I never understood people who couldn't forgive themselves until I became one of them. Souls eroded by guilt, lives haunted by regret, hearts consumed by failure … didn't they know that Jesus came to set them free?
The answer is yes. Most of us know—rationally speaking anyway—that at its core the Cross commands forgiveness. But when our same rational souls become overwhelmed by shame, guilt, or the pain of irreversible consequences, a perversion of the truth distorts reality: my sin is the one sin that Jesus' blood is incapable of covering.
In the midst of my struggle with self-forgiveness, a friend challenged me with a truth that I had long since shut out. She told me, "You are holding yourself to a higher standard than anyone else. You are a child of the light. You need to walk in the light."
With those simple words I was reminded that no matter what I had done I was, in fact, a child of the light (Ephesians 5:8). A new creation set free by the blood of the Lamb. "Forgiven" was not a status to which I needed to aspire—it was who I already was. And by choosing not to forgive myself, I was choosing not to believe the One who said, "I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again" (Isaiah 43:25).
Self-forgiveness is a long, arduous journey. But when we finally live in its truth, new life awaits. Chains are broken. Dependence, gratitude, and grace permeate our hearts and redefine who we are. We understand, perhaps for the first time, our desperate need for a Savior. We fall at his feet in worship because we know that in our unworthiness, we have finally found our worth.1