There’s something that often strikes me when I hear remarkable stories about people who overcome tragic abuses, losses, and injustices and go on to live lives full of joyful and dynamic impact. How do they DO that, I wonder?
It’s a sharp contrast to others I encounter who DON’T have that same peace and joy and freedom—who live life scarred and beaten down, bitter, and full of self-pity. What makes the difference?
I think it’s the freedom of forgiveness.
I put a little post on my FB page the other day about unforgiveness vs. forgiveness and—oh my goodness!—it was my most commented post ever! I think it’s because the tension between the two is so common to the human experience.
The desire NOT to forgive, to hang on to offenses, is a temptation for all of us. So why don’t we ‘fess up, admit it, and talk about it more?
Jesus did. He said we’re supposed to forgive those who hurt and offend us even up to “seventy times seven.” That’s a pretty radical suggestion! It’s way beyond our humanness sometimes.
That’s why I think much of the work necessary to truly forgive happens first through prayer. Prayer is a way I can interact personally with the Father’s heart—a heart that is full of infinite forgiveness and unconditional mercy and love (unlike my own).
That’s not religion. That’s relationship. When I connect with Him, by faith and through prayer, those qualities can become mine. He gives me the desire and power to forgive, and the strength I need to do so. That’s the only way I can fulfill Jesus’ radical commandment to forgive seventy times seven.
I’m speaking from experience here, not just theory. I’ve had to forgive hurts and injustices just like anyone else. Big ones and little ones. It’s a day-to-day exercise, isn’t it?
One of the biggest forgiveness tests for me came once when I had to go back into the very environment where I had been been wounded and subjected to a significant injustice. Could I do it? It was hard to think of coming face to face with my offenders. But having forgiven them first in my heart, through prayer and in concert with my Father’s heart, I was ready to do it with my actions.
It was one of the most healing things I’ve ever done.
When we forgive, WE’RE the ones who are set free. It’s not so much about letting the other person “off the hook.” WE are the ones released from the prison of unforgiveness. That was certainly my experience! And I hope it’s yours, too.
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Is there a person, an offense, or an injustice you want to forgive, but are having trouble with it?
Can I suggest doing it WITH GOD FIRST, in your heart, through prayer?
THEN put it into practice with your thoughts, words, and actions.
Was it any easier?
I’d love to hear your forgiveness stories!