Recent events have brought to our attention the horrific stories of those who have been grossly wounded. For some, the matter of abuse has resurrected a maelstrom of very personal hurt.
It is impossible to live in this world and to not be untouched by some individual or situation that has not left us without hurts. It is when we face these hurts, that we are given a choice: to forgive or not to forgive.
Some wounds leave us with scars so deeply embedded on our souls that it seems completely impossible to forgive the offender. What do we do when forgiveness seems impossible?
First, we have to understand what forgiveness is not.
Forgiveness is not (taken from notes from the Christian Fellowship Church Encounter Conference):
- Forgiveness is not condoning or excusing
- Forgiveness is not denial
- Forgiveness is not repression
- Forgiveness is not forgetting
- Forgiveness is not reconciliation
- Forgiveness is not erasing justice
- Forgiveness is not about your feelings
Second, we have to understand what forgiveness really is.
Forgiveness is: (Notes taken from Christian Fellowship Church Encounter Conference.)
- Canceling a debt
- An act of grace
- About what you; not what they do
- Turning the offender over to God
- A decision of the will
- From the heart
- A legal, spiritual transaction
- The air we breathe in the Kingdom
“Forgiveness is the doorway to [our] healing God; it is the pathway to freedom.” (From Christian Fellowship Church Encounter Conference.)
In the past, I experienced a situation that was hurtful to me. I knew that I needed to forgive the individuals involved. As I heard at a conference recently, “Unforgiveness opens the door for the enemy to come in and attack.”
This is why I knew that I needed to forgive. Yet, I found it virtually impossible in my own strength. Because I was having a difficult time forgiving, I began to ask God to help me.
In answer to my prayer, God gave me a very special picture that helped me to make the choice to forgive. I saw Jesus sitting down at a bench across from me. He then held out his hand, and I saw the scars from the nails. He then said to me, “[my name], I died for you. You are forgiven.” He then held out his other hand and said, “I died for …[offender’s name]. …[the offender’s name] is forgiven.” His response was so gentle and yet so challenging. How could I argue with that?
In a recent blog post, https://graceinthemoment.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/afraid-of-my-children-part-two-the-cause-and-the-solution, I mentioned that our areas of “bondage” aren’t just the presence of that problem in our lives. The problem is really the lack of the solution or opposite of the problem in our lives. In other words, if we are struggling with fear, we have a trust problem. A trust problem indicates a problem with our relationship with God, with trusting Him.
If we are having a problem with forgiving someone, the problem isn’t just that we are holding onto bitterness or unforgiveness. The problem is that we aren’t walking in our forgiveness. You can’t give what you don’t have.
Jesus has forgiven us, but perhaps we aren’t really living out that forgiveness or recognizing it.
That’s why I think God’s response to my need to forgive was so profound. He reminded me so gently of my own sins and of how I am forgiven. How humbling and life-changing!
Perhaps if we are struggling with unforgiveness towards someone, we need to start by asking ourselves:
- Is there a sin in our own lives that needs to be forgiven?
- Have we accepted God’s forgiveness for our sins?
- Are we walking as His child: forgiven, accepted, beloved, purified, redeemed?