Saturday, March 15, 2008

Forgiving Ourselves – Part I (Forgiving My Mistakes)

My past two blogs I spoke on forgiving others and forgiving God. Oddly though, it’s often far more difficult for us to forgive ourselves. Certainly, at least in some measure or by some definition, we want to make good choices, treat people well, and live a life of which we’re proud. When we realize we’ve missed that mark, through intention or mistake, we’re very hard on ourselves.

When looking at your past, are you able to let things go, learn, and move on… or are you quite harsh with yourself, possibly long after both God and others have forgiven you? Do you beat yourself up, question your choices, or even fail to make some, for fear you’ll choose wrong? We need to change these negative behaviors, negative self-talk, or fear-prompted actions (or failure to act) if we want to live the abundant life. We have to forgive ourselves. God wants better for us.

Too Many Decisions!

It amazes me how many decisions there are for us to make as adults. Though I may indulge in wise counsel, at the end of the day, as a single person, it’s up to me. I have to sort things about work, the house, relationships, money, travel, and about a thousand other matters. It can be overwhelming. I long for that partner to help me decide, but today, it’s just me and God.

Those of us deeply walking with the Lord have learned to seek him in all things. We pray, ask for wisdom and guidance, and long for his direction. And then at some point, we do the best we can to leap in obedience, or at least toward where we perceive he is directing.

Sometimes, however, I let doubt cripple me. I fear I didn’t hear God right. Worry either paralyzes me into no decision at all or causes me to agonize that I’ve messed up. That’s no way to live.

God wants us to ask, and then either leap or wait as instructed. We must learn to be more secure in God’s love for us. If we’re really seeking, do we think he’ll be so cruel as to let us mistakenly walk off a cliff? I simply ask you this: Are you really seeking him? Let’s assume you are (if not, that’s a whole different conversation). Are you then being obedient in how you think he’s leading you (either to move or be still)? Then you can be free to know you are in his will. Don’t doubt.

”I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” Proverbs 8:17

”You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” James 1:5-8
“For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?” Matthew 7:8-10

Using Our Mistakes to Maneuver Us

It’s broken my heart at times, to watch godly men and women devastated over a decision. They sought the Lord and obeyed, yet it didn’t play out as they thought. They begin to beat themselves up, thinking they screwed up. But think about this, maybe God maneuvers us into his will.

Let’s look at a passage in the Bible where God did exactly that. As I’ll only write snippets here, I encourage you to look at the whole passage. It’s Genesis 27, the story of Isaac blessing Jacob.

In Hebrew tradition, a father would bestow a special blessing on his eldest son. This was a mark of succession in some sense, as if the patriarch was passing on his rule to the next generation.

Isaac, as you may recall, had two sons, twins: Esau and Jacob. As Isaac’s health was failing, he instructed Esau, his slightly elder son, to go on a hunt, bring back good meat, and prepare it. Then, he would give Esau his blessing. Esau did as he was told.

However, Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, overhears and devises a plan to trick Isaac into blessing Jacob instead. Rebekah had heard from God that Jacob was to lead not Esau. Well, whether God had asked Rebekah’s help or she was meddling, is of debate. (How often to we think God needs our “help” to work out his plan when we’re told to wait?). But either way, she took it into her hands to help the situation along. She indeed trick’s Isaac.

Jacob goes into his father and claims to be Esau. Isaac questions him on a few things, trying to assure that it is Esau (Isaac had gone blind so couldn’t see his son). Jacob convinces him and Isaac gives Esau’s birthright and blessing to Jacob.

Soon thereafter, Esau returns. He discovers what has happened, cries out bitterly, and begs his father to correct the situation. But Isaac leaves things as they are:

“But he (Isaac) said, "Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing."

Esau said, "Isn't he rightly named Jacob? He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he's taken my blessing!"

Then he asked, "Haven't you reserved any blessing for me?"

Isaac answered Esau, "I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?"

Esau said to his father, "Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!" Then Esau wept aloud.

His father Isaac answered him, "Your dwelling will be away from the earth's richness, away from the dew of heaven above. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck."” Genesis 27:35-40

What a horrible outcome! Isaac is deceived. He makes a mistake. And he refuses to correct it?! In my worldly mind, this seems all wrong. Or is it?

Let’s look at Hebrews 11. Many affectionately called this the “Hall of Faith”. For those of you less familiar, this passage in scripture speaks to some of the most faithful throughout the entire Bible. They are to be our witnesses, our role models, by what they’ve done in faith.

Verse 20 says this of Isaac: “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.”

Hmmm… What Isaac did, how he was tricked and made a mistake, isn’t considered a problem at all. In fact, he’s being commended for his faith for sticking with that decision!

God says his ways are not our ways. Isaac was called faithful, because he trusted God in the situation. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. God was maneuvering Isaac, to work out His plan, and in faith, Isaac went with it. Faith is trusting God, no matter what, and he did.

You see, Isaac trusted that God knew this was going to happen and He still had everything under control. Either it was all part of God’s plan from the beginning (just working out a bit strange) or knowing what Isaac would do, God had already accommodated. Isaac wasn’t about to correct the situation b/c he believed in God’s sovereignty. Either it was as it was meant to be, or God would divinely fix it. He knew he’d done all in his power to bestow the blessing on the right guy… and it just didn’t work out. Isaac was smart. Jacob was the right guy to take this nation forward and God knew it. God used Isaac to make it happen.

I think on moments in my life where I’ve made the best decision I could at the time. The choice was what I believed was God’s will. And yet, it seemed in the short term, everything played out all wrong! Did I make the wrong choice? Did I completely mess it all up? Have I broken it beyond repair? Did I not hear God? The enemy would love to put all kinds of doubts into our minds. He wants us to doubt God and doubt ourselves. However, each time, in God’s great faithfulness, God used it to do something great and wonderful. He might have gotten me from Point A to Point B more directly, but quite possibly, I had to go the long way, to be truly prepared for Point B!

Are you staying pliable enough to let God maneuver you? Don’t jump in too quickly to try to fix every thing. Your fixing it might in fact break what God has planned! There is always a chance that God needs you to think something is one way, to get you to act. Once you’re in that place, where God needs to be, he may cause you to believe something else, to get you to the next place. Without believing this or that, you may not have ended up where you needed to be otherwise. I see God maneuvering me a lot lately! And oh… the outcome is so sweet!

How to Forgive Our Mistakes

Sweet friends, just trust Him and stop beating yourselves up. Forgive your mistakes. Forgive your confusions or even times you’ve been tricked or manipulated. You erred innocently. God never left you and will NOT let you walk off any cliffs if you’re truly seeking him.

It’s like all the other ways we forgive. We forgive ourselves by recognizing God’s sovereignty.

Look back at the earlier verses I quoted, God promises. The process may not look as we think it should and we may not always choose well, but we are always in God’s loving hands.

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11

Father God, again we acknowledge your sovereignty. Help us to grow in faith. Help us to understand the vastness of your love. If we do these two things, we can be more assured as we seek you and more steadfast in the decisions we make. Keep us from doubt. Help us to understand how you maneuver us and to embrace this as part of the process. Help us to see clearly. Keep us from meddling in our own lives or those of others when you’re telling us to wait. Some times what we think is the wrong decision, is the right and the right, the wrong. Fill us with your wisdom and discernment. Protect us from being fooled… unless you really want us to be, to get us where we need to go. I pray I am pliable enough that you can maneuver me exactly to where I’m supposed to be, for your glory and in my best interest. AMEN.

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