I’m struggling with forgiveness as I have for the last several years and I know that is my next step to truly healing and moving forward towards God. I’ve read all the scriptures on forgiveness and I get it but I guess I just haven’t found the “thing” that is like my “ah ha” moment. Can you give me some guidance or your experience or ideas on how to move into forgiveness. I do not want to carry this with me into the new year as it has already poisoned so much of my life.
Mark 11:25 (NIV)
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
Forgiveness is an interesting animal, one I think many don’t understand. It’s our understanding or rather lack there of that causes us so much trouble. Forgiveness is very important to God, as we see in the above scripture. Most Christians know we are suppose to forgive, but they don’t know why. To further complicate this, our emotions are involved. If you get your emotions out of the way, this actually can be easier.
How the lack of forgiveness usually manifests in a person is in retaliatory actions. You hurt me, so now I will hurt you. Unfortunately, many marriages are ruined at this very point. The fact that emotions run amok is the reason for a lot of issues in general. Just look at how news agencies and politicians work at stirring people emotionally to get them to think or act a certain way.
Let’s start with hurt. Feeling hurt is not the same as refusing to forgive. Think of hurt in terms of physical pain because really, it’s quite the same. If you broke your leg, whatever caused the break was the offense. Now, if the offending thing (that which caused your leg or heart to break) is removed, no one would say that’s a bad thing. However, even once it’s removed, the healing process takes time and everyone knows that. If someone has hurt you, you will need time to heal. How long? It may be different for every person and every issue. It’s what you do in that healing time that determines whether or not you are walking in forgiveness.
If someone has caused you deep pain, you must forgive. Forgiveness however does not equate to license for an offender to continue. They should not be given free course to hurt you as they want to. If you get consumed with revenge, now this is a different story. Forgiveness is releasing, in our hearts, a person who has wronged us. If you have forgiven a wrong, they owe you nothing. No apology, no pay back. Why would you do that, you may wonder?
Romans 12:19 (NIV) tells us, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” The truth of the matter is, humans are not often emotionally able to judge something correctly. I cannot tell you how many times as a pastor I have had people come to me with something someone has done to them. They want retribution, they want to be vindicated, they want their due. In many of these times, I could name specific examples where they have done almost equally as bad to someone else, they just don’t see it. The truth is, humans have a tendency to see things very one-sided. I am not making the claim that they were not wronged, I am simply making the claim that for as much as anyone has been wronged, we have also wronged others. This is why it is so utterly important to leave it before the Lord to repay. It doesn’t always happen when and how we want it, but be assured of this, that when He repays, it is right and good and perfect.
Another reason we are told to forgive is because of what the inability to forgive does to our own heart. Think of a time when somebody did something bad to you. They may have completely moved on, but here you are still affected by it. Not forgiving somebody is like a cancer in our heart. It keeps us from healing, many times reopening the very wounds that we wish would close. It would be like if you broke your leg and every time it starts to heal you hit it with a hammer. That is exactly what unforgiveness does to your heart.
When you understand that your heart is the dwelling place of God, then you can understand why He is so adamant about not having the poison of unforgiveness there. A person who will not forgive, is a person who will have a very difficult time hearing from the Lord. It’s returning to our old nature, and refusing the transforming power of His.
Lastly, unforgiveness consumes our minds. We are told to continually keep our minds on God, this belongs to Him too. Romans 8:6 (NASB) tells us, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” The devil loves it when we embrace unforgiveness because it clouds our ability to think right, sometimes completely overruling it. Because of the nature of unforgiveness, and how it drives us to do things that we shouldn’t do, the unforgiving sinner’s mind is a playground for the devil. Forgiveness is an act of trust in God. It is us saying, “I know I’ve been hurt, but the Lord will take care of me, regardless.”
Forgiveness is a process that takes some time but when we think about it right, it moves along more quickly. If after all this, you still are struggling, I encourage you to take it before the Lord every time you struggle and say, “Father, my heart is to forgive, please help me do it.” If you will embrace these truths, you will find yourself in the right place of forgiveness in no time. Once you have it, future wrongs will be more easily forgiven too.