Forgiveness. A simple word, yet such a challenge for most of us to live out. When someone hurts us, the furthest thing from our mind in that moment is forgiving them. We’re focused on the fact that someone wronged us, focused on how horrible we feel right then. But once those emotions subside, what is our next move? Do we forgive or hold a grudge?
You see, I have much experience with learning to forgive. From having a man hurt me in one of the worst ways possible to being rejected and mistreated by those I loved most, I have had to learn to forgive over the years. In the beginning, I opted not to forgive. I would try to rationalize with God saying things like, “But Lord, he hurt me in the worst possible way. I can’t forgive him for that. He doesn’t deserve my forgiveness!”. Every time I spoke those words, God would respond, “But beloved, I have forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32 (ESV) tells us “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” God’s reason for responding that He has forgiven me was so that I could be like Him. As Christians, we are called to be like our Father in Heaven. Although God was reminding me to be like Him and forgive those who hurt me, I refused to listen in the beginning.
By holding onto the hurts of my past instead of walking in forgiveness, I became bitter and my heart started to harden. I had a nasty attitude, I didn’t show mercy to anyone, I tried to keep to myself as much as possible, and I kept a wall up around me and my heart. Not only did this make it hard for me to connect with others, it also made it hard for me to connect with God. I let the hurt and unforgiveness consume my heart to the point that all I could see were my past hurts. I would expect people to hurt me so my goal was to keep them at a distance so I wouldn’t get hurt. The worst part was that I was completely unaware of how the unforgiveness in my heart was affecting me. I didn’t see myself as bitter, I saw myself as wise since I was preventing others from hurting me. Although God told me I needed to forgive just like He continuously forgives me, I felt that I had the right to not forgive those who wronged me.
I didn’t realize that something was wrong until I noticed that I no longer had any friends. I was literally by myself. I said to God, “Lord, why haven’t you brought me any godly friends? Why am I so alone?” God responded, “I did bring you godly friends, but because you could not forgive so that I could begin healing you of your past hurts, you shut them out. You didn’t give them a chance to get to know the real you. You held them at a distance, which kept those friendships from developing.” I was so heartbroken when He told me that. It was truly an eye opener.
When we refuse to forgive others for hurting us, we open up a door for the enemy to come into our lives. He will take that unforgiveness in our hearts and will have a field day with it. What’s even worse is that he will make us blind to the consequences of our decision to hold onto unforgiveness. This is why God tells us to forgive. Forgiveness isn’t just for the person that hurt you. It’s mostly for you in that it’s the first step in setting you free from your past hurts. God can’t begin to heal you of what that person has done to you until you take the first step by forgiving them. Also, when we don’t forgive, God can’t forgive us. Matthew 6:15 (ESV) “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” If we aren’t willing to extend forgiveness, how can we expect to receive forgiveness? We need God’s forgiveness more than anything. Romans 6:23 (ESV) tells us that “the wages of sin is death…” and Isaiah 59:2 (ESV) tells us “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” When we sin, we are separated from God and in order to be made right with God again, we have to repent and be forgiven by God. If we are unwilling to forgive others, God is not going to extend us forgiveness, which we so desperately need.
After God gave me that revelation, I told Him that I was ready to forgive so that He can heal me. He led me to go to a few of the people that hurt me and let them know that I had forgiven them as well as ask them to forgive me for harboring so much anger in my heart towards them. A few of them were truly blessed by this because they felt horrible about the mistakes they made. It was a blessing because we were able to receive closure over the situation. This will not always be the case. There will be times when there is no reconciliation. There will be times when people will stand their ground in saying they did not do anything wrong and that you should have nothing to be upset with them about. Despite all of that, you must do your part and God will honor that.
Although I had gone to those individuals and told them I forgave them, I did not immediately feel better. It has taken time for God to heal me of all my past hurts. In the beginning when I thought of those who hurt me, I would feel some kind of way. But as I continued to confess that I had forgiven those individuals who hurt me and trust God to heal my heart, little by little I wouldn’t feel angry when I thought of them or heard their name. Little by little I was even able to pray for them. And finally, I got to the point where I was able to see those individuals through God’s eyes. My heart even broke for them because I knew that someone had to hurt them badly in order for them to hurt me in such a way. If I had listened in the beginning and started walking in forgiveness, it may have not taken as long as it did for God to heal my heart.
After living a life of withholding forgiveness, I truly believe forgiveness is necessary for each and everyone of us. I don’t ever want to go back to being that bitter, miserable person I once was. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t have joy or peace. I was lonely. Most importantly, I couldn’t grow into the woman God had called me to be. I couldn’t even begin to go further in my relationship with Him. When it comes to forgiving others, we have to remember that not one of us is perfect. Just like it says in Romans 3:23 (ESV), “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”. We all mess up on a daily basis and we want God to forgive us and show us mercy, so we need to do the same. Yes, some hurts are worse than others; however, we still need to forgive.
Just a couple of days ago, the Lord ministered something powerful to me about the beauty of forgiveness. I had asked someone to do a favor for me and they had agreed to do it. It was very important because it was related to an assignment for one of my classes. I was truly counting on this person and all of sudden they started ignoring me without giving me an explanation. I contacted them and got no response. I didn’t get angry nor did I feel any malice towards them. I instantly forgave them in my heart. Now if that had been the old me, I would’ve been angry, wouldn’t have even considered forgiving the person, and made the situation worse than what it actually was. I didn’t respond that way. God ministered to me that,
“As you forgive more and more, walking in forgiveness becomes easier. It will eventually get to the point that forgiveness is an automatic response.”
Now that I think about how far God has brought me, I can honestly say that it is truly easy for me to forgive. When someone wrongs me, I’m not quick to get angry or hold a grudge. I forgive the person, pray about it, and ask God for guidance on how He wants me to handle it. Sometimes He has me go to that person to bring it to their attention because they were not aware of how their words or actions hurt me. Other times He will convict that person and they will come to me and apologize. Sometimes there is no resolution, but God guards my heart from bitterness and helps me to let it go instead of holding a grudge. That’s the beauty of having such a close relationship with God. He knows the details of everything, He’s able to see the overall picture, and He will work things out for you if you go to Him and trust Him to do so.
I want to leave you with this, if there is someone that you have yet to forgive, forgive them and ask God to heal your heart of the pain that person inflicted. You will feel so much better. Your demeanor will change, your relationship with God will change, a weight will be lifted off of your shoulders, and God will be able to start doing some great things in your life. So unlock that cage you have placed every person that has hurt you in and set them free. Praying for you all. Be blessed!