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As we are all in the middle of this Holiday Season, some of are having the time of our lives being with family we don’t see as often, neighbors we seldom find at home and friends whom we love dearly, but schedules often don’t match.
Others of us are quite stressed dealing with family, friends and neighbors. We can avoid them during the year, but not at Christmas. Old wounds pop up and the stress mounts. So, as weird as the timing may seem, I feel led to share how God has helped me to deal with unforgiveness in my life.
I want to be very honest and tell you that forgiveness is something that does not come easily for me and I am lots better at forgiving things that have happened to me personally than things that have happened to my husband, or especially to my boys.
Oftentimes, what I struggle with is not the act of forgiving as much as what does forgiveness look like moving forward. I believe that forgiveness does not look the same in every situation. The process usually is, but not necessarily what it looks like afterwards.
For example, if you have been abused as a child, or as an adult, and through the power of the Holy Spirit you are able to release that situation into the hands of our Righteous Judge, know that forgiveness in that situation does not mean that you will stay with a person who abuses you.
If you are being hurt, forgiveness does not mean that you stay and keep getting hurt. If you are being wounded, forgiveness does not mean you stay in a situation that continues to bring you harm.
Forgiveness is being completely free of bitterness, anger and the hurt that was caused. Forgiveness is not about being unwise. It’s about being free.
Forgiveness is not trusting someone who you know will hurt your children just like they hurt you. That is not what God expects when He is calling us to forgive.
Another example of being called to forgive could be if someone lied about you and everyone in your neighborhood believes it. Sometimes, forgiveness requires living your life, doing what God has called you to do each and every day and allowing your character to speak for you. Not cussing people out, not being cruel when that person comes around, but simply being who God is calling you to be. God is calling us to be people of grace, love and mercy shining the light of Jesus. People will notice how you respond to a person who wrongs you. It may take a while, but God makes sure the truth comes out. Here are some great examples of what forgiveness may look like in this kind of situation:
Proverbs 25:21-22 says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.”
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.”
So, you see? Forgiveness in one situation may look like getting away, but not allowing the hurt to come with you. Whereas in another situation, forgiveness may look like a person holding their tongue from what they really want to say while allowing God to show others who you are in Him.
Both situations can only be accomplished through the Lord and may seem impossible, but Jesus says in Matthew 19:26, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Jesus readily admitted that certain things were only possible with God and I believe forgiveness is one of them.
There are many other ways God may ask you to show forgiveness. These are just a couple of examples to help us understand that forgiveness may look different for every person reading this depending on what they are called to forgive.
So, how do we come to a place of forgiveness?
Can it be instantaneous?
Can it take a few months, or even a few years?
Simply put…yes. I have had all of the above.
The answer is that it will take as long as you and God need it to take.
Let me just say as well, that even when you have truly forgiven someone, things can still pop back up. A random thought, a word, a look, or even a Facebook message can trigger an issue you thought you had forgiven long ago. Don’t stuff it down. Know that God wants you to deal with it once again with Him. He never tires of helping us get through our struggles.
I think when Jesus told Peter to forgive 70×7, He knew that oftentimes the forgiveness needs to happen every time we remember the offense. Sometimes, people really do wrong us over and over and over when we can’t get out of a situation, but most of the time it’s our remembrance of the event that causes the need for multiple times of forgiveness. Our minds just keep replaying it and replaying it and replaying it and we are called to forgive every single time. Again, we can only do that through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Just so we are on the same wavelength let me tell you how the dictionary defines forgiveness: “To absolve from payment of (a debt, for example); to renounce anger or resentment against”.
Absolve means you do away with it; you cancel it. Do they owe you something? Absolutely, there is a debt involved, but you are choosing to cancel that debt so you are no longer tied to that situation in any way. As long as someone owes you something, you are still connected and tied to one another, but when you release that debt…no more strings…you are absolutely free.
The other part of that definition says, “…to renounce anger, or resentment — to give up, esp. by formal announcement; to reject.”
So, you are rejecting anger and resentment…that’s forgiveness.
Again the question: How do we get to a place of forgiveness? How do we get to the place of rejecting the anger and resentment?
1 – We have got to know that God loves us.
You see how it always comes back to that? That’s your foundation. (If you haven’t been able to see the YouTube session on God’s love, I highly recommend you do so. Knowing how much He loves us is the foundation of our trust in Him and knowing He can be trusted is how we are able to forgive. Here’s the link : God’s Love – Session 1)
Forgiveness is another layer of trusting God and we can’t trust God fully until we know how much He loves us.
Why is that so important?
God is sovereign. Whatever comes into our lives, passes through His hands(remember in John 10:27-29 Jesus says He will never let go of us so, everything must pass through His hands). Whether we view it as good, or bad, whatever He allows is to bring us closer to Him and closer to the people that He has created us to be.
How can you possibly trust the hands of someone you don’t believe loves you? How can you possibly believe that everything (good, or bad) that has passed through those hands is for your ultimate good, if you don’t know He loves you?
The first step to forgiving anyone is knowing God loves you enough to take care of you in any situation.
2- Second step to forgiveness is focusing on God and not the situation.
You know He loves you and now you are going to stay focused on Him.
You are not looking around at what everyone has done to you. You are focused on Him.
I alluded to this passage a minute ago, but we are going to read it in its entirety now.
Matthew 18:21-33 says, “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ ‘I tell you, not as many as seven,’ Jesus said to him, ‘but 70 times seven. For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began to settle accounts, one who owed 10,000 talents was brought before him. Since he had no way to pay it back, his master commanded that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt. At this, the slave fell facedown before him and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything!’ Then the master of that slave had compassion, released him, and forgave him the loan. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him 100 denarii. He grabbed him, started choking him, and said, ‘Pay what you owe!’ At this, his fellow slave fell down and began begging him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he wasn’t willing. On the contrary, he went and threw him into prison until he could pay what was owed. When the other slaves saw what had taken place, they were deeply distressed and went and reported to their master everything that had happened. Then, after he had summoned him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’”
This is an amazing illustration of Jesus reminding us to not focus on what people have done to us, but rather focus on how much we have been forgiven ourselves.
That’s so hard. I know it’s hard, but it’s a great way to be able to forgive people. We must remember that we had such a huge sin debt and our beautiful, merciful, Prince Charming of a God has forgiven every bit of it.
We will be too busy being thankful to worry about what someone has done to us because our focus is on Him.
Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep the mind ⌊that is⌋ dependent ⌊on You⌋ in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.”
So, we can remain secure in our forgiveness of others by our minds being dependent on our God and remembering who He is and being focused on His love for us.
Forgiveness is about what God did for us and not what someone did to us.
It’s not about comparing whose sin is bigger, it’s remembering to be thankful for how much God has forgiven us.
That’s where I’m going to cut off today’s blog, but know there are 3 more points on how to forgive coming in the next blog. When you are trying to forgive, I pray that you will be honest with God about the difficulty you are having and trust Him to give you the power to forgive every time you see the person, read a Facebook message, or remember the offense. Pour over the Scripture that He shows you from this blog and other resources knowing that He wants you to be free not just during this Holiday Season, but in the year to come as well.
Image by US Health News