for something you’ve done?
Jesus died for this very purpose – to cover every wrong decision you’ll ever make. He breaks the chains of condemnation by offering forgiveness and freedom from shame. Won’t you accept it?
Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement.
Follow Destined 4 the Dub for the Inspiration each week as we journey through the highs and lows of life!