When you learn how to forgive yourself, you'll be surprised at the stress it relieves.
Sadly, we singles tend to go in the opposite direction--beating ourselves up. I think there are two reasons for this. First, some churches control their members by making them feel guilty. And second, we don't really believe God has forgiven us.
Right here, right now, in writing, it seems ridiculous that anyone would drag around a crushing burden of guilt and smother their life with it, yet that's what many of us do.
Let's take a good, hard look at this problem and the Bible's solutions to it.
Let's recognize that all of us are sinners—you, me, and every person on this planet. We have a sinful nature. We've sinned in the past, we'll sin in the present, and we're going to sin in the future.
If you have any kind of conscience, you're sorry about the sins you committed in the past. You regret hurting people. You also regret the harm it's done in your own life. God forgives our sin, but he doesn't necessarily clean up the consequences for us.
So we live with guilt and shame. We wish we had done better, but we didn't. We can't go back and change it. A part of us feels filthy from past sin. It keeps us from becoming the person God wants us to be.
In a twisted way, we may even think this lingering foulness is God's way of punishing us. We think we deserve it.
There's a problem with that line of logic, though. God doesn't want us to do that. It's not how his answer to sin works.
Somewhere we got the notion that God is keeping a big ledger on every believer, a record of every sin we ever commit. We also think at the Judgment, God is going to pull out that ledger or some sort of cosmic video player and review every single sin, demanding an answer for it.
But the truth—for believers in Jesus Christ as Savior—is that the record of those sins has been wiped away, permanently and completely.
I like how the New Life Version translation of the Bible says it:
"I will show loving-kindness to them and forgive their sins. I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12, NLV)
When God says he'll remember our sins no more, he means it. Forgiven and forgotten. What a liberating truth!
How can this be? Because Jesus's atoning death on the cross paid the debt for all of our sins, past, present and future.
It's absolutely crucial for believers to look back at their past and say, "That sin there, the one I'm so ashamed of? I confessed it. I repented. Jesus paid for it. And God forgave it. He remembers it no more."
We singles can make a fresh start every morning because our sins are forgiven and God remembers them no more.
How do we go from head knowledge to heart knowledge to action?
This is where many of us stumble. This is where we say, "Yeah, but…"
You believe the Bible. You know it's true. You know you should forgive yourself, but something nags at you. You have doubts because this clean-slate promise sounds too good to be true.
Where does that doubt come from? Satan. Let's not be so smart and sophisticated that we're embarrassed to admit Satan actually exists. Jesus had to battle him. Jesus said he's real. That means Satan is real.
If Satan and his demon helpers can convince you and me we have to keep dredging up our old forgiven sins, they keep us in bondage. They keep us from enjoying our freedom in Christ.
We need faith in God to accept that God has forgiven our sins, but we don't need to herniate ourselves trying to work up that faith ourselves. Faith is a gift from God, free for the asking, poured into us by the Holy Spirit. Believe it, accept it, act on it.
Forgive yourself because God has forgiven you. Since he's the Judge and final authority, what he says goes. If God says something is true, we have a duty to agree with him.
Feelings aren't reliable. Stop feeling guilty over sins God has forgiven. Stop feeling filthy when you're a forgiven child of your heavenly Father! Stop feeling you have to keep paying on a debt Jesus has already paid in full on Calvary.
Once I went to a meeting at my church and saw that the ladies of our Church Activities Committee had baked cookies and placed them on the counter. I asked one of the women, "Are these cookies for saints or sinners?" She shot back, "Both!" Our pastor, who took in the exchange, said, "Good answer!"
The impossible truth that Christians are simultaneously saints and sinners is one of the great paradoxes of our faith. While we have a sinful nature inherited from Adam, we're also "saints-in-training," basking in the forgiveness of Christ and avoiding temptation with the help of the Holy Spirit.
You can forgive yourself only to the extent that you understand what Jesus' grace does in your life. Reading the Bible on a regular basis is the wisest way to absorb that truth.
We singles have a lot of time to think. We rehash our past and wish it had been different. We think about our future and wonder if things will change. If we trust that God has forgiven our sins, our past can be healed. If we obey God in the present, we'll build a better future.
Agree with God. Forgive yourself. Walk in the breathtaking knowledge that Christ's righteousness is yours as an adopted son or daughter in God's family.