Letting Go of the Past

Letting Go of the Past: Forgiving Yourself

Isaiah 43:18 and 19 reads, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” This scripture is the cornerstone of Head to Heart Restoration Ministries. It provides hope for our lives.

Three of the most common questions counselees ask are, “How do I let go of regrets or mistakes? How do I forgive myself? How do I forget the past?”

God does not have a “B Plan”
God has an amazing way of weaving our past regrets and mistakes to form our destiny in him. There is a false belief that because of our past we have moved off of God’s “A Plan.” The enemy lies and says, “Because you messed things up so bad, you will never be able to do what God has called you to do.” In other words, you are no longer on the A Plan or God’s best. You are now on the B Plan. God does not have a B Plan! God has an unlimited number of A Plans for you.

Jeremiah 29:17 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” If God’s plan is a hope and a future our regrets and mistakes are forgiven. We can’t change the past but we can stop it from impacting our future. We can learn from our past and use what we have learned to bring hope and healing to others. Allow God to take past mistakes to weave another A Plan for your life.

Let Go and Let God
This cliché holds a great deal of truth. When we let go of the past, we embrace God’s grace, forgiveness, and plan. To let go of past mistakes, we need to identify them specifically and the impact they had on ourselves and others. “My hot temper was hurtful and wounding to my wife and children. My fear of failure paralyzed me from changing jobs and I missed a great opportunity.” The enemy speaks lies that condemn our sense of self and our character. Embracing the lies prevents us from becoming the person God wants us to be.

Letting go is not the same as giving yourself a free pass or making excuses for your actions. Part of letting go may involve asking for and receiving forgiveness or making amends or restitution. Letting go involves prayer and casting your cares and burdens upon Jesus.

Forgiving Yourself
Forgiving yourself is not specifically addressed in the Bible, but there are principles of forgiveness that God wants us to apply to ourselves. Not forgiving yourself of past sins is a form of pride. It is pride because we are establishing a higher set of rules for ourselves than we have for others. The message we send to ourselves is that we are more insightful than others or God about our lives. We are choosing to reject his gift of forgiveness by setting ourselves above others.

In order to remain in a place of forgiveness towards ourselves, we have to transform how we think. Philippians 4:8 tells us “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Some of the “whatever’s” God wants us to think about include: He remembers our sins no more (Jer. 31:34), I am a new creation because I am in Christ (2 Corin. 2:17), I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child (Eph. 1:3-8), I am free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2, 31-19).

You can find many lists of scriptures that speak positive affirmations about who you are in Christ online or in many Christian books and publications. Take time to meditate and memorize some of the scriptures that speak to you and your situation. Transforming your mind enables you to transform how you view yourself and how you can forgive yourself for the past.

Forget the Past
Putting the past behind you can remove the guilt, anger, and shame but how do you “forget” past mistakes, sins or actions? If we can’t forget the past or “former things,” then why would scripture direct us to do so? In John Wesley’s commentary on the Bible regarding verse 18 he states “…yet in comparison of that inestimable mercy of sending the Messiah, all your former deliverances are scarcely worthy of your remembrance and consideration.” In other words, we do not forget the past but we choose to not let our past define our identity because of the transforming love, grace, and forgiveness that comes from the sacrifice of Jesus.

Forgiving yourself is not about forgetting. When you forgive yourself you stop bringing the sin up to yourself in negative or destructive ways. You stop beating yourself up. Forgiving yourself allows you to move forward in God’s plan for your life. It is allowing the forgiveness of Jesus to free you from the past.

Take the steps necessary to release the past and walk in God’s grace and forgiveness for you. He truly will “…make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Al H. Jones, Ph.D.
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