Before I can truly be available to dig into the circumstances of Jesus’ death, I need to address the guilt I have carried about Cindy’s death. I had a terrible night; I could not sleep, racked by feelings of guilt because I did not do more to help Cindy when she was in trouble.
One could argue from the standpoint of PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One of the effects of childhood victimization is that in similar traumatic situations I become paralyzed. My thinking is slowed almost to a halt. So while it is easy to look back now and say I should have fought for Cindy, at the time I was unable to do so. Even though this is a legitimate argument, I still blame myself for not overcoming it and helping her.
A larger and more important issue, though, is the concept of forgiveness. We have all done things that we regret or, as in this case, not done things that we think we should have. We blame ourselves and are tormented by the guilt of not acting as we think we should have.
I was up half the night and woke up still consumed by this guilt. I had my Bible open but couldn’t seem to find relief. Not wanting to bother my counselor on a Saturday, I turned to my e-counselor, Dr. Henry Cloud. He and Dr. John Townsend have TONS of great resources and free videos on many different topics on their website. This morning I have watched Henry’s video on self-forgiveness at least a dozen times. Here are the nuggets from it:
The Bible never instructs us to forgive ourselves, because if we have to forgive ourselves, that means we are judging ourselves. To the extent we are playing judge over ourselves, we are not being ourselves – we are split between being both the judge and the guilty person.
To break free from this dilemma, we need to give up the role of judge – which is God’s job, not ours, and fully become the one who needs mercy. Instead of saying, “I should be better,” say, “I am not better. This is who I am.”
When we embrace our failures, then in our failures we can go to the cross. We can honestly talk about the things we have done, not in judgement but just as they are. That will put us in a position to receive God’s grace.
Self forgiveness is a type of mind trick that people want to do on their own. Forgiveness is a relational extension of the Grace of God through him and his people. Become the failure and go get the grace. – Dr. Henry Cloud
Therefore, I need to stop judging myself for not helping Cindy and accept God’s forgiveness. I have asked God to forgive me, and to fully accept it I need to stop re-hashing the issue, because God has already forgiven me. When those powerful feelings try to pull me back to the place of guilt, I must declare that God has already forgiven me and there is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1).
And I must NOT ask for forgiveness again because each time I re-ask for forgiveness, that reinforces the idea in my mind that I am not forgiven. God has forgiven me. I am forgiven. So I must embrace God’s grace until those feelings catch up to the truth. Not an easy process by any means, but He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world (1Jn 4:4).
This is an important issue to grasp, so I will take some time to let it soak in before digging into the crucifixion, trusting that by God’s grace this process will free me from the bondage of guilt and allow my heart and mind to be more open and available to hear what God has to say next.
I hope this is helpful for some of you who may be wrestling with similar issues of guilt or grief. Thank you for being here.