Forgive yourself when you fail.
I’ve gone two whole months without failing. I haven’t raised my voice. I haven’t gotten angry. I haven’t been offended. I haven’t been hurt.
You know that’s not true. It’s really not possible. We’re flawed human beings by design. The truth is that I’ve failed already today in a big, hard way. It’s only three o’clock in the afternoon when I’m writing this. Today, I’ve been angry and bitter, holding a grudge against my husband and, honestly, keeping a record of wrongs on his behalf. He won’t keep his own record of wrongs, so I have to keep it for him and make sure I correct him when he’s wrong, right?
Of course, I fail. I fail, sometimes, moment by moment. I fail in being disciplined. I fail in eating right. I fail in spending enough time with my kids. I fail by harboring bitter thoughts. I fail by getting offended. I am a failure in so many ways.
Several years ago, I stepped into the freedom of Christ’s forgiveness. I remember the day when I realized I was truly forgiven and I finally forgave myself. That day, I was set free. I haven’t been in bondage since.
In my Christian walk, there were times when I would get mad and frustrated. I would think, “I can’t believe I failed again. I’m such a failure. Argh! Why do I keep screwing up? Why do I keep messing up? This is horrible. I know better.” I hated it. I hated myself. I was so mad.
But guess what, I wasn’t walking in the freedom of forgiveness I once received. Scriptures say to walk in the same way you received Christ. That means if you know you’re forgiven the first day, then you’re forgiven the second day, the two thousandth day, the eighty-two thousandth day. You’re forgiven. You can forgive yourself.
The Lord showed me that when I screwed up and then beat myself up about how I had messed up, I was living in my works, my own effort, my own goodness, my own (lack of) perfection. I was living in my blood as a sacrifice to God. I wasn’t living in the blood of Jesus.
He showed me, “When you fall, you need to get right back up into my Spirit in the forgiving power of Jesus Christ. If you don’t do this right in that moment, you’re inoperable to work as My child for as long as you’re beating yourself down, whether it’s a day or a month or a year, because you’re too focused on you and what you’ve done. I need your eyes on Me and what I have done and who I am and what I am here to do. I don’t need your eyes on you. I need them on Me.”
He showed me that while I was beating myself up, I was saying that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough for me. Man, that’s all-out blasphemy. That is arrogance beyond arrogance. Not only do we need to learn to forgive ourselves, we need to forgive ourselves quickly.
You know, I think a lot of people think that means repentance. They think repenting means crying in their closet, “Oh, God, please forgive me. I screwed up so bad. I’m a horrible person. I’m just a weak, fleshly soul.” You know what they are doing when they say that? They are agreeing with their old self before they were in Christ. They’re agreeing with their old identity and completely ignoring who God says they are. Wow.
Have you done that before? I’m confident you have. I have done it. I lived that for years, tearing myself down all the time. I talked horribly about myself. When I do that, I’m completely disregarding God’s truth that: one, I am a new creation; two, I am made whole; three, I am the righteousness of Christ; four, I am forgiven, and my sins have been erased forever; five, I’m His child, and He delights in me; six, He is not mad at me; seven, I don’t have to beg a God who loves me, a Father who enjoys me; eight, I am whole. Nothing can change my identity. My behavior cannot steal my wholeness. It’s impossible.
Here is what God convicted me to do when I mess up. I didn’t learn this from anyone else. No teacher taught me. I didn’t watch it on TV. I didn’t hear it from my pastor or a friend. But I struggled and I wrestled for a very long time, beating myself up because I wasn’t perfect, so I know. This is my story. I’ve walked in these shoes. This isn’t a preacher’s message. This is straight out of the heart of God, and you need to hear it.
God said, “Though righteous man falls seven times, he gets up.” He said, “Sheri, get up. Lift your chin. Do you know who you are in Me? You’re already forgiven. Do you think what you just did was a surprise to me? It wasn’t. It wasn’t a surprise. I’m not shocked by you. I knew it already. Here’s what I love about you, Sheri. You fall, but you keep choosing Me. You choose me again and again because you know I love you. You know Me. We’re intimate. We’re close. Your mistakes don’t steal from our relationship.”
He showed me that when you fall down, you need to get up and say, “Thank You, Father, that I’m forgiven. Thank You, Father, that I’m not defined by what I do. Thank You, Father, that I am the righteousness of Your Son. Thank You, Father, that I’m a new creation and I’m not of this world. Thank You, Father, that I’m completely forgiven. I receive right now in the name of Jesus. I thank You, Father, that You make me whole and complete. I thank You, Father, that I am Yours and You are not mad at me and You are not mean like my parents were. I thank You, Father, that You are so in love with me, that You delight in me, that we’re friends, that I can come to You and talk about my struggles. Thank You for keeping me whole. Thank You that my identity has not changed, that I’m secure, that Jesus Christ was enough for me.”
You know what, I get up from that prayer with fullness of joy like you have never known. Somebody can call me and say, “Hey, can you help my family member who is in the hospital on the verge of dying? Can you leave for them right now?” And I can say with everything in me, “Yes.” I don’t feel unworthy because it’s Christ who makes me worthy. I remain worthy even when my behavior isn’t worthy because it’s not based on me. It’s based on the blood of Jesus Christ, His love for us, and what He did for us—that alone, nothing more. It’s never been based on you or me. It’s never been dependent on us, and it never will be.
If you get down and you beat yourself up, you are making it about you. It will be about you trying to make things right with God. It will be about you trying to get yourself back in the right place with the Lord. It will be about you and your behavior and what you’re not. It will be about you begging God because you don’t think you’re worthy to come to the throne with grace and boldness. You don’t think He wants to forgive you. You don’t think He is delighted to give you the desires of your heart.
But He is. You have to forgive yourself, and you have to do it quickly. Forgive and forget.