One of life’s toughest challenges is overcoming the anger and hurt of being mistreated by someone, especially someone we love.
As Christians, we hear so much about forgiveness and the need to forgive. But what sounds good in theory often feels insurmountable when you’ve been cheated on by your spouse, or deceived by your supposed-best friend, robbed by your child, or abused by your parent.
We seem to hold tight to the anger and the hurt, waiting for apologies that often-times never come. Does that mean we’re stuck in perpetual angst? To stay broken until an apology magically rights the wrong?
An apology is nice but it’s not the secret ingredient to righting the wrong. In fact, there’s nothing that really rights the wrong, however time and sustained changed behavior can smooth over the torn edges of damaged relationships.
So what’s the balm to soothe your broken heart?
Forgiveness is a magical salve. Forgiveness is a gift for the hurting and is independent of the person who caused the pain.
But what if the person wasn’t sorry? What if they never apologized or acknowledged hurting you? What if they blamed their actions on you? What if…. None of the ‘what ifs’ matter in regards to forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Forgiveness allows you to move on from the hurt and pain, to enjoy life without dragging around a mountain of anger and sadness.
Forgiveness isn’t easy but God provides the guidance we need to step up to the challenge.
Lesson 1: Let God handle it.
Romans 12:17-21 New International Version (NIV):
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[b]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Let God be the judge. Let God hold everyone to task for their faults and failings. We’re called to take the high road and continue to love and help our enemies. We’re called to overcome evil with good.
Does loving our enemies mean to continue to take abuse? Or continue to be used? No.
I believe we’re called to be kind and loving and not hold onto grudges. We can stop being a punching bag or a pushover while remaining kind and loving and strong.
Let God handle the burden of judgment. By handing the judgment over to God, we’re free to move on and live our life with the joy He intended.
Lesson 2: Break the bars of your yoke.
Leviticus 26:13 NIV:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.
Forgiveness breaks the bars of our yoke. The burden of pulling a heavy load of anger becomes too much to bear. It clouds our vision, it strains our ability to enjoy life, and it hampers our ability to love.
When we forgive, the bars of our yoke are broken, and we can walk away from the heavy load, enabling us to move forward with joy and lightheartedness and love. This freedom allows us to walk with head held high – proud and happy to move on and enjoy the gift of life as God intended.
Lesson 3: We are called to forgive.
Matthew 6:14-15 NIV:
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Forgiveness not only frees us from being captive to heavy grudges, but we are called to forgive.
God promises to forgive our sins and requires us to do the same for those who’ve wronged us. Why should we expect our sins to be forgiven when we refuse to forgive those who’ve sinned against us?
We count on God forgiving us, but He requires us to do the same. That’s a very fair deal, I would say!
Lesson 4: Jesus is our example.
Luke 23:34 NIV:
34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[a] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Jesus showed us the greatest example of forgiveness by forgiving those who had falsely accused him and were putting him to death.
We don’t often think of his torture and agony, the sadness and abandonment he felt. As a human being put to one of the most excruciating deaths, we can only imagine Jesus’ suffering, yet he forgave.
If we can only keep that perspective when we wallow in our pain, we can lean on Jesus to help us when we’ve been wronged. His example shows us the way to survive the pain, the humiliation, and the deceit, and lead us to forgiveness.
Lesson 5: God’s greatest sacrifice was for our forgiveness.
1 John 2:2 NIV:
2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Besides Jesus dying for our sins, the greatest gift we’ve been given is God sending us his Son to atone for our sins and ask his very own son to sacrifice his life for ours.
I don’t imagine that any parent could fathom such a sacrifice. But that’s how great God’s love is for us. By calling his son to die for our sins, we are granted eternal life and forgiveness.
God watched his Son be tortured for our forgiveness, perhaps we’re able to find one ounce of his strength to muster through our own journey to forgive.
He promises a beautiful reward.
How many times?
Once we find the strength to forgive someone who’s wronged us it’s easier to see why Jesus said we are to continue to forgive. Not only seven times but seventy-seven times.
Matthew 18:21-22 NIV:
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 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?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Let time and distance soften your wounds instead of allowing them to harden into permanent scars. Once you understand the magical power of forgiveness to soothe your aching soul you’ll never try carrying that heaven burden again.
Have you forgiven a significant wrong? How did you do it?
Tell me in the comments!