Faithfully Thinking: How many times will God forgive us?

There is an area of my life that I keep messing up in.

It’s a place of shame and difficulty that I have prayed about and tried to rectify over and over again. Every time I fail, I feel like a bad Christian. I immediately want to hide from God, as if he isn’t already aware of my sins and mistakes.

It’s extremely hard for me to imagine that God loves me in my worst moments, in the moments where I repeat something I’ve asked God for forgiveness for probably a hundred times.

There is a verse in the Bible where Peter asks how many times we must forgive another person who has wronged us.

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?   As many as seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

— Matthew 18:21-22

According to some Biblical scholars, the idea behind this statement is not to sit and actually do the math and keep track of how many times you have forgiven someone. Instead, the idea is that there should be no limits to our forgiveness, the same way God does not limit how many times he will forgive us.

This doesn’t mean that we should keep messing up over and over, deciding God will forgive us anyhow, so it’s not a big deal. Of course, we need to do our best to walk in God’s ways, to obey his commandments, and to stop what we are doing that we know he would not want us to do. There will be times, though, that our flesh steps in. Our selfishness, our human side takes over, if even for a brief time, and we temporarily lay aside what we know we are supposed to do. Even then, God forgives us.

Even writing that is hard for me because I still feel very disappointed in myself over my repeated failings. I still ask God, “Why do I ignore that inner voice that tells me to behave and act the way you are calling me to?” I still feel the shame, still feel I don’t have the right to come to him and ask, yet again, for forgiveness.

In this season in my life, I sense God is urging me to seek out the real reason I keep messing up in certain areas of my life. There is a deeper reason, something I’m trying to hide from or run away from. Maybe not physically run away from, but psychologically. There are areas of my life I don’t want to face and it’s easier to distract myself in ways I shouldn’t. It’s easier to act out or be angry at someone else because then I don’t have to sit and look in at myself and how I haven’t handed over hurts or feelings of insecurity that I should have handed over to God long ago.

There are times I shy away from asking for forgiveness from God.

“Ugh. I can’t do it again,” I say to myself. “How can I be doing this yet again?”

In 1 John1:9 we are told that “ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

It doesn’t say he will forgive us our sins once and that is it. The Bible doesn’t assign a number to how many times God will forgive us, why should we?

If you’re like me and struggling with a sin you keep repeating yet feel shame over and keep asking God to forgive you for, please know you’re not alone. Not only am I struggling with this issue, but I am very certain there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Christians struggling as well.