Forgiveness is hard sometimes, isn’t it? I know I can hold anger toward people for a long time if they have wronged me – or even if they wronged someone close to me. I may say I forgive them, but my heart is still harboring bitterness. Is that really forgiveness? No, it’s not.
I recently was inspired by Paul when reading 2 Timothy Chapter 4. In verse 16 he says,
“At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.”
This immediately made me think of Christ when He is dying on the cross and says,
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34
What an incredible amount of love and strength it takes to forgive those who not only abandon us, but also oppress us.
Our God is so merciful and so forgiving it blows my mind. When I think of how many times I fail Him and how many times I need His forgiveness, it amazes me that He offers me grace over and over again. That is some powerful love and mercy.
Yet, as humans, if one person wrongs us a couple of times – sometimes even once — we’re fed up and harbor anger and bitterness toward them for a long, long time. How on earth are we supposed to forgive someone who desperately hurt or wronged us?
You just do – because it’s what Jesus would do. Every time we sin, we hurt Him. We make Him sad, angry, and He feels betrayed. Yet He forgives us every single time because He loves us.
If He can forgive us for our countless sins, we can forgive others for the hurt they cause us.
Where does harboring bitterness get us anyway?
There was once someone in my life that was like a sister to me when I was little. I loved her so much and I had no doubt things would stay the way they were forever.
But then she turned on certain members of my family and hurt them – and in doing so she hurt me. For years I was angry, sad, hurt, confused… I couldn’t forgive her in my heart the way God wanted me to. I carried this hurt and bitterness with me for several years.
Quite some time later, I saw the person she hurt the most actually forgive her. And that amazed me. I figured if they could forgive her after all this time… I could too. It wasn’t too late to forgive her in my heart and ask God’s forgiveness for not doing so sooner. Once I did, I felt peace in my heart because I knew I did the right thing.
Friends, save yourself the misery and pain…you’ve been through enough. Forgive them – even if you can’t forgive them directly (maybe you lost their contact or the person doesn’t even know they hurt you this way). Bring your hurt and bitterness to The Lord and truly forgive them in your heart.
What about when someone apologizes for what they did? If you’ve said the words, “I can’t forgive you right now,” that’s your flesh talking. You probably feel justified in how you’re feeling – and maybe you do have a right to be angry. But ask yourself, would God turn them away? Would God turn you away if you came in repentance and asked His forgiveness? Would He ignore you and go speak in anger behind your back?
Maybe it seems different since He’s God and He loves you, but Jesus wants us to forgive others.
”Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22
In other words, He wants us to always forgive each other – just as He forgave us.
It’s not easy. Believe me, I know. But not only will forgiving make you feel better, it’ll be a big step towards healing within the relationship.
Before I close, I want to clarify that forgiving someone doesn’t always mean you still want them in your life. If you have been wronged by someone who is manipulative, abusive, etc., I believe you can forgive them in your heart before God and not welcome them back into your life. There’s no room for toxic or abusive behavior in your life, so please do not mistake forgiveness for acceptance. Forgive them for your benefit and protect yourself from future hurt by walking away. It’s okay to let go. Just make sure your heart is taken care of.
One of my favorite examples of forgiveness in a toxic relationship is in Disney’s live action Cinderella. Her step-mother was abusive, manipulative, and cruel. Yet at the end of it all, Cinderella turns back and says with a smile on her face, “I forgive you.” She had the courage to forgive her abuser. She had the courage to let go and move on without her step-mother in her life or anger in her heart.
While you may still carry some scars from the damage that was done, forgiveness is always the first step to peace and healing. <3