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Have you ever done something you deeply regretted? It may be only known to you or a few others. It may have little or no effect on people around you.  Or what you’ve done has been made public—very public—and the effect and consequences on others has been devastating. It may be a sin or a mistake against your spouse. It could be an event outside of marriage from some point in your past.

We’ve known spouses who are unable to fully engage in their marriage because they are weighed down with guilt and shame from their past. They struggle with receiving their spouse’s love and forgiveness because they keep themselves in a prison of regret. Even worse, they can hardly believe that God could fully forgive them for what they have done.

So how do you forgive yourself and move on?

Some of the direction is found in King David’s words recorded in Psalm 51 to God after his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder cover-up  of her husband, Uriah.

1. Repent

Before you can move forward, you first have to agree with God that what was done was sin. The Psalm begins with, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”  The decision must be made to move away from what was done and to a right relationship with God.

2. Recount

David wrote, “Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” Be honest with God about what you have done. God honors a spirit of brokenness. God honors a spirit of contriteness. He cannot rebuild when we are hanging onto the vestiges of pride and defensiveness.

3. Receive

The request is made by David to God to “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me.” In the New Testament, we learn that it is through faith in Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross that our sins are paid. The promise is that “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

This is where many people get hung up and struggle to move forward. They know that Jesus has forgiven them, but they continue to hold their own sin or mistakes against themselves.

If you struggle with forgiving yourself you are choosing to stay immobilized because of your feelings of shame, guilt and unworthiness. Feelings are not facts. The fact is that Jesus already paid the full price for your sins. You have been forgiven.  Do you believe this?

“Either you believe in the capacity of Christ’s atonement to make you a new person, or you don’t. If you do, then start living like a forgiven person should live.” Gordon MacDonald in Rebuilding Your Broken World. (We highly recommend this book!)

With every struggle to forgive yourself, say out loud, “I am forgiven. I am cleansed by Jesus and I choose to live like it.”

Choose to walk in the grace and forgiveness that is yours. As you do, you will experience greater freedom, power, and joy in Christ as you build your marriage!