Last week, I taught one of my favorite lessons during a small group gathering at church. It was all about forgiveness, in particular, God’s forgiveness of us. We talked all about God’s love and mercy. I stressed His unrelenting forgiveness even in the midst of the most heinous sins. We rejoiced in the Lord’s merciful tenderness toward us when we falter, and we prayed for His healing power to transform our lives.
I passionately went on about Jesus’ mercy for an hour, then came home, and wondered why the heck I’m not as merciful as He.
Contrary to popular myth, forgiveness isn’t a feeling, and if we wait to “feel” like we forgive someone to actually do so, we will most likely be waiting for a long time … like, until we kick the bucket.
On the contrary, forgiveness is a choice. The hurt someone has caused us may be ever-present in our lives, but we can choose to forgive them as soon as we want. It requires effort, humility, and a total trust in God, It sucks, but we can do it. And we should do it.
Why should we forgive?
Firstly, because Christ demands it of us. He tells us that we should forgive infinitely, no matter how many times someone offends us. After all, if we are created in His image and determined to follow Him, then we will need to forgive like Him: totally and unwaveringly.
Secondly, we free ourselves when we forgive. When we hold on to anger or resentment, we only hurt ourselves. As the saying goes, “Withholding forgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the offender to die.” It just doesn’t work to our advantage. We waste so much life-giving energy when we hold on to hurt and anger, whether it be at a person or a life circumstance. We only experience true freedom once we choose to forgive and lay our hurts at the foot of the Cross. Our hurts may always accompany us, but the chains of anger don’t have to.
Ever since my conversion, I’ve known the truths written above. But putting them into practice, like most difficult endeavors, is a whole different process.
You see, I thought I had this whole forgiveness thing down pat. I thought that I had forgiven all that I needed to, and that I had completely let go of any residual anger. Then, I dove into the Humbled Hearts Daybook. Remember me telling you about this new prayer journal I discovered? My friend, Jillian, creates them, and it’s the first prayer journal that’s really born fruit in my soul.
Each month, it has a section about forgiveness, and it’s really been convicting me.
There are prompts to pray for the grace to forgive. It reads, “Help me to forgive ______________ for ____________________________.” So you write out who you need the Lord’s help forgiving, and why.
That’s the part that has struck a cord in the deep recesses of my soul. Writing out the names of those people I need to forgive and what exactly caused me pain, has taken my forgiveness to a whole new level.
As with most situations, writing it out makes our pain incarnate. It sets a new fire to our prayer for the grace to forgive. Friends, this has been so beneficial to my soul. Pains from long ago that I had believed I had let go of resurfaced in good ways as the Lord shone light upon these dark areas and spoke words of true and final healing over them.
I was actually able to forgive forgive and close the book on some challenging circumstances.
I wish I could send each of you a Humbled Hearts Daybook because the Lord has used it that much in my life. But since that’s not feasible, I encourage you to check it out for yourselves! Plus, they’re super cute, which I think is always a major bonus 😉
There is always a burden, trial, and freedom in forgiveness. And when we allow ourselves to move through the entire process with Jesus, we are conformed to Him more and more and truly set free to love more deeply and unconditionally.
Do you have any stories of forgiveness you care to share with us? What kind of freedom did you experience once you forgave someone/some circumstance?
P.S. You can check out my five tips for bettering your prayer life as a new mom over at Jillian’s place!