If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just
and will forgive us our sins
and purify us from all unrighteousness.
I John 1:9
God is a forgiving God. God extends the gift of forgiveness to us, asking us to receive it as a gift. Not glibly, as if nothing has happened. Not proudly as if we have earned this gift. But with godly sorrow and humility we are asked to receive the gift of forgiveness that God offers.
God offers to restore our sense of innocence. God offers to restore our sense of being valued and loved. God offers to make us whole again.
It is life transforming to receive the gift of forgiveness. Unfortunately, receiving the gift of forgiveness is not always easy.
We may find ourselves afraid that we will “let ourselves off the hook.” We may notice that we are hesitant to release our heavy load of guilt and shame. We may believe that we have to do something to “earn” God’s forgiveness. We may feel that we deserve to be punished and—if God will not punish us—we may feel the need to do the job ourselves.
Some of our difficulties in receiving the gift of forgiveness are rooted in our beliefs about God. It is often difficult for us to take in the amazing grace and abundant forgiveness which flow continually from the heart of God. We may not see God as the fully, freely forgiving God that Scripture portrays.
In addition to our distortions about God, we sometimes have difficulty receiving God’s forgiveness because we cannot forgive ourselves. Our expectations of ourselves may be that we should never fail. We may connect our sense of worth to our attempts to “get it right.” As a result, when we do sin, when we do fail, we may be harsh and punitive toward ourselves.
In order to receive God’s gift of forgiveness, we will need to release the shame we feel and embrace humility instead. Shame says to us, “You are a terrible person because of what you did.” Humility says, “What you did was terrible, and you are, like all humans, a precious but flawed being who is loved by God.”
In order to receive the gift of God’s forgiveness, we need to be willing to let go of both the pride and the self-judgment that harden us against God’s grace. We need to ask for an open, humble, child-like spirit.
In order to receive forgiveness we can ask for God’s help to know that we are loved by a merciful, forgiving God. We can ask for the grace to embrace the truth that God wants us to receive the gift of forgiveness.
Prayer is opening our hearts and minds to receive God’s gift of forgiveness.
You offer forgiveness.
Full, free, without reservations,
no small print with difficult to understand conditions.
Yet I do not find it easy to receive.
Sometimes I seem quite attached to
my feelings of guilt and shame.
If I receive forgiveness will I have to find a way
to live without these familiar companions?
Who will I be without my guilt and shame?
And I wonder if there isn’t some catch.
Sometimes I have that too-good-to-be-true feeling.
I seem to have a hard time trusting
that you are really this generous in your forgiveness.
I have become accustomed to the expectation
of judgment and punishment.
Which is completely different from what you have offered.
So this is a big change for me.
I open my hands and heart,
help me to receive the life changing
gift of your forgiveness.
Talk to God about any difficulty you may experience in receiving forgiveness.
Ask God to open your heart and mind in the sorrow of repentance for all you need to confess. Make your confession to God. Ask God to show you what else you need to confess. Ask God to show you others to whom you need to make amends for ways you have been hurtful.
Ask for God’s help to embrace the truth that God wants you to receive the gift of forgiveness like a little child might receive forgiveness from a loving, compassionate parent. Picture yourself as a child who knows they are loved, and who, once forgiven, feels both gratitude and a desire to practice kindness and goodness. Open your hands and heart to receive God’s gift of forgiveness.