It’s the time of year when thoughts naturally turn to reflection on the year gone by and anticipation of the year to come. Reflections and resolutions. There’s something about flipping the calendar page from December 31 to January 1. Technically, it’s the end of one day and beginning of another just like every other that passes from night into morning. Yet it somehow feels different. A new year brings new possibilities, new potential. Anything seems possible. We make resolutions with the best of intentions, but more often than not, we’ve broken them before we flip the calendar to February. So it goes—resolve, fail, guilt—year after year. Still, we hope next year we’ll do better.
Failure is a part of life, but guilt doesn’t have to be. It all depends on where or, rather, in whom you place your hope. God dealt with our guilt once and for all time when Christ took it to the cross for us. No matter how many times I stumble and fail, God is there waiting and ready to forgive. Confess, repent, and God forgives. He gives us this promise in Psalm 103:8–12:
The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
I claim this promise often! I don’t have to wallow in guilt or shame, not ever. When Jesus nailed my sin to the cross, he nailed my guilt and shame right along with it. There’s freedom in forgiveness.
Forgiveness has another side as well. The other side is when we’re called to be the forgiver and not the one forgiven. There’s so much about forgiving that is often misunderstood. Those misunderstandings are what can make it seem impossible to forgive someone who’s hurt you. One of the most important things to understand about forgiveness is that it’s about you, not the one who hurt you. It frees you, not the offender. It doesn’t require an apology, sorrow, or even admission of wrongdoing. Forgiveness happens in your heart, not theirs. Truly, it requires nothing from them because it happens within you. So that’s one of the most important things to understand. Another is that God requires it of us. There are many places in Scripture where God commands forgiveness. Here are a few: Luke 17:4, Matthew 6:12, Matthew 6:14–15, and Colossians 3:13, which says:
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
That word “must” makes it pretty clear, but it doesn’t make it easy. The good news is, you never have to do it alone. Ask God to open your heart to the possibility of forgiveness. It’s a process; let him take you through it. If the hurt and the anger well up in you again, give it over to him as often as it takes. I promise you this, because God requires us to forgive, he’ll provide the way. Just ask him.
There’s freedom in forgiving and in being forgiven. As a new year begins, if we’re going to resolve to do anything, let’s resolve to repent and also to forgive. No anger or retaliation, no guilt or shame. God’s mercies are new not only each new year but each and every morning!
Niki Krauss is a Yankee by birth, a Southerner by choice, and a joy-filled lover of Jesus by grace. After twenty-four years of moving around the country as the wife of a Marine Corps aviator, she and her husband of forty years have settled in Charleston, South Carolina. Niki is the former assistant editor for the Marine Corps Gazette, the professional journal of the United States Marine Corps, where she wielded her red pen for fifteen years. As a sexual abuse survivor herself, her most recent passion is leading faith-based support groups for women survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Connect with Niki at http://www.nikikrauss.com.
Here new book, Little Girl Mended, releases today!!