A few weeks ago I posted the redemption story I'd experienced with my good friend. Out of that post a question came up about the hardest part of forgiveness, forgiveness of self.
When we are part of the problem and have come to admit it, the next obstacle is moving past the phase of beating ourselves up and into forgiveness. It's complex, abstract, and individual. It can even be a stronghold of the devil.
I write from my primary experience with this, through watching other women as they walk the road of abortion recovery. Much of my framework for this topic flows from this point of view, but the principles here can apply to many situations. Also, this is hardly an exhaustive coverage, but more like a springboard to get you thinking and praying.
Consider these things as you work through forgiving yourself:
Are you placing yourself higher than God? Often it is easier to allow God to forgive us (if this is not the case for you, please talk to a mature believer about it) than for us to let go of our sin. If the God of the universe, maker of heaven & earth has removed our sin, who are we to hold tightly to it? We then put ourselves in the place of ignorantly acting as we know better than God.
Our sin has become our pet. It's more comfortable to become the victim of our sin, to know all its ins and outs, to be the resident expert on it. This is actually entrapment! What growth lies ahead for the person who can look to the future and not to the past! Sure, use your past as a testimony for what the Lord can do, share it to minister to other people, but don't let it be your only story-there's more life ahead, don't miss it! Don't get so comfortable with the grief that you enjoy wrapping yourself warmly in it-let it go, there's freedom in shedding the layers!
Is your sin tied to something or someone you don't want to forget? Sometimes women don't want to heal fully from their abortion because they're afraid they'll forget their baby. Forgiving and forgetting aren't the same at all, my friend. Instead of a memory thick with guilt and condemnation, the memory of the sin (or the other people/places involved) will become a beautiful, built-from-the-ashes kind of memory. If you want a tangible memory, consider journaling about it, planting a tree in the honor of the aborted child (or appropriate person) or making a donation in honor/memory of the event or person involved.
Are you punishing yourself? Many women punish themselves when they avoid steps to healing, especially after an abortion. They feel if the world won't punish them, then they'll just do it themselves. Consequences of sin, such as a broken marriage as the consequence of adultery are not punishment, but consequences. God does not punish us after he's granted us forgiveness, therefore we have no business punishing ourselves.
The devil has his hand in it. This is not an "if" this is a fact. If the devil can keep you stuck he will. He will therefore diminish your ability to find peace and to use your pain to minister to others. Remember to see him as he is-a forfeit, the king of lies, your vilest enemy. Don't play into his hand!
Your Father wants you to have life and have it abundantly-which means not walking around with your head hung down in guilt & shame. Once you walk with your head held high, you can see all the hurting people who need the hope of your story. Don't hand the "life abundant" part over to the devil!
I'll leave you with this scripture:
Isaiah 61:1-4 (New International Version)
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long ago devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
This is a hard topic to face. If you want someone to bounce things off of, to ask questions or to pray with you, feel free to email me at email@example.com. A wonderful study on the subject of forgiveness is Beth Moore's Breaking Free.