Q: I know God has forgiven me, but I can’t forgive myself. I’ve tried to forget the past, but it doesn’t work. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to erase the memory of all hurts I’ve caused. Maybe God hasn’t really forgiven me. — K.D.
A: If you have sincerely repented of your sins and put your trust in Jesus Christ for your salvation, then God has promised to forgive you, completely and totally. And if God has forgiven you, why shouldn’t you forgive yourself? God’s promise is true: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned” (John 3:18).
Does this mean you should ignore the hurts you’ve caused or pretend they didn’t happen? No, of course not. In fact, you may need to seek out the people you’ve hurt, telling them you’re sorry for what you did and asking them to forgive you. But even if they refuse, don’t keep replaying the past or telling yourself what a terrible person you are. Satan wants you to do that; he wants to convince you that God couldn’t possibly love you. But God does love you! He loves you so much that Jesus Christ was willing to give his life for your salvation.
I can’t help but think of the apostle Peter in this regard (especially as we approach Holy Week and Easter). Peter was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, and yet when Jesus was arrested, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus — and not just once, but three times. Afterward Peter wept bitterly over what he’d done (see Luke 22:54-62).
But Peter didn’t let this keep him from returning to Jesus. In fact, over the years God greatly used Peter to tell others about Christ’s power to forgive. Thank God that he has forgiven you, and ask him also to use you to help others discover his forgiveness.
Write to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201 or go to BillyGraham.org.