Forgiveness is one of those weird acts that we all have to do every day but most of us don’t really know how to. And the lack of forgiveness tears down societies, relationships, and families. Unforgiveness is painful. It’s poison in the body of the hurt and ice in the life of the unforgiven. It spreads pain and fear and distrust.
M.L. Stedman said it like this, “I can forgive and forget… it is so much less exhausting. You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.”
Just because you’ve been hurt doesn’t mean you have to live hurt. You can make the choice, daily, to forgive and free yourself, and others, from those chains.
Unfortunately, forgiveness can also be painful. Sometimes it hurts.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.
First and foremost, I highly suggest listening to the podcast “The Messy Middle” with Lysa Terkeurst by The Grove Podcast. Lisa’s talks on Forgiveness are some of the BEST I have ever heard and I eagerly await her next book.
Anyways – I remember sitting in a small, uncomfortable seat in the middle of an auditorium while the Pastor talked about forgiveness. People were crying all around me and I could physically feel the painful memories the talk was bringing up. A few names popped up in my mind during the entire talk and I was gritting my teeth with the realization that I needed to forgive them.
But I already did, I thought. I’d made that decision already. I suffered through that therapy appointment.
So then why was I still thinking about it? Why did I still have moments that triggered anger, fear, and anxiety?
Why was I still in so much pain?
I am so fully aware that I’ve been forgiven for far too many things by so many people. And I can’t even comprehend how much I’ve been forgiven by the perfect King of kings. He forgives me, loves me, and chooses me. And if others can forgive me for the shit I put them through, then why can’t I forgive them?
And when I do forgive them, why does it hurt?
So many questions and many of them are still unanswered. I’ve studied what the word says, read Ephesians 4 over and over again, and even bought a few other books. I hoped these things would take away the pain and the feeling that I was still hurt and angry. I’d hoped those relationships would mend and go back to normal. I’d hoped I could feel intimacy and trust like I had before I was wronged.
And I was disappointed.
Because that is not what forgiveness is.
I’ve been looking at forgiveness the wrong why.
Forgiveness is not an immediate ability to reconcile.
Forgiveness is unconditional. Reconciliation needs to be conditional.
Forgiveness is not an immediate trust builder.
Trust is built with time and believable behavior.
Forgiveness is not dependent on my feelings and my healing. It is a choice. A daily choice. Sometimes it is a struggle and sometimes it hurts.
Lisa Terkeurst explained it once in a beautiful way. She said, “And what my feelings will not allow the blood of Jesus will surely cover.”
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Forgiveness is a command. It is supposed to be something we do daily. It is something we can do because God first did it for us.
And when we don’t feel it, we can still surrender this fear, anger, and unforgiveness to the Lord, the person we need to forgive, and trust that He will take care of it. That his blood and sacrifice will cover it.
Forgiveness is not by my determination or maturity or feelings.
“Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a commitment. It is a choice to show mercy, not to hold the offense up against the offender. Forgiveness is an expression of love.” – Gary Chapman
Forgiveness is in Christ. Forgiveness is my cooperation with what Jesus has already done. It is a decision I have to make every single day when I feel anger or distrust or grief. And it is a surrender.
Because forgiveness can not happen if you continue to hold that anger close.
You can not forgive and also still hold onto your right to be angry or to judge the person who wronged you.
Forgiving is letting go of that right to be angry and hold that person accountable.
Thankfully, God is the god of accountability and He is the one true judge. We can trust his goodness and justice when we give him this pain and wrongdoing. We don’t get to decide how to hold someone accountable. We let that go and let God.
We need to release people into what is obviously God’s to judge. Into His control, not our own. This is a powerful exercise in trusting God. And sometimes it is hard, it hurts.
Let go of that pain and control can hurt. It can feel like a loss. But it is also a breath. It is letting go of a heavy weight. It is the first step in healing. It is the first step of growth. The first step in trusting, loving, and finding true peace.
And you don’t have to do it alone. In prayer, in talking to the God of the universe, you are not alone. The Lord helps us.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
You just need to be willing to go through that process. You need to be willing to accept the help of the King.
You just need to be willing to fail, to feel, to heal, to forgive, forgive, forgive, forgive, and to love again.