“Therefore, as God’s chosen people who are holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And above all these things, put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Since I became a Christian, I have always really struggled with forgiveness. I know that God commands me to forgive other people who offend or sin against me, just as He forgives me for sinning against him. And I want to do so! I want to pass on this amazing grace and undeserved mercy that I’ve received from him to others. I don’t want to live my daily life in a prison of unforgiveness separated from God and isolated from people. I don’t particularly like the taste of bitterness that resentment causes to manifest over time in my heart. I’d rather experience the freedom that forgiveness produces in my life, even if that person who hurt me isn’t aware, doesn’t care or doesn’t apologize for what they did. I’d prefer to avoid the trap of anger and misery that the enemy hopes I’ll fall into by harboring unforgiveness in my heart. He wants to keep me from living in peace with God, with others and with myself. He wants to prevent me from staying connected to God because he knows it affects how I see myself and treat others. If anything, forgiveness is an attack on the enemy’s scheme to keep me from showing God’s love to others, which could have an eternal impact on their life.
What a waste of my own life to dwell on the sin of someone else! Especially if they’re going about their life without any knowledge or concern of their offense. It’s as though I’m surprised when someone disappoints or hurts me. I forget that all people are sinners and fall short of God’s glorious standard. I forget that he alone is perfect, hence I, too fall into the category of those who hurt and offend others. But my sinful, selfish nature tends to cry out, “It’s just too hard to forgive, God!”
There are times when it’s easier for me to have compassion and mercy towards someone who’s hurt me. I’ve realized that it tends to correlate with the closeness of my relationship with God and my understanding of how great his forgiveness and unconditional love is for me (feeling that I am holy and dearly loved as the scripture says). When I’m able to grasp this, even just briefly, in my mind and feel the gravity of it in my heart, then I’m able to view other people in this light as well.
Other times, my flesh rears its ugly head and I don’t want to forgive! This tends to reflect my lack of closeness to God. I’m too upset to let the offense go because I was needing something from or expecting something of another person and they didn’t come through for me. It’s usually later after I’ve reacted in an unloving way that I realize it was normal for them to fail me, and that God is the only one who can and always will come through for me. It’s especially difficult to forgive though when the person involved is close to me and I thought I could count on them such as my parents or my husband. It seems to hurt worse when someone you love lets you down and causes you pain- whether it was intentional or accidental.
I tend to hold unrealistic, impossible expectations of others to treat me fairly and kindly at all times. My flesh wants to dwell on the situation, replaying the actions or words spoken over and over until the damage done is exaggerated and a bigger deal than it should be. I pick at the wound, making it deeper and larger, instead of running to God immediately for a band-aid so that I can keep playing and go about my day. The glorious thing about God that sets him apart from all others is that he is perfect, incapable of letting us down or hurting us! I subconsciously think that by not pardoning that person’s error and “punishing” them for their sin, I will feel better, they will act better in the future, and justice will be served. But based on God’s word, I know that that’s wrong of me. I’m not the one to judge and I have no right to harbor unforgiveness towards anyone for any reason. Even if a person is continuously sinning against me or they are regularly committing the same sin that affects my life on a daily basis, I’m called to follow Christ’s example and forgive them every single time (Matthew 18:21-22).
It’s an area of constant struggle for me- almost a daily battle since every day there are opportunities and situations that arise when I have to decide whether or not to take offense or let it go. As Joyce Meyer says, let go and let God! Let Him deal with them and be the one who judges. (See 2 Thessalonians 1:6, Ecclesiastes 3:17 and 12:14)
1 Peter 2:23 tells us that “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate. When he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to Him who judges justly.” How often do we want to retaliate right after we’ve been wronged? My initial instinct is to want to punish that person with harsh words, slander, loss of relationship, or the good-old cold shoulder and silent treatment. I no longer have a desire to love, serve or help them anymore because they don’t “deserve” it. How wrong of me! I don’t deserve the treatment I receive from God. He calls us to love one another and forgive each other for our sins as he does to us. I know I would want someone to do the same if I sinned against them. If I allow the Spirit to rule over me instead, maybe I would remember right after suffering an offense that God sees everything. He saw what happened outwardly and what was the condition of that person’s heart inwardly. He sees my hurt and the consequences I endure because of their actions. Also, He alone is the ultimate judge of all persons (including myself, which motivates me to do what’s right before him) and he will see to it that justice is served in due time.
I can’t control what other people choose to do, but I can control how I react to them. I hope that with each opportunity I face I will react better by handing the situation to God immediately and receive healing so that I can forgive that person. Who knows, that forgiveness, which reflects the character of God, could lead that person to understanding and embracing His forgiveness!
I know this calling to love and forgive other people as God does seems overwhelming and, quite honestly, impossible. I think it’s okay and normal for us to feel incapable of fulfilling this high standard. There’s no way we can accomplish it on our own. As humans, we care too much about fairness and it’s hard not to let our emotions control our actions. But what is impossible with man is possible with God. Do what you can and let God do the rest. Choose to obey him and forgive the other person, then let him heal your wounds and that person’s heart, too. Let’s work with God (or rather, let His Spirit work in us) to show loving kindness and mercy towards others who need to feel his presence as much or even more than we do! Let’s follow Christ’s example on the cross and walk out the unconditional love and endless forgiveness of God that doesn’t keep a record of wrongs and whose mercy is new every morning (we especially need this in our marriages). If anything, we’ll know that we’re in right standing with God (Luke 6:37) and we’ll grow closer to Him as he replaces our weakness with his strength and heals our broken hearts (Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners).
Verses for further reading on forgiveness:
Mark 11:25, Proverbs 19:11, Matthew 6:14, Romans 15:7, Ephesians 4:2-3 4:31-32
By Jessica Giadrosich
Thank you so much Jessica for sharing your heart ... What beautiful and inspiring words!!!
Challenge: A couple years ago my family went through some very difficult times and there was someone who I struggled very much with to forgive for various hurtful things. I wasn't innocent and contributed in part to the hurt. After harboring harsh feelings, anger and resentment in my heart for a long time I felt God pulling me to forgive her and also apologize to her for my part. It was one of those "you want me to do what God?!" moments in life. She had hurt me and my family too and I didn't expect to ever hear an apology from her so why should I? God pushed me again saying that it didn't matter if she apologized or not, I needed to do my part to apologize and forgive her in my heart. I followed His lead and sent a card sincerely apologizing for my part in our situation. I asked for forgiveness and in my heart forgave her as well. It was such a freeing feeling! I was surprised at how good I felt. She ended up thanking me for my apology, never giving me one in return but at that point I was free of my own feelings of unforgiveness and hurt. I have had several experiences such as this (times when I reached out and times when people reached out to me) and I was blessed by each. Experiences that I dreaded and feared turned out to be life changing and freeing.
I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and reach out to someone who hurt or offended you. Maybe you did something to hurt them in return or maybe not ... but reaching out to them in some way (even if it is just sending a card) and truly forgiving them in your heart can be an amazing and freeing experience. Pray before hand that God will lead you in how to go about this and ask His protection and His guidance. Let go of your resentment and let God heal your heart! Watch as this changes your relationship with God as well ... when we let go of unforgiveness He can work even deeper in our lives and bring us closer to Him.