Beginning to Forgive
In my life I have often been called to forgive. I have been called to forgive people who knew full well the hurt they were inflicting and others who had no clue. Forgiveness is not a natural thing for me. In fact, it’s a VERY hard thing. But, I Thessalonians 5:24 says, “Faithful is He who called you who also will do it.” I am assured that as God calls me to forgive, He gives me the empowerment to do it.
In the book of Job, we read about three well-meaning friends who just didn’t have a clue. They tried to help their friend Job. They really did. They instead added to his pressure. They added to his grief. They added to his confusion. They added to his pain. They were at the right place at the right time, but with the wrong words.
I’ve been in situations like that, haven’t you? Someone is with you in an intense moment, but you just really wish that they would stop talking. You draw comfort from their presence, but not their words. Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there is “a time to be silent, and a time to speak.” Sometimes, words are just not the answer. Words are never the answer when we have no idea what God is doing in someone’s life. A verse for us in moments like that would be Psalm 46:10. It says, “Cease striving and know that I am God; …” Be still and know that He is God. Stop talking and pray.
Job 42:10 says, “And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends…”
Do you wonder what would have happened if Job had not prayed for his friends? Would God have still restored his fortunes two-fold? Would God have just replaced what was originally taken? Would God have replaced anything? We can’t know for sure because Job was faithful to pray and the Bible points that out to us.
Do you wonder though how long it took Job to come to that point? When was he able to lay aside the hurt long enough to even contemplate praying for his friends? Was it a few hours, a few days, a few months, or a few years? I want to know, but then again I love how God leaves the time frame out. The beginning of forgiveness is different for all of us. If it took Job a few hours, but it takes me a few months, I would feel like a failure. If it took Job a few months, but I only take a few days, I would have the tendency to be prideful. In the long run, some things are better left unknown. My journey to forgiveness will look different from yours and Job’s will look different as well.
In Matthew 5:44 – 45 Jesus says, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…”
Jesus commands us to pray for those who wrong us so that our relationship with God is unhindered. That’s the kicker, isn’t it? It’s not just my relationship with the people who have wronged me that is affected, it is my relationship with God. In order to be filled with the Spirit as Ephesians 5:18 commands, I must be in complete surrender to Him. In order to be in complete surrender to Him, no sin can be between Him and me or, a brother or sister in Christ. Matthew 6:14 and 15 says, “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Yikes! We can debate exactly what this means for years, but the bottom line that we can all agree on is that when we are holding unforgiveness in our heart regarding another person, we are NOT in right standing with our Lord.
Our ultimate goal in our Christian walk is to be like Christ. Lamentations 3:23 tells us that His mercies are new every morning. That is to be our definitive objective. Our mercies are to be new every morning as well. When God’s Spirit is flowing freely through us, we won’t be able to help ourselves. We are so filled with God that His mercies naturally flow through us to others. The same Christ who said, ‘Father, forgive them they know not what they do,’ on the Cross is working in us. Christ gave us the ultimate example of praying for those who persecute us. When I am like Christ, I am praying for those who have wronged me.
So, how can we begin to forgive in everyday life? How can we get to the place where Christ’s forgiveness is a natural occurrence?
First off, we have to decide that we want to forgive and make it a priority. If we are not proactive about forgiveness, it will not happen. Hebrews 12:15 tells us to let no root of bitterness be found in us. Roots are deep, underground things that eventually spring up into nastiness. We have got to be anticipatory and not allow unforgiveness to take root in our heart.
If you do not want to even think about forgiving, ask God to give you that desire, His desire for you. He will mold your heart into His heart. Be honest with Him. He knows how you feel anyway, so pour out your heart before Him (Psalm 62:8). Allow Him to take control. His Spirit working in us is the only way that this yearning will come. Forgiveness is not about a natural desire in us, but Christ’s heart working through us.
Secondly, we have to use The Word of God to help us in our journey toward forgiveness. Sometimes, our hearts have become so hard toward someone that it becomes like cement. We would like to forgive them. God is changing our heart to want to forgive, but we feel like a stone is laying on our chest. Jeremiah 23:29 says, “Is not My word like fire?” declares the LORD, “And like a hammer which shatters rock?” Allow His Word to penetrate. Mediate on verses daily that deal with Who He is. Our relationship with God is worth any amount of forgiveness that He is requiring of us. Ask His Spirit to give you a few verses that are a special gift from Him to you for this specific journey.
Third, we must keep forgiving. Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother. Jesus told Peter that he was to forgive his brother seventy times seven. We are to forgive as many times as is needed. For me, this comes into play in my thoughts more so than in someone’s actions towards me. I can’t remember a phone number to save my life, but a conversation…I can remember every word for years. So, for me, every time a remembrance of a wrong comes up, I once again must choose to forgive. Bitterness can take root in my heart over something that was long since forgiven. But, if I dwell on it long enough, unforgiveness takes root again. I have to stay on the alert. I have to continue to forgive. Once again, I have to ask God to empower me to forgive. I have to ask Him to help me focus on Him and not others.
Is forgiveness easy? Never in our own power. Is forgiveness worth it? Always. Anything that our Lord calls us to is worth it. We have to trust that our Righteous Judge will set things right one day. When I trust God with my hurts and disappointments I give Him room to work. I love that I do not have to explain my case to Him. He was there, He knows all. He heard all and will take care of it for me. There is no need for me not to forgive, God has my back. So why would I waste my resources on not forgiving someone? God’s got this.
So, am I willing to pray for those who have wronged me? Am I willing to trust God and pray that His will be done in the life of someone who has caused trouble in my life? Am I willing to stand in the gap for a person who I don’t even desire to speak to? When I am able to pray, that is the beginning of forgiveness. That’s the journey I am called to. That’s the journey you are called to. Let’s choose today to place unforgiveness in His hands. Let’s choose today to erase any debt that we have tabulated. Let’s allow His Holy Spirit to break up our hard heart and above all…let’s pray.