When I think of the hardest person in my life to forgive, guess who comes to mind? Myself!
Extending grace to others comes much easier to me than extending grace to myself. Instead of eagerly offering myself grace like I do to others, I tend to wallow in a deep pit of shame and guilt. Past transgressions plague my thoughts, crippling my ability to remember that God has fully forgiven me and made me a new, different person in Him.
Deep down, knowing that sooner or later I will fall short again, I wonder if God could ever use someone like me for His glory.
Who will listen to me once they know my past? I am such a phony.
Why did I give in again? I am never going to change.
What was I thinking? God is probably so disappointed in me.
Recently, I read a book about the 12 disciples, nearly breezing past references to Peter, whose life was already the most familiar to me. Oh, but what lessons the Lord revealed upon closer examination of this most impulsive disciple!
During the Last Supper with His disciples, Jesus spoke of Peter’s imminent denial of Him, which Peter emphatically asserted he would never do. (Matthew 26:33-35) Yet hours later, Peter did just that, not once but three times. Subsequently, as foretold, the rooster crowed, leaving Peter to bear the weight of guilt and shame for his cowardly actions.
Mercifully, Peter’s story didn’t end with his courtyard betrayal of Jesus. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, He reappeared to the disciples, taking time to meet specifically with Peter. There is no record of harsh words or recriminations. Instead, Jesus not only reinstated Peter but tasked him with a vital mission: “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17e, NLT).
Romans 8:1-2 tells us, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”
Neither Peter nor any of God’s children need wrestle with feelings of failure and inadequacy. Christ’s work on the cross freed us from the power of sin and darkness, enabling those who trust Him to move past the bondage of shame and despair, into the light of joy and gladness. We stand ready to fight feelings and thoughts that counter the Lord’s purpose for our lives. How? I like to use the acronym “M.O.V.E.”
Meet with God.
When suffering the pain of shame or guilt, open your Bible and ask the Lord to transform your mind through His Word, silencing any thoughts or feelings that aren’t from Him. (Romans 12:1-2)
Own your story.
Instead of hiding or denying your past, share the good news of God’s redemptive power, that He didn’t give up on you and never will. Don’t be too proud to tell others how the Lord has changed you and continues to work in you since you trusted Christ as Savior.
Veto negative thoughts.
Conviction of sin comes from God, leading us to confession and repentance. Shame comes from Satan, our accuser, leading us to despair, doubt and insecurity. Colossians 1:22 is just one of many verses that assure us that our heavenly Father grants repentant sinners free and full forgiveness and never accuses them again. Never!
We need Christian community to speak the truth in our lives, pray with us and hold us accountable. Don’t fight this battle alone; call on your brothers and sisters in Christ to help you walk in truth.
On this side of eternity, we will never be sinless; only Jesus Christ lived a sinless life. However, like Peter, when we accept God’s gracious gift of salvation through faith in Him, we can M.O.V.E. past shame and guilt and walk boldly in the new life and ministry to which God has called us. To God be the glory!
Heavenly Father, thank You that You are rich in mercy. You love us so much that even while we were sinners, You sent Your Son to die for us so that we can have eternal life. Please forgive us when we fall short, and help us to move past shame, bringing glory and honor to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.