“To be forgiven is such sweetness that honey is tasteless in comparison with it. But yet there is one thing sweeter still and that is to forgive.”
~ C. H. Spurgeon
As I'm writing and processing through this post I don't know what you my readers are coming to this post with. I don't know the hurts in your lives. Hurtful words, betrayal from a friend, disappointments, and even much darker areas of abuse to unspeakable offenses that many of us could not even fathom.
Many times we can just go on trying to live in a state of normalcy all the while these past hurts are building resentment and bitterness in our hearts. Our God does not want us to be stuck there. In Christ we have the freedom to be set free.
Forgiveness is a choice. It is not a denial that whatever hurt has been done against you isn't real but it does mean you need to face it and be reminded that not forgiving that sin against you is a sin in itself. Unforgiveness is destructive in your life.
“nearly all the personal problems that drive people to seek pastoral counsel are related in some way to the issue of forgiveness.”
~ John MacArthur
Getting Serious with Unforgiveness in our Lives:
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has shared that at her conferences (doesn't matter the setting – women, church leaders, long-time believers etc.) that in every audience when she asks the question below that 80-95% of the hands in the audience are raised. Ask yourself this question:
“How many of you would be honest enough to admit that there is a root of bitterness in your heart—that there are one or more people in your life—past or present—that you've never forgiven?”
~ Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom
When I asked myself this question I realized I'm still affected by the sin of unforgiveness in my own heart towards a past hurt. I may suppress the thought of it but the reality is I'm not living in the freedom Christ's death and resurrection has purchased for me if I'm holding on to past hurts. I am not free.
Acknowledging this does not mean you deny the hurt done against you. It also doesn't help to just attempt to forget the wrong done to you and move forward as if nothing has happened. Our human minds just don't forget so easily. We are all at some point in our lives going to be hurt and be wronged by others (John 16:33, 2 Timothy 3:12). Turning the tables on that too is the reality that we are going to hurt and wrong others.
“The outcome of our lives is not determined by what happens to us but by how we respond to what happens to us.”
~ Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
The situations in our lives that happen to us do not have to control us. I can't choose what will happen to me but I can choose how to respond rightly to it. It's never a right response to sin against sin.
Read this quote below through slowly. Write it down in your journal. Pray through it for whatever hurt in your heart is harboring unforgiveness or bitterness towards a person or a situation in your life.
“When we as God's children realize that His grace is sufficient for every situation, that by the power of His indwelling Spirit we have the ability to respond with grace and forgiveness to those who have sinned against us—at that point we are no longer victims. We are free to rise above whatever may have been done to us, to grow through it, and to become instruments of grace, reconciliation, and redemption in the lives of other hurting people and even in the lives of our offenders.”
~ Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom
Two Ways to Respond to Life's Hurts:
The first way is to keep count of hurts done against us and maybe not outwardly but in our minds make that person pay for what they did. Instead of seeking the Lord to redeem the situation we take control of it. Maybe we give them the silent treatment or hold a grudge, however we deal with it we are the ones truly being kept in bondage.
The second choice, the better choice is to let go. Colossians 3:13 says, “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive”. God requires us as believers to forgive others. It is a supernatural work of the Spirit in our lives to be able to forgive what the world might see as unforgivable. We will never truly have peace until we are able to forgive.
Giving Satan a Foothold:
I had a situation in my life that took a conversation I had with a friend to realize I truly hadn't forgiven a past hurt when I thought I did. I put it out of my mind thinking it was over but when it came up again I realized those bitter and hurtful feelings were still there. It was a wake up to me and it still took the Lord some time to work in my heart. Holding on to the sin of unforgiveness puts a wall up in my relationship with the Lord. It is not just against that person but it takes away my sweet fellowship with the Lord because I don't have that openness to experience His full grace and mercy in my life.
Another issue with harboring unforgiveness is it gives Satan a foothold in my life. It causes me to be in sin in my thought life and that will sadly come out in my conversation as the situation is brought up. So now I'm sinning in thoughts and my words. I want the Spirit's voice to dominate my mind not Satan's.
So I have a choice. A choice to choose forgiveness. I can let the root of bitterness dwell up in my heart or receive God's grace. The choice of His grace allows me to be in a position to bless others and be free from the bondage of unforgiveness.
Forgive Much Because I Have Been Forgiven Much:
When I look at Calvary and realize what my sin cost Jesus, the price that was paid for the debt of my sin and that it has been fully forgiven, how could I not forgive others? The problem is I forget this truth too often and take my eyes off of Christ. I forget the high price that was paid for me to be forgiven by a Holy and righteous God. Forgiveness is hard.
“It is shallow oneness to say that God forgives us because He is love…The love of God means Calvary—nothing less; the love of God is spelt on the Cross, and nowhere else. The only ground on which God can forgive me is the Cross of my Lord.”
~ Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
God is continually at work in our lives. I know I go back so often to Romans 8:28 and remind myself that God is working all things for good in the lives of believers. There is nothing that happens to us that God has not allowed in our lives.
[clickToTweet tweet=”There is nothing that happens to us that God has not allowed in our lives. ” quote=”There is nothing that happens to us that God has not allowed in our lives. “]
“If you're a child of God, the ordeal you're undergoing, however wrong or unfair or heartless it may be or may have been, in His providence and skillful hands will be used to take you somewhere good—deeper into His heart, to a place of greater dependence and trust, more perfectly refined into the likeness of Christ.”
~ Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom
God will use these difficult situations in our lives to continually sanctify us and mold us more into the image of Christ. There is so much good we can see from them even on this side of heaven. They truly make us more compassionate to others and their hurts and difficulties. We see the selfishness and sinfulness of our own hearts and continue to work with the Lord to tear those parts of our life away that are not like Christ. Relationships are many times so much sweeter as you walk through difficult times and seasons together. This is the reality of why it is God's will for us to give thanks in and through all things (1 Thess. 5:18).
Trust that as you work through this difficult area of your life, whatever it is, that the Lord will do His sanctifying work in and through you. He loves us enough to not leave us where we are but to continue to change us into the likeness of His Son.
How to Forgive?
In her book, Choosing Forgiveness, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth (see chapter 5, The Art of Forgiveness – this chapter is worth your time to purchase this book) has us to write out anyone we need to forgive. We are to write out the people who have wronged us and their offenses. She knows we are going to be asking, “why would we bring this all up again.” Her reminder is we need to get honest and face the reality that we don't forget and we don't just escape reality. In the midst of our pain the point is to run to God. He is the only One who can free us from the hurt and bondage of the situation.
Nancy lays out a disclaimer that you don't go trying to dig things up that you don't have recollection of but just the ones you know that need to be dealt with.
After you write them out ask yourself the following questions:
“How have I responded to this person?”
“Have you blessed them?”
“Have you loved them?”
“Have you prayed for them?”
“Have you forgiven them?”
“Or would it be more honest to say that you have withheld love from them, resented them, and been angry with them?”
(above questions take from Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom)
Listen, as you ask yourself these questions you may need to go to the person you are seeking to forgive to ask forgiveness yourself. We need to step up and take responsibility for our sinful responses to being sinned against. Ask the Lord to search your heart (Psalm 139:23-24, Matthew 7:3-5). It is painful to remove the log from our own eye but so worth it.
I love Nancy's prayer to ask the Lord in seeking to forgive:
“Lord, by Your grace and in obedience to You, I choose to forgive—to clear their record, to press the delete button, to release the offender, to let the offense go. I do forgive!”
Power of Forgiveness:
There are so many benefits in our lives as we truly forgive others but the main one is to bring glory to the Lord. When others see the redemptive power of the Lord in our lives, it puts His work in our lives on display for all to see the riches of His glory and grace and mercy being worked out in our lives.
The hope is for others to see His work in our lives. We are an example to a lost world around us. To lost family. We are an example to our children. They are watching how we deal with all situations and to see the power of the work of the Lord in our lives.
Who do you need to forgive today? You can do it though His grace.
“When Jesus, nailed to a Roman cross prayed, Father, forgive them,” He wielded a weapon against which Caesar himself had no power…who can stand up to the force of forgiveness?
~ Elisabeth Elliot