“And you, my tender-hearted, overly conscientious friend, can rest in Him too, so that your prayers will be answered and so that you do not need to continue condemning yourself.” Words penned by author Rosalind Rinker in Prayer: Conversing with God. Words that penetrate my heart and expose a kind of low-grade guilt that lies right below the surface. Maybe you’re like me…at times aware of self-condemnation’s presence, but perhaps not of its power.
If we hope to impact the world with the love of God, it’s time to get over it. Condemning ourselves for past weaknesses and mistakes shifts our focus from what God can do to what we have done. It blinds us from seeing a trustworthy redemptive God. And when our confidence in God blurs, our faith diminishes. Our prayer life withers.
Paul knew the importance of self-forgetfulness. The man who referred to himself as the “chief of sinners” is the same man who said, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). What if he had been consumed with the innocent people he’d persecuted? With his ugly Pharisaical pride? With his ill-directed influence on fellow Jews? Paul knew he had been forgiven and that his past had been redeemed. There was no reason to look back. To beat himself up. He took full responsibility for his sins, repented, and left his past where it belonged—at the cross of Christ.
We should do the same.
Don’t let low-grade guilt sabotage your confidence in God and divert his plan for your life. We all mess up. But each day presents a clean slate, a new beginning. Press on. Look heavenward, not inward. Strip the power of self-condemnation from your life and find the rest that accompanies prayers of faith. It’s what the God you so long to please wants you to do.