So when bad things happen to us in our lives, what do we do? We are taught to forgive people for their wrongdoings, and then move on with our lives right? Just forget it happened, don’t dwell on the past, bury it deep so they can’t hurt us anymore, put up walls to protect ourselves from any further hurts, remain guarded and stone-like…don’t let anyone get too close.
I had that attitude for a long time in my life after I was continuously hurt by the church and the people around me growing up.
So much so that I learned not to trust, not to forgive and not ever to forget.
I recently went to a church service where the pastor was so refreshingly transparent and spoke honestly about the subject of forgiveness. He explain to us what Biblical forgiveness looked like and how to practice it in our own lives.
Forgiveness is a hard subject, and society is getting it all wrong. Our culture teaches us to seek revenge and get people back for what they did to us. Culture teaches us that for Christians, we should forgive and forget. To turn the other cheek and pretend it never happened.
Well, that is wrong. The Bible teaches us that we are to go to the person who wronged us, tell them of their offense and extend forgiveness to them in hopes for the relationship to be restored. The rest is on them to apologize sincerely with repentance.
So that sounds easier to say than to do.
I have had to forgive many people in my life. Sometimes the same people over and over again. It’s not easy. What I want to do is be angry at them, speak bad about them to anyone who will listen and hope that they have something bad happen to them.
But what does that do to me?
When I harbor resentment, anger and hostility towards my offenders, it eats me up on the inside. Not forgiving someone only leaves me more hurt. It’s only when I release those feelings and extend grace and forgiveness to the other person that I am truly free of the pain it has caused me.
As I was listening to the pastor speak this past weekend, I realized that when I was looking to start this ministry for Pastors Daughters, some of my motivation involved the pain and hurts that I experienced from the church. I was smacked in the face with the fact that I hadn’t truly released all of that pain by extending forgiveness to those people. The fact that I could still feel the pain and draw up the emotions of when I was 15 made me wonder if I had been holding on to some of the pain and resentment instead of offering grace.
So before I took communion that morning, I asked God to help me to completely forgive, to extend grace to ALL those who had hurt me in my past. To help me break down my walls even further and soften my heart from the inside out. To heal all of the broken places and fill them in with His love.
I don’t want to be one of those bitter people that hold on to all the past wrongdoings and keep score with people who have hurt me. What kind of life is that? So weighed down by all that anger that we’re carrying, unable to live life to the fullest?
So what do you do when someone has hurt you so bad that you couldn’t imagine ever forgiving them?
You have to keep yourself open for saying “I can’t” NOT “I won’t” .
See what this amazing pastor taught us this week is that saying “I can’t” means just that, that you can’t extend forgiveness on your own, and maybe not at this time, but you are willing to try with help. Asking God to help you, asking trusted close friends or a good counselor to help you move in that direction. Wounds that deep take time to be able to forgive. We were not created to be able to deal with such deep pain and hurt. God can help us to process and start the road to forgiveness and extension of grace, which will begin the healing process in our lives.
The bitterness will take over someone who says “I won’t”. The pain will last forever and the hurt will grow deeper as this person saying “I won’t” continues to harbor and hold onto the offense. There can be no healing in the life of this person. So if you’re in that spot, work really hard to move from “I can’t” to “I won’t”.
It’s two little words that make all the difference in how the rest of your life will play out.
Forgiveness is a journey. Not something that happens quickly or easily, but it is important in our lives. Stop holding onto the pain, release it and enjoy living your life free to soar