That is the question.
God does not allow anything to happen to His children without a purpose. Ultimately, the purpose is to glorify Him. However, when people deeply hurt me, it causes me to question how God could possibly use the pain for His glory. I am learning through a very painful situation that my reaction to the hurt, my trust in God, my ability to let go of anger and bitterness…all of these things can be ways that God uses a painful situation for His glory.
Forgiveness. What a powerful and wonderful and awful word all at once.
It’s easy to forgive the friend who forgets your birthday or the husband who doesn’t notice your new hairstyle. But to forgive someone who has ruined lives of people you love? That’s a different type of forgiveness. It’s a much harder type. When I want to hold on to my anger, forgiveness sounds awful. Holding on to my anger is SO much easier.
As a Christian, I know that forgiveness is mandatory. I’m thankful for a husband who knows this, practices it, and holds me accountable. He reminded me of this verse:
Matthew 6:14-15 NIV“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Wow. I had to let that sink in. For weeks. If I do not forgive (regardless of whether the person is sorry), God will not forgive me. Heaven knows I need lots of forgiving. Is the grudge that I have worth the risk of not being forgiven by my Savior?
I struggled with what forgiveness should look like. Does forgiveness mean that I pretend the events that led to the pain never happened? To me, that felt like faking. True forgiveness would not have to pretend.
How, then, do I move on when the hurt is so deep? I’ll be honest. It’s been a process for me this time.
I am so thankful for a few wonderful ladies who I can study the Bible with and share my joys and sorrows. We have been studying a book called Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow. Week 5 was all about relationships and forgiveness.
I’ll share a few things that stood out to me about what we studied. The italicized words come directly from Linda Dillow’s book, the study questions for week 5.
Thoughts about forgiveness:
· I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget.
· If I forgive now, this person will get off to easily. She (or he) should pay for the offense.
· Why do I always have to be the one to do the right thing?
· Why should I forgive? The person isn’t even sorry for what happened.
· I can forgive the person for what he or she did to me, but not for the pain she (or he) has caused others.
· I’m not sure forgiving the person is necessary. I’d rather just avoid situations where we come in contact.
· I’ve tried to forgive this person but he (or she) keeps doing the same thing over and over.
I have thought every single one of these things over the course of trying to forgive this person. Forgiveness seemed increasingly impossible. But the next part of the study spoke right to my heart.
God’s attitude toward me:
· He has forgiven me everything.
· Forgave me even though I didn’t deserve it.
· Forgives me over and over for the same sin.
· Forgives even my most horrific offenses.
· Forgives me quickly, never holding a grudge.
And then we read this passage:
Colossians 3:12-14 NIV“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, 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 over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Basically, after completing the study on forgiveness, I knew that I could not escape the truth of God’s word. I had to forgive, just as God has forgiven me. Forgiving is a choice to make, not a feeling. I stayed up all night praying for God to take the bitterness and anger away. I do not want to be a prisoner, chained to anger and resentment. I want to live in the fullness and freedom that Christ offers. And you know what? He took it away. The weight of the anger is lifted. The bitterness is gone. No, the person who caused the hurt is not sorry. In fact, the person has not changed a bit. But I am free from the previous anxiety, worry, anger, etc… and it’s a glorious feeling.
If you are having a hard time forgiving someone and don’t know how to start, try these things:
1. Pray for a change of your heart toward the person. If that’s too hard, pray for God to show you what He wants you to do.
2. Be accountable to others for your feelings. Tell someone who will support forgiveness, not gossip.
3. Read God’s Word.
4. Give it time, but don’t run from the problem.
5. Don’t give up!