Freedom in Forgiveness: One Day at a Time
"Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive them (drop the issue and let it go), so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you and your transgressions and wrongdoings (against Him and others). Mark 11:25-26
I was lying in bed listening to the rain and reminded of an old pain that pelted my heart like the very rain on my roof. The thunder rolled outside and inside of my soul. I felt adrenaline flash through my body. The storm inside of me was fierce and had come to destroy.
"Where is this coming from?" I asked myself. "Why does this still hurt?" I replayed old conversations in my head over and over like an old movie.
My internal dialogue continued as I tried to reason and figure out why I was having these thoughts about a past event that I thought I had left, well, in the past.
But here the memory was, taunting me, attached to a pain that I was tired of feeling. I seemed better at forgiving and moving on some days. Today was not one of those days.
I thought I had truly forgiven the wrongdoer and moved on. I thought I had let it go. But the pain felt fresh tonight. Maybe not as fresh as a newly cut wound, but a wound nonetheless, a wound that still bled if barely bumped.
When the offense had taken place, it shook me. It shook who I was. It shook what I thought I knew. The enemy knows where we are weak. He finds the hole in our armor, and that is where he puts his sharp, twisting, ripping sword.
As I lay there feeling the wound bleed, I questioned my ability to fully forgive. Usually, grace and mercy are my strengths, but this particular time, I physically, emotionally, and spiritually felt stuck. I felt unable to forgive.
I said the words, "I forgive you," months ago, and I meant them when I said them....so why is this resurfacing? Aren't I "Christian" enough to get this right? The word is hidden in my heart, but here I am...weak, vulnerable, feeling incapable.
Mentally exhausted from analyzing the past, I finally drifted off to sleep.
The next day, I continued to think upon the mystery of forgiveness. What does it really mean? How do I know if I have forgiven someone? How do I let go?
In a cry of desperation, I resorted to a Google search of "How to Biblically Forgive" knowing that the Bible in and of itself held the answer but clawing for a quick fix.
Is there a certain thing I need to say or pray? A magic bullet of sorts? Physical wounds can take time to heal, why wouldn't an emotional or spiritual wound take time, as well?
Knowing that God speaks through his Word, I sat down with my Bible and my journal, and I began to pick this issue of forgiveness a part.
I know in my head people will hurt me. I know we are all wounded and broken souls needing Jesus to make us whole. I know we are all susceptible to weariness and making heart breaking, soul crushing mistakes.
I know in my head that people, in general, have self-esteem usually coming from varying degrees of fragility. I know our world is a fallen place, and Satan seeks to lie, kill, and destroy.
I know ALL of these things, but I still couldn't wrap my brain around "letting go."
My first thought was of Jesus and how he died so we may be forgiven which leads me to believe that I must die to self in order to offer up forgiveness. Selfishness holds on to iniquities. Selfishness wants to remind us the pain and shame. It wants to say to the wrongdoer, "Look at me. Look what YOU did to me." Okay, first step. Continuing to hold on to and throw this wrongs up is selfish and not helpful.
Ultimately, forgiveness is for us and not for the other person. Not forgiving only fuels the fires of anger and bitterness in our hearts. I knew ALL of this, but HOW do I settle it in my heart and in my mind? How do I stop the haunting memories of betrayal?
While reading multiple Bible verses on forgiveness (Mark 11:25-26, Matt 6:14-15, Mark 11:25), I began to feel the Holy Spirit speak to me.
Sometimes forgiving people is simple. You forgive them, you move on, but sometimes it is a long, painful, rough, moment by moment decision. It's a choice we make. It not always a one time choice that leads to automatic, hair in the wind, frolicking.
Forgiveness can be slow. It's an even slower process when we don't run to the throne, tossing all the pain, all the sorrow, all the blood, all the tears, and all the anger at the feet of Jesus every time the memory comes to haunt and taunt.
Choosing to forgive doesn't mean what the person did wasn't wrong, it means that we are going to obey God and CHOOSE to forgive seventy times seventy times. (Matt 18:21-22)
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Col 3:13
Our job is to forgive by faith. God's job is to complete the work in our hearts. "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." Phil 1:6
Forgiveness is a supernatural act. Forgiveness is not something I can do on my own. God used Jesus to give forgiveness which is an example to me that I must use Jesus in order to forgive.
"Oh, I get it. I can't do this thing on my own. I am not capable of extending the forgiveness this person needs. I need God to do the work in my heart. I need him to complete this work in me," I said to myself.
We are all capable of falling short when we try and forgive by our own strength. "We all stumble many times." James 3:2
I continued reading the Word, "Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, forgiving one another." Ephesians 4:32
Forgiveness doesn't always mean you have to continue in a relationship with the offender. It just means that you are choosing to allow God to heal your heart in his time. Give him permission to work his miraculous powers in you.
The memories may always remain, but how long you entertain them is up to you. And God is the only answer to removing the pain attached to the memories. I've never known a person that said, "I wish I would have stayed angry longer," or "I wish I could hurt a little more."
I don't pretend to have all of the answers. I can't guarantee I won't lie in bed again with tormenting thoughts, but I do know that forgiveness equals freedom. And I will fight and do whatever it takes to be free. Won't you?
Our Father, we are so thankful that your grace and your mercy is new every morning. We are thankful that you have given us the most beautiful picture of forgiveness. You sent your innocent son to die for our wicked and wretched ways so that we may experience who you are...a wonderful, marvelous Creator of the Universe. We ask you to help us to learn how to forgive. We ask that you take away the pain associated with the transgressions committed against us. We ask that you supernaturally touch our hearts, minds, and spirits and help us to forgive. Help us to choose positive thoughts over negative thoughts. Help us to seek you in all things. Thank you for offering us your forgiveness and helping us to extend that same forgiveness to others. In the name of Jesus. Amen.