Is Lent a Time to Forgive Yourself?

Is Lent a time to forgive ourselves? Use the time of Lent to learn to forgive and love yourself.

It was in the middle of Lent, a few weeks before Easter Sunday, and I was sitting in church listening to a reading from John about how God loved the world and gave His only Son so that we could have eternal life. It said, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:17). If God loves us so much that He sent His only Son not to condemn but to save us, why do we so often condemn ourselves and find it so hard to love ourselves? Is Lent a time to forgive and love ourselves?

The reading brought tears to my eyes as for as long as I can remember I had been one of those people for whom self-forgiveness was hard. And it took a long time and a lot of hard work to learn to love and forgive myself. Today I want to share why Lent is the right time to forgive yourself.

Guilt and Grief

This Easter, it will be 12 years since I lost my mum to cancer. There still isn’t a day I don’t think of her. Grief, as I have learnt, doesn’t shrink with time. Time doesn’t heal our wounds, it’s us who have to do the hard work – because yes, healing is hard. For many years afterwards I couldn’t forgive myself that I wasn’t there for her final breath.

Ironically, I was in a hospital myself that day waiting to have an operation. I was led in a hospital bed as they were preparing everything for the operation when I got a message saying my mum had slipped into a coma. I knew I had to go home, and I was lucky that the operation hadn’t already commenced. Despite my best effort though I didn’t make it and my mum passed away before I managed to get to see her.

However, receiving the message of my mum passing away and me not being there, was something that made me question everything. How can I ever forgive myself for not being with her for the final days of her life? Regardless of how often I was there whilst she was alive, I blamed myself, I hated myself, and I couldn’t forgive myself for it.

You are worthy of forgiveness

Maybe you also struggle with self-forgiveness and self-love. Perhaps you have even been told that self-love is selfish and that you are here to serve God and others. And yes, that’s true. We are here to serve God and others, but how can anyone pour from an empty cup? If you don’t love yourself or believe you are worthy of being loved, then you don’t believe those words of God. And if that’s the case how can you trust Him with everything else? Is Lent a time to forgive – could you use it to find self-forgiveness and love?

There are many verses we read, especially in this period before Easter, that show us how much God loves us. We can read in Romans 5:8 that “God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Lent offers an opportunity for us to learn more about God’s love for us, after all, He gave His only Son for us so we can have everlasting life (John 3:16). And it isn’t what we have done that saves us, but God’s mercy (Titus 3:5). So, if God can forgive us, why can’t we forgive ourselves? Is Lent a time to forgive and love yourself?

Is Lent a time to forgive – others and yourself too?

For me, it used to be, and still sometimes is, easier to forgive others than myself. I look at the crucifixion and Jesus’ words on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:34) and those words help me often when it comes to forgiving others. However, we often tend to be more critical of ourselves and I am certainly guilty of that.

We believe we ‘should have known the consequences of our own actions’ and that we are therefore to blame for any negative outcomes that may arise. We somehow don’t think Jesus was asking His Father for our forgiveness as well. We believe we don’t deserve it. We often believe we don’t deserve love. And we even believe we don’t deserve God’s love. So, we spend days, weeks, months or even years looking for evidence confirming that we are the ones to blame for things and thinking about what we should have done differently.

Could I have changed the outcome if I had got to my mum before she died? Would my presence have changed anything? Perhaps I wouldn’t have blamed myself, but I’m sure my irrational brain would have found something else to blame myself for. After all, it’s easier to blame and occupy ourselves with guilt than to face the pain of losing our loved ones. It’s easier to blame ourselves for not having done something rather than accepting that there are things we can’t influence or control.

Is Lent a time to forgive yourself?

But we need to realise that God has forgiven us and that we deserve our own forgiveness too. However hard it is to avoid, the constant ‘would’, ‘could’, ‘should’ challenges to ourselves aren’t helpful. And no amount of guilt can change the past. In forgiveness we find peace. Might this Lent be the time to forgive ourselves and find that peace?

If there is anything you are blaming yourself for, if you are going through grief and are experiencing feelings of guilt and self-blame on your journey, then use the time of Lent to forgive and love yourself. Look at the cross and believe that the one who died on it did so for you too. Because He loves and forgives you. And if He can love and forgive you, then surely you are worthy and deserving of your own forgiveness and love too.

If you find it hard to forgive and love yourself, or if you are going through some hard times and feel that a bit of encouragement and support is what you need right now, feel free to download my free e-book 7 Keys To Self-Healing, A Trauma Survivor’s Guide. It will equip you with knowledge and tools that will assist you on your healing journey, and help you to find forgiveness and love for yourself. Download your free e-book here

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