“I need to talk to you about something,” I said to my husband one night before going to sleep.
“Oh, oh, sounds serious,” he answered.
“It is!” I continued, “I know through the years there have been times I’ve said some really mean things to you and got mad at you too often. I know I apologized right away, but I need to know: Have you forgiven me for those times?”
“Honey,” he put his arms around me. “I forgave you as soon as they happened. I knew when you said them that you didn’t mean them. You were just overtired and overworked.”
“You mean, I’ve carried the guilt all these years, and you had already forgiven me?” Relief overwhelmed me.
I was born with a guilt complex. It attached itself to my DNA in the delivery room, and continued to be my lifelong partner for years. I felt guilty for almost everything I did, and was always apologizing to people.
I never had a problem accepting God’s forgiveness for my sins, and I thanked Him for it every day. But forgiving myself for things I’d done or thought I had done, that was something else. (For example, blaming myself for my dad leaving my mother when I was 11 years old. What did I do to cause him to leave?)
After sharing this problem with a preacher friend one day, he said, “When you don’t forgive yourself, you crucify Christ again. You’re saying He didn’t really die for your sins so you keep reminding yourself of them every day.” His advice helped then, but it didn’t erase the problem altogether.
Year after year, so many negative thoughts nagged at me: I should have been a better mother. I shouldn’t have wasted so much money through the years. I shouldn’t have quit the jobs I did (one was 48 years ago!). I shouldn’t have said what I did to my husband and children. The guilt weighed me down.
Then one Sunday while singing a familiar song in church—one I’d sung all my life and know by heart—the words took on a new meaning and brought tears to my eyes:
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious tho’t!
My sin—not in part, but the whole—
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!*
Suddenly it hit me: All of my sins—committed, as well as mistakes that in my guilt I felt were sin—were nailed to the cross. Decisions I’d made in haste, words I’d said, things I had or hadn’t done—they were all nailed to the cross. And if that was true—and it is!—why was I still bearing the burden that Christ took upon Himself?
That was the day I truly accepted God’s forgiveness—and forgave myself!
Are there things you’ve done or words you’ve spoken for which you’re still carrying the guilt? God has nailed those sins to the cross. You don’t have to bear them anymore.
*“It Is Well with My Soul,” Horatio G. Spafford