Everybody has done things that they regret. When we become aware that we’ve made a mistake, we can feel a terrible burden of shame come down on us. Feelings of failure and worthlessness can make it hard for us to find a way forward. Sometimes we get the idea that God Himself is angry with us, or rejects us because of our mistakes. But this is entirely untrue. God is love itself, and His willingness to forgive is limitless.
Fortunately, God doesn’t expect perfection from us. He’s not holding up an impossibly high standard and frowning when we fall short. He knows exactly who and what we are, and He loves us, no matter what. All he wants is to help us discover happiness and spiritual health. Being mad at us, or disappointed with us, wouldn’t do anything to help Him accomplish this goal. He never wastes time being mad or disappointed. When we make a mistake, all He wants is to help us make it right, and move forward.
When we feel regret for something we’ve done, we don’t need to beg for forgiveness, because God has already forgiven us. What we do need to do is make it right, and move forward. If we’re doing something that hurts other people (or ourselves), we need to stop that behavior. While we continue in whatever hurtful behavior it is that we’ve been engaged in, we’ll keep coming back to the same old place of pain and regret. God wants to get us out of that place—but in order for Him to do this, we need to stop doing the things that cause the pain and regret. Changing bad habits or patterns of behavior is hard. Often it’s a lot harder than we think it should be. It’s easy to lose hope. But God does not lose hope in us. There is always a way forward—always a way for us to bring a little more integrity or compassion into our lives. He never writes us off as lost causes. If we’re willing to take the next step, whatever that next step may be, He’ll be there to help us.
Forgiving and Being Forgiven Are Linked to Each Other
God’s willingness to forgive is an example to us. All of us, sooner or later, have to ask for forgiveness; and all of us, sooner or later, are called to forgive somebody else for something they’ve done to us. God knows that holding onto resentment and disappointment does nobody any good. He doesn’t do that and there’s no good reason for us to do that either. Forgiving somebody else doesn’t mean that we have to let that person hurt us. It means that we choose to let go of anger and resentment. It means we choose to remember that none of us are perfect, but all of us are children of God.
Being willing to forgive is actually part of what it takes to be forgiven. In the Lord’s prayer we say, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). What this means is that we receive forgiveness in the same measure that we give it out. An unwillingness to forgive feeds and strengthens our own feelings of failure and regret. And if we’re willing to let go of our feelings of resentment, it will be so much easier to recognise the truth that God has already wholeheartedly forgiven us for the things that we ourselves have done.