Have you ever had a conversation with a friend that left you thinking something like; “This is what I was put on this earth to do. This has to be related to my bigger purpose in life.” Well recently, I had one such conversation. A friend reached out and asked if she could pick my brain on the topic of forgiveness. Naturally I agreed, or this story would be a lot shorter.
With her permission, I wanted to share generally how that conversation went because I believe it will be a helpful reminder to many of us.
How Forgiveness Starts
I quickly turned to a resource on the topic of forgiveness (besides the Bible). It’s a book called A Cry For Justice, by Shelley Hundley. I used it in my own life when struggling to understand a cruel thing that happened. If you have any unforgiveness in your heart, I would strongly encourage you to read it, you won’t regret it.
My friend and I jumped on Google Hangouts one night to talk about the issue she was struggling to forgive. It was an old hurt of hers from someone dear in her life that she found resurfacing recently.
You know the one. The thing you said you’ve gotten over but when your heart is raw and your emotions are high all the sudden you’re back in the moment of that hurt and it feels like it’s happening all over again. Yup. We’ve all had it.
It’s not an easy thing to overcome. And the advice I gave my friend was probably more long-winded than she hoped. But my answer essentially came down to this: no forgiveness, no true forgiveness can happen without Jesus.
See, forgiveness makes no sense if not for him. If I didn’t believe Jesus died in order to forgive sins, and that because of his sacrifice and his power one day every bad thing I’ve ever experienced will be made right, why would I forgive someone? It’s not logical.
BUT, when you know that Jesus is the judge and that someday the thing that happened to you will be paid for, you can have true forgiveness and leave it in his hands. People sometimes say forgiveness is about getting over something, I disagree, I think it’s about being freed from something.
So, I told my friend I didn’t have a great answer for her. That until she rested fully in God and trusted that he would fight for her, she would never see real, lasting forgiveness. And he will fight for her. He promises that in his word.
The Next Step
However, I’m not the person who will say, “Just pray and everything will get better. Or say Jesus’ name five times and *poof* all your problems will go away.” That’s just not true.
I also believe in a practical approach. Without Jesus, nothing is practical, so you have to start there. But once you’ve done that, you also have to roll up your sleeves and deal with the tough issues in life.
So I told her a story from my own life. A story in which I was hurt by my husband. Now, he is a pretty perfect man in my eyes, but we’re all sinful and broken. For a couple to say they’ve never been hurt by their significant other is just a flat out lie. So yes, there was a time I was pretty hurt, and it cut deep.
There were a few days I wasn’t sleeping well, all I could think about was my sadness and anger. But God being the perfect Father that he is, didn’t let me stay in that place. I approached my husband and offered my forgiveness and in that moment made him a promise. I would never hold it against him again. I was freeing myself and my husband from the future grasp this issue could have on us.
I came to this conclusion because this is the pattern I would see in my life (maybe you can relate).
First, I’d say I’ve forgiven him, but then later when I was feeling insecure or unimportant or angry I would resurface that issue to justify how I felt in the moment.
Rather than acknowledge the current circumstances it became easier to use the past to justify my emotions. I viewed this hurt as the perfect way to explain why I’m feeling the way I am in the moment (because let’s be honest there’s no logic in the real reason being he didn’t read my mind and ask me on a date tonight, which clearly means he doesn’t care about me. I mean come on, that just makes me sound crazy.)
“So instead of using the truth, I resurface something from the past that justifies my present feelings and throw it in his face.”
Here’s the problem: I said I’d forgiven him for that thing. But if I keep bringing it up have I really forgiven him?
After recognizing this pattern in myself I decided it was going to end. With God’s guidance, I told my husband he was forgiven and that I’d never bring it up again. Not in a future argument when I was feeling angry, not to a friend or family member to cut him down, never.
It was forgiven. Period.
His mistake was paid for by the blood of Jesus 2000+ years ago, and it was history.
Now, back to my friend dealing with a similar issue. I texted her a few days later to see how things were going. She told me she couldn’t wait to look the person in the face who hurt her and say, “I will not hold this over you and I won’t bring it up again and I will not use it as an excuse to feel the way I want to in those rough times.”
Beautiful. Powerful. Freeing.
Did you read that right? She said she couldn’t wait! That was a lesson for me in and of itself. When was the last time you had so much joy about the idea of forgiving someone who wronged you?
What God told me next blew me away, so naturally I had to share it with her as well.
You know what’s truly beautiful about her comments? I could see Jesus talking through her. Jesus says, “You know what? You’ve hurt me your whole life, but I promise not to hold that against you. Not because you’ve done something to deserve my forgiveness but because I’ve decided to give it to you anyway.”
How big do you imagine our God is smiling when one of his favorite children exercises compassion, forgiveness and love in a way that directly reflects his character.
So here’s my challenge to you (come on you knew it was coming). Who’s the person in your life that you need to look in the eyes and say this to? “That thing I keep bringing up when I want to justify my current emotions, I’ve forgiven it. Completely. I will never bring it up again. Not because you’ve done something to make it right, but because I’ve decided to forgive you. Since I have a Heavenly Father who has forgiven me, I will mirror the same love and mercy in my own life.”
And I pray that God gives you joy as you have this conversation.
Find them. Do it today. Not for their sake, but for yours. Experience the freedom that comes with letting God be the judge. He will make all the wrong things right. He will bring justice in the end. Let him do his job. I promise he’s better at it than you.