Forgiveness has always been something that I struggle with. I don’t know what it is that makes it so hard for me, but something about it just holds me back from loving people as much as I should.
God has given me a lot of opportunities to practice forgiving people, especially in the last few years. I have gone through things that no one should have to, and some things have taken years to forgive. After I have forgiven someone, I always encounter the same feeling of peace. It really takes the weight off of your shoulders. When in the midst of hurting and blaming someone for hurting you, you may not realize how much of a burden you are putting on yourself. I now realize that I spent so much of my time and energy focusing on what that person did to me that it started to make me a person that was constantly weighed down, not confident in myself, and someone who was doubting God. I think the reason that it has been so hard for me to forgive people is because they had put me into some of the darkest times I had experienced in my life and I placed that blame on them. I think that I felt that if I forgave them, I was condoning what they had done. I felt like if I forgave them, I was letting them win in a sense.
I read something recently that just so perfectly describes what forgiveness does. Sheila Walsh says “Forgiveness doesn’t minimize the pain, it doesn’t say that what happened to you or me is okay, and it doesn’t mean that we have to let it happen again. No! What forgiveness does is either keep us from picking up a burden of anger, resentment, and bitterness-or free us from that burden if we are already carrying it.” After I had finally forgiven the people that hurt me, I realized that in that time the hurt was completely consuming my mind. It was all that I could think about. I read something in the midst of that really hard time of trying to forgive them that said “Don’t allow what has been done to you to become bigger than what Jesus did for you.” That was so convicting. I realized in that moment that what had been done to me was not okay, but it was not something that should have been more important to me than my God who orchestrates the universe. It just put things into perspective and I began to rely on Him again. I realized that in my time of loneliness and hurt that I said I was relying on Him, but I really think I was just yelling and questioning most of the time. After He spoke to me through that quote, that situation finally took a turn. I stopped putting such pressure on myself to just suck it up and deal with it. I just gave it all to God instead. I knew that I couldn’t get through it by myself. I knew then that I needed his help to forgive.
Jesus talks a lot about forgiveness in the Bible. Matthew 18:21 says “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” Forgiving others is not always easy, but if Jesus can die a brutal death on the cross to forgive all of my sins and all of the sin in the world, then I can forgive someone who hurt me. We even talk about this in the Lord’s Prayer when it says “Forgive us as we forgive those who sin against us.” This means that we are asking God to forgive us in the same manor that we forgive others. He tells us to pray for those who hurt us, and even to bless them. That can be a tough pill to swallow, but it is what he calls us to do. It can speak volumes about the God you follow if you can let Him be a bigger presence in this situation than your pride.
When it comes down to it, holding on to a grudge against someone who may have wronged you only adds bitterness in your heart and it does not add anything positive to your life. Bitterness is an all-consuming feeling that weighs you down at all times. Forgiveness is what allows for freedom from those chains. Forgiveness is what allows for the beautiful mercy and grace from our God, so who are we to not extend that grace to others? We live everyday trying to be a light for Jesus, and forgiving others should be no exception. Love like Jesus does my friends, even when it’s hard.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”