Forgiveness. It’s such a powerful action. It’s what we all long for. Feeling the complete forgiveness coursing through our bodies the moment we declared our faith in Jesus, knowing that everything, EVERYTHING was forgiven. It humbles us and brings tears to our eyes.
This exact same forgiveness is what we are called to give to others. I don’t know about you, but I have wrestled, yes, WRESTLED GOD over this. It’s hard. How many times I have shouted,
“Really God! You want me to forgive that?
Do you know what they did? Of course, you do. You saw it. YOU SAW IT!
You saw exactly what they did. You heard what they said.
YOU KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE THEY HURT!”
And to my heart Jesus says, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”
What? How? HOW DO I FORGIVE THEM FOR THAT? They won’t stop.
And again he whispers, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Then I get in my wrestling stance. With all my righteousness behind me, I wrestle Jesus for the right to hold the grudge. To not love them. To keep them on my do not call list. To force them to feel the pain and hurt that they have caused me and others. To make them KNOW how much pain they have caused. To make them realize how they need to crawl back and ask for forgiveness. Because my forgiveness comes at a cost–a cost that forces them to grovel and admit all wrongs.
As Jesus wrestles me back, he continually whispers, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”
But I can’t forgive. Just the thought of that person, Lord, brings such a violent reaction to my body. It overwhelms me and floods me with anger. I get a knot in my throat. My stomach tightens. Tears roll down my cheeks as I recall their willful hurt. I can’t process anything but the hurt.
Then he guides me through the forgiveness process. Jesus is amazing and I am not him, but his perfection takes over, when I loosen my grip and stop wrestling.
About five years ago, a situation unfolded in my life that led to exactly what I described above. Day after day, I wrestled Jesus, knowing full well that he called for forgiveness. Even though I knew that is what Jesus wanted, I physically, spiritually, mentally, and even emotionally, could not even entertain the word in regards to that situation.
Something had happened far beyond what I ever could have imagined. Hurts were spread out everywhere and it felt like we had been gutted. Seeing the people in life or even their images flash between my blinking eyes caused such a physical reaction that at times I literally felt my blood boil. Praise God for his ways. They are so much higher than my own. It was only by his mercy, grace, patience, and continual workings in my heart that the day of true forgiveness came.
It did not happen quickly for me because I kept wrestling. It simply started with the idea from the Holy Spirit to pray and write lots of post-it notes!
Pray for my heart towards them. Lord, please soften my heart towards them. They are your children too. I am struggling so much with them. I can’t do it on my own. Help me. Help me forgive. (I prayed specific scriptures over myself too.)
YES, post-it notes. I had post-it notes ALL OVER MY HOUSE! I am not kidding. If you had entered my house at that time you would have seen these beauties everywhere. They simply said, “God has given you much to smile about!” This simple phrase that was posted every 2 feet reminded me to take a deep breath, smile, and then pray. Pray for my heart towards the people involved. I did not want to become bitter and didn’t want my blood to boil anymore, so smile and pray. Smile and pray. Smile and pray.
Then I got to the point of adding a prayer for their heart too. Lord, soften their heart for you. Help them see how their actions will not bring about the result they are wanting. Help us all. (I prayed specific scriptures over them.)
I wish I could say that within days or months, my prayers were answered and all was well. But my stubbornness was thick and my heart needed a lot of softening. There were still times of wrestling but my resolve became weaker with ever prayer and every smile.
Years later, after I had learned to think of those involved and lovingly pray for them, I received a note in the mail. One of those involved specifically asked for forgiveness. With a hug and tears running down our faces when we saw each other a few days later, I knew God had answered my prayers. Forgiveness was possible.
The forgiveness did not happen the moment I received that note or when we hugged. It had happened a year before.
I had finally let Christ’s whispered advice take root in my heart and grow:
“Forgive them because they know not what they do.”
Yes, we might say they know exactly what they are doing, but in the bigger picture they do not. We, however, know that forgiveness covers a multitude of wrongs and allows love to take hold of our hearts instead of letting Satan plant hate and bitterness.
Now, when I am confronted with a hurtful situation, even though I might want to take a righteous fighting stance, I obey Jesus’ calling to forgiveness.
I don’t wrestle with Jesus in this area like I once did. He has won. I limp away, forgiven and knowing the freedom of giving forgiveness.
I now know the difference between holding forgiveness hostage like it’s something to be earned and giving it freely, without being asked. It is liberating.
If you are struggling with forgiving someone, just take one step at a time. Ask the Lord to help you. Ask him to soften your heart towards whomever is involved. And pray for them. Eventually, you will learn to lovingly pray for them and then you will see that forgiveness is there.
But if you do not forgive others their sins,
your Father will not forgive your sins.
May God bless you on your journey to forgiveness.