As an instructor at a Christian writer's conference, I was scheduled to spend half-hour advisory sessions with students who signed up to talk to me. But my appointment with Jennifer* turned out to be a personal counseling session!

"I'm divorced," the young woman told me. "I have two little children, and now they have been robbed of their father because of me. I know it's my fault our marriage went on the rocks, and I'm so miserable about it day in and day out that I just don't know what to do!"

"Have you tried to get back with your husband?" I asked.

"It's too late," she said sadly. "He's now married to someone else."

'Well, have you asked the Lord's forgiveness for the mistakes you've made?"

"Oh, yes!" she exclaimed. "You don't know how many times I've wept before the Lord! I know I was wrong, and I've truly repented."

"And you know that you're a child of God through faith in Christ?"

"Yes," she nodded. "That's what makes my mistakes so hard to bear. I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was a child. But I got away from him — and you make a lot of foolish mistakes when you're not living for the Lord. Now I just hate myself — I can't stand myself!"

Remedy for self-recrimination

Jennifer broke down and wept. I put my arms around her. "Jennifer, the Bible says in 1 John 1:9, 'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.' Do you believe that?"

She nodded and wiped a tear from her cheek. "Yes, I know the Bible says that, and I want to believe it — and I guess I do. But I can't help hating myself for having made such a mess of my life and of my children's!"

"Jennifer," I said, "If God forgives you, shouldn't you be willing to forgive yourself? Do you know what Jesus said were the two great commandments? They are, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength,' and 'Love your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27).

She nodded, "Yes, I want to obey those commandments."

"But what does the second one say?" I prompted.

"Love your neighbor as yourself."

"As yourself," I repeated. "Jennifer, do you think you can fully obey that command to love your neighbor as yourself if you don't love yourself? If you continue hating yourself, it will affect all your relationships, won't it?"

She stared at me. "I never thought of it that way before."

"Well, hatred toward other people should have no part in a Christian's life, Jennifer," I said. "Certainly we should hate sin as God does. But we should also love the sinner as God does. And you will not be able to obey the second great commandment unless you forgive yourself and go on from there with the Lord. All the brooding in the world over your past mistakes will not make you a better Christian, will it? But if you have learned something from your mistakes, and if you have rededicated your life to the Lord, then you can look forward to a future of living for him and training your children in the way they should go. Do you understand?"

"Yes, yes, I think I do! " she exclaimed, with hope shining in her eyes.

"You can't undo the past, Jennifer," I said. "It does no good to continue beating yourself over the head. God wants us to put our defeats behind us and move ahead to victory. Take as your Scriptures what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14: 'Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.'"

Jennifer jotted down the references for these verses. She laughed shakily. "Oh, thank you so much for your help!" she exclaimed. "I guess our time is about up — and we never did get to talk about writing!"

Smiling, I said, "Well, sign up for a half-hour session tomorrow!"

Leave the past behind

Satan causes many of us to become ineffective Christians by convincing us that we can't forgive ourselves! When we are miserable, there's no way we can exhibit to the world around us the light, peace, and joy that only Christ can give. Satan is called "the accuser of the brethren" (Revelation 12:10). Why should we help him by continually accusing ourselves? Repent of sin, yes. Confess sin, yes. Turn from sin, yes. But let us also accept God's provision for sin.

The Bible says, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin." Do we believe that? Then we must stop brooding over the past. What's done is done! We must put all our sins under the blood in repentance, accept God's forgiveness, and go on from there.

Unhappy memories? Put them under the blood. Regrets? Put them under the blood. Anger toward yourself? Put it under the blood.

Ask the Lord to wash away anything that is hindering you from going forward with Christ. If you have received Christ as your Savior, then God will make all things work together for your ultimate good. You are his child, he loves you, and he wants you to see yourself as he sees you: forgiven, pure, holy and blameless in his sight!

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Photo Credit: Yupeng Wu