Most of us are naturally impatient and do not like waiting for anything. In this world, in these uncertain times, we face many dangers, trials, unstable economies, war, diseases, starvation, relationship problems, financial distress, the list goes on… however, our expectations are seldom met, often changed by things completely out of our control, and so, we are often forced to spend time reflecting on what might have been. I pray this post will help you discover the joy of waiting for everything to come in it’s right season.
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Have you ever been in a situation or have someone say something or do something to you that you felt you could never, ever, forgive the person for what they did to you or to one of your loved ones? I have. More than once actually. Or, perhaps it’s the other way around, something you’ve done to someone else that you believe could never be forgiven, you messed up so badly that God couldn’t possibly forgive you, that He now has no further time for you and maybe even your salvation is lost? I’ve been there too.
Forgiving others for how they may have wronged you, is simple, but difficult at the same time. It’ simple because if we truly grasp Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we realise that we have no right to withhold forgiveness from others. Unfortunately, our human, fallible emotions don’t always line up with what we mentally agree with, and while we see that forgiveness is central to God’s plan for us, it is far from easy.
Forgiveness does not remove the pain you feeling; sometimes we push the pain into the deepest darkest pits of our own souls, lock it up, and try, although unsuccessfully, deny its existence. Or we may choose to hold onto the pain so tightly that we wallow and bathe in the pains very existence. Both are wrong and contrary to the way Jesus teaches us to deal with the wrongs committed against us, so if we are wise, we battle for freedom even when the path is treacherous.
The book of Acts tells us the story of Stephen, well known as “Stephen the martyr”. He was sentenced to death for proclaiming his faith, while they were stoning him, he cried out to the Lord to forgive them – “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:59-60). His pain was real, severe, and it would cost him everything.
It is far harder to forgive if the offender is someone close to us or a fellow believer. David laments about exactly this
“12 If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
I could hide.
13 But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,
14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
at the house of God,
as we walked about
among the worshipers. (Psalm 55:12-14)
The enemy uses these memories as a foothold in us that can create so much bitterness. An important thing to remember is this – while we are mentally fighting and arguing with those who have hurt us, they probably aren’t even thinking about us. So is it really worth it?
“Jesus’ approval is better than life. We need to ask ourselves; do we want Jesus’ approval or is our desire for vengeance stronger and keeping us from seeing our Saviour? We must choose, to love as Christ loves, to take those thoughts captive, and choose not to dwell in the pain. In those moments, we must remind ourselves, “I can forgive, because I am forgiven.”
Resentment is like poison. We allow these hurtful experiences to define us, we cannot allow our wounds to define who we are, to define our identity. By nurturing an identity that we are victims, we’ll never escape it. We live in a fallen world and painful situations are bound to find us, but we must not use it to justify ungodly behaviour. Holding on to un-forgiveness, the pain of it, we find ourselves in a loop of jumping from one dreadful situation to another and keep asking ourselves “why does this keep happening to me?” When life feels out of control, we retreat back into this familiar state, because it feels safer than hoping for something more.
We can accept that our pain is a part of our story, but it is not the climax of our story. We are dearly loved, which allows us to be clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”. (Colossians 3:12), we are accepted by Christ and should therefore accept one another (Romans 15:7) and children of God (John 1:12). Jesus has much more for us than this. When we forgive, we are offering something that may not have even been asked for. It is not just for their sake that we forgive, it is for our own peace that we forgive. When we forgive, we take the chain of un-forgiveness that binds us to the offenders off of our own hands and place it in Jesus’s hands.
Jesus still bore His scars after sin and death had been conquered through His death and resurrection, but He didn’t let the scars define Him. Do not fear your scars, use them to share with others that they are not alone, just as Jesus does. We can use our scars for the good God intends, allowing ourselves to be led into forgiveness because the Good Shepherd we follow leads us there to set us free.
Jesus teaches us and the disciples how to pray and in that teaching He tells us to ask “12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12).
As Nelson Mandela once said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
I am so grateful, beyond measure that God didn’t leave me to wallow in such misery of un-forgiveness. God loves us with an everlasting love, all our sins are forgiven and forgotten, past, present and future, covered by the blood and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Be assured of the forgiveness God so freely gives.
God forgives and He restores; it is the very heart of the Gospel message, the cry of Jesus from the cross—“Father, forgive them… (Luke 23:34).
And we must forgive ourselves, too.