How to Let Go of the Guilt and Shame
- Cindi McMenamin Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2012 16 Oct
Do you believe you've done something that God could never forgive? Maybe you realize He's forgiven you, but you still struggle with forgiving yourself.
It took my friend, Jean, about a year to even bring up the subject with me. She had done something years ago that she was still ashamed of. She couldn't forgive herself or believe that God could forgive her, either.
Jean had made a decision, years earlier, to abort her unborn baby. Although her doctor advised that she terminate her pregnancy because of a history of miscarriages, she never questioned the doctor's advice. Today, she wishes more than anything that she had. She could barely talk about it with me, let alone forgive herself.
It's one thing when pain happens to us. It's another thing when something we do -- or fail to do -- results in our pain or someone else's pain. We tend to put that pain in the category of something that God will never heal us of or forgive us for. In my newest book, When a Woman Overcomes Life's Hurts, I offer "Ten Steps to Healing and Wholeness" and one of them is: Believe that Jesus' death on the cross was enough to heal the very deepest of wounds -- even the self-inflicted ones.
Whatever it is we struggle with, many times we think if we hold onto it -- and continue to grieve over it -- we are showing God that we really are sorry for our actions and that might somehow make up for our wrongdoing. But the whole reason Jesus had to die for us is because we are incapable of appeasing God on our own efforts...or penitence. If you believe God could never forgive you, or if you are struggling to forgive yourself for something in your past, these steps toward healing and wholeness are for you:
1. Cry out to God from your brokenness - The Scriptures are full of stories of people who blew it and then cried out to God from a broken heart and were healed and restored. Tell God you need His love and forgiveness. Psalms 34:18 says "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
2. Confess to Him all that is on your heart - 1 John 1:9 tells us: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." Notice the verse says He will purify us of "all" unrighteousness -- even the acts we believe are unforgiveable. King David committed some pretty heinous acts, including adultery and murder of a close associate of his. And yet, when he was confronted with his sin, he confessed to God from a broken heart and said "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. (Even David had a hard time letting it go.) Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight...." (Psalms 51:3-4). In Psalms 32 David also tells us what happened when he tried to keep his guilt and shame locked up inside of him.
"When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord' and you forgave the guilt of my sin" (Psalms 32:3-5).
Then, two verses later, David is able to say to God: "You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance" (Psalms 32:7). While David started out hiding from God, because of his sin, he ended up hiding himself in God. Once you tell God all that's on your heart, you will find He is a refuge for you -- one to run to and not from.
3. Claim His complete healing and forgiveness - Scripture tells us "without faith it is impossible to please (God)" (Hebrews 11:6). And therefore, we must, by faith, believe that when Jesus died on the cross, He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities and by His stripes (wounds) we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5). I love the fact that those prophetic verses from Isaiah 53 about what Jesus would do for us when He went to the cross centuries later were written in past tense, although they were still future at the time the prophecy was written. That tells me that even before it happened, God saw our atonement as already done. And now that Jesus has been to the grave and back to pay the penalty for our sins, how much more is it already done? Why hold onto something when, as Jesus said, "it is finished" (John 19:30).
4. Commit Psalms 103:12 to memory -- We are given this assurance in Scripture: "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." I had to write out that Scriptural reference on little pink heart post-it notes and post them all over Jean's home so she would remember that she is forgiven and her slate is clean. Today she can hold her head high knowing that she is, indeed, a "new creation" in Christ Jesus and she no longer has to hold onto something that God has already let go.
Don't buy the lie that you can never be healed, or forgiven or whole again. Your healing has already been accomplished through what Christ Jesus has done for you. Accept it, my friend. And move on.
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author of several books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 100,000 copies sold), Women on the Edge, and When a Woman Overcomes Life's Hurts, from which this article is adapted. For more on her books and free resources to strengthen your soul, see www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.
Publication date: October 16, 2012
Cindi McMenamin is a pastor’s wife, award-winning writer, national speaker, and the author of several books to help women and couples strengthen their relationship with God and one another. She and her husband, Hugh, co-authored the book When Couples Walk Together: 31 Days to a Closer Connection. Some of her books to help you combat fear and strengthen your trust in God include When Women Walk Alone (more than 145,000 copies sold), Women on the Edge, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You and When Women Long for Rest. You can find out more about her ministry, books, and free resources at www.StrengthForTheSoul.com .