Forgiveness Requires Willingness
We’ve all been hurt by someone close to us, and we are all wounded in some way. Some hurts may seem small, but still we can’t seem to let go. Other hurts may be so huge that moving past them seems almost inconceivable.
Is there some lingering hurt that you hold onto? Perhaps you want to forgive, but just don’t know how. Or perhaps the grievance is so egregious that you feel that it’s impossible to consider forgiveness. I understand and I know from personal experience that although forgiveness is difficult, it can be accomplished with the Lord’s help.
Many years ago, my husband asked me for a divorce and left. God presented me with an image of a bitter old woman – a woman who would be talking about these wrongs for decades; a woman whose future would be defined by this tragic event. I made a choice that I did not want to become this bitter old woman, and by God’s grace, I was able to extend forgiveness to the man who had hurt me so deeply. What I found was that God’s salve could reach the core of my soul if I was willing to let go of the anger, forgive my husband, and trust that God would take care of me.
I could not have forgiven my ex-husband on my own, but God used my willingness to forgive and worked through me. Forgiveness was not an overnight miracle; rather God healed my layers of unforgiveness over the course of years.
Many think of forgiveness as excusing bad behavior, condoning unkindness, or denying our hurt. But those are not true definitions. Forgiving someone does NOT mean that we ignore what happened or forget about it. It does not mean that what happened was OK. Forgiveness is the conscious act of giving up our right to bitter thoughts and grudges, and it begins by acknowledging that we are hurt.
We have a Father in Heaven that has given us much wisdom and guidance in the area of forgiving and letting go of our hurt. If we are willing to forgive, we will find freedom on the other side. God speaks to us through His word and promises to give us strength if we follow His command to forgive. Here are just a few verses where He commands us to rise above our Earthly desire for bitterness and live by His redeeming power.
Rom 12:14 – “Bless those that persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
Col 3:13 – “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Mt 6:14-15 – For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
While Jesus hung on a cross, nailed there for a crime He did not commit, He asked His Father in Heaven, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” While Jesus is dying and in obvious physical pain, His concern is for those who are crucifying Him. When I ponder this, I’m reminded that the hurts and betrayals that I’ve clung to pale in comparison to the treachery Jesus experienced. His is the ultimate example of forgiveness.
Yet, even with persuasive Biblical examples, forgiveness is difficult. Seminary professor and author, Dr. David Stoop, said, “Forgiveness doesn’t come naturally to anyone. Perhaps the main reason is that it is so basically and totally unfair. I’m the one who has been injured and now I must do the forgiving?”
For anyone unable to let go and forgive painful hurts, God only requires of us the willingness to forgive. If we are merely willing to turn over our anger, hurt, bitterness and unforgiveness to God, He will handle the rest. Truthfully, we can’t forgive on our own. Only God can give us the strength, compassion and love to forgive a deep hurt once and for all.
My journey of forgiveness began almost two decades when God presented me with a choice to hang onto my bitterness or to let go and to trust Him. I chose the latter and I’ve grown deeply in my walk with Him. God has continued to present me with new and challenging opportunities to exercise my forgiveness muscles, and sometimes it feels like I am back at square one. I am grateful that God has forgiven me and remains patient with me.
So I’m wondering if there is a hurt that you are willing to let go of today? If so, God will do the rest.