Anne Graham-Lotz, daughter of famed evangelist Billy Graham, has opened up about the tremendous guilt she felt after the death of her husband and the steps she took to finally forgive herself.
In a candid blog post shared on her website, Lotz revealed that following the 2015 death of her husband, former UNC basketball player Danny Lotz, she wallowed in guilt and self-blame.
She wrote: "For three years I was my husband's full-time caregiver. I loved the role. But on this day, two years ago-August 17th, 2015- I found him unresponsive in our pool. Three days later, my beloved husband of 49 years, Danny, went to Heaven. On my watch."
"And thus began a difficult journey of forgiveness," Lotz continued. "Of myself. If I kept blaming myself and wallowing in the guilt, I knew I would spiral down into bitterness and self-hatred. I could actually feel the downward pull into that black hole from the moment I found Danny."
The founder of AnGel Ministries said her journey to forgive herself began with one simple prayer: "God, I am so sorry. Danny's death is my fault. I have failed to obey Your calling to care for him. I'm so sorry."
God used nurses, doctors, and friends to comfort her, Lotz said.
"I was told that there was no evidence Danny had drowned, or had a heart attack," she said. "It seemed that he had simply gone to sleep in the water. But I was still left with the stinging self-flagellation...blame...guilt...and all the "what ifs" and 'if onlys.'"
(Photo : AnGel Ministries)
Anne Graham-Lotz and Danny Lotz were married for 49 years and have three children together.
One day, Lotz said she felt God whisper to her "broken, grief-stricken, guilt-ridden heart."
"Anne, I forgive you," He seemed to say. "The blood of Jesus is sufficient for the forgiveness of any and all sins, including your temporary neglect of Danny and his subsequent death. You have said you were sorry. You have asked Me to forgive you. And I have. Now accept My forgiveness and My timing. I called him home when his life was complete. I had numbered his days. Trust Me. And forgive yourself."
It wasn't until Lotz was able to understand and accept God's forgiveness that she was able to forgive herself and experience true peace.
"Once we tell God we are sorry for our sin and failures and accept His forgiveness, then forgiving others-including ourselves-is an act of worship," she contended. "It's a decision we make not only in obedience to God's command, but also in response to His own love, grace, and mercy extended to us. Pure and simple. How can you...or I...accept God's forgiveness, then turn around and withhold our forgiveness of someone else?"
Lotz encouraged others who may be struggling to ask God for forgiveness - and then turn around and forgive themselves.
"Why? For the simple reason that God has forgiven you. And living in His forgiveness is where peace is found," she concluded.
The Bible has a great deal to say about the power of forgiveness and God's unconditional love for His people. Psalm 103: 10-12 says, "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."
Lotz's father, Billy Graham, previously shared his thoughts on self-forgiveness, encouraging those struggling with guilt to not trust their feelings, as they aren't dependable and will only lead one astray.
"Instead, trust Christ and what He has done for you by His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. Trust, too, in God's promises to you - because God cannot lie, and He has promised to forgive and save all who come to Christ by faith," he wrote.
"In addition, ask God to help you forgive yourself. The memory of what you did in the past condemns you - but it condemns you falsely, because Jesus Christ gave His life for all those sins. The Bible says, "We set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts" (1 John 3:19-20). If God has forgiven you, shouldn't you also forgive yourself?"