TO FORGIVE OR NOT TO FORGIVE
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY, WEEK, MONTH, YEAR.....
TO FORGIVE OR NOT TO FORGIVE (A SLIGHTLY LONGER READ)
I’ve been in ministry for over 42 years now. And yet, in all that time I’ve only heard one sermon on the importance and process of forgiveness. It was an “ok” sermon, but nonetheless it at least addressed the necessity of being forgiving. Then, over the course of many years, I’ve searched out, and read dozens of articles on the subject, but in the most recent years, I’ve been struck by how repentance is now often being taught in a twisted and selfish sort of way, that puzzles the mind, and perverts the process. Some articles suggest we don’t forgive until we’ve gotten all the details about who and what has hurt us. Thus we need to know all the information before we forgive. We must also describe the specific points of what happened, and hopefully, let it go, while, even though its not said, it's implied we silently wish our forgiveness will make room, for God, and man, to punish the abuser according to what we feel is justice. (Sadly, that unspoken agenda is rarely articulated because it doesn’t take into account the anger and hatred that drives unforgiveness invisibly). Other articles suggest we shouldn’t forgive until till the offender confesses in detail what’s been done. Dear one, that rarely ever happens. Many don’t even recognize they’ve hurt other, and thus will never realize the need to repent. Other documents state that we must make sure the one who’s caused us injury suffers for a while, at least until we’ve worked through all our feelings and hurt. Ugh. Then, maybe we’ll forgive, but for the while that we haven’t forgiven, we justify our right to carry and own all our offences and pains like a badge of “I’ve earned pity.” Hence, misery develops, and which could last for a very long, long season. I don’t believe any of these articles or their explanations are biblically satisfactory or helpful. And, regrettably, as we’ve become such a “Me, Myself and I” society, maneuvered by selfishness, entitlement and emotions, our ideas about forgiveness have gone awry.
My primary reason for saying this is thus. We get it wrong when we think forgiveness is for those who’ve injured us. That’s so off. Forgiveness is for you! When we don’t choose to forgive, and delay doing so, we repeatedly shackle ourselves to our past, and become bound to the perpetrator of our pain. As a result, we will grow numb to God’s presence, other people’s love for us and bitterness takes deep root. (Hebrews 12:13-15) What’s more, bitterness will eventually seep out of our being and poison others. It’s an awful cycle fraught with horrible consequences. You see, biblically, when we don’t forgive, Satan obtains permission to launch an assault of torment against our spirits, minds, wills and emotions. It may even affect our physical bodies. These spiritual “tormentors” take pleasure in causing greater and greater pain when we fail to forgive and justify ourselves for not doing so. (Matt. 18:34-35) On top of this, if we don’t forgive others, we then fall short and will fail to receive the forgiveness of God for our sins. (Mark 11:25-26) In the natural, that sounds harsh. But that just lets you know how deeply unforgiveness affects us all. This doesn't, however, mean that you agree with what someone has done to you. It just means you won't let those injuries control your life or future. No human being is big enough to control God's destiny for your life, if you won't allow it.
In the past number of years, I think everyone, including yours truly, has been hurt, suffered all sorts of abuses, betrayed, undergone relationship issues, and been shamed, blamed, and defamed beyond what we’ve ever known in our lives. On top of it all, crisis always causes conflict. You see, when we don’t understand what’s happening, and we’ve been victimized, in any number of ways, we’ll experience pain, problems and difficulties, looking for a scapegoat to blame for the problems. Thus, the hurt remains annoyingly alive.
Dear ones, we desperately need to learn to forgive and realize it’s usually not a one-time practice where one-size-fits-all. How you forgive, is just as important, as doing it, because it’s as individual as you and your pain is. I’ve come to believe forgiveness has to be a daily, sometimes minute by minute, lifestyle, or else I’ll become stuck in my pain, and bound to the people and circumstances that have broken my heart.
Sometimes I think we’re like onions. We have layer upon layer of experiences, memories, issues and problems in our lives. Thus, depending on the depth of the offense, it may take a long time to peel away all the pain, and release it fully to the Lord. You see, sometimes we don’t even know those feelings are buried. Nonetheless, that release process, can be expedited if we’ll forgive and learn how to discharge the hurt to the cross. So, may I suggest: Learn to forgive immediately as a choice. Believe me, I know making that decision is tough, because everything within us screams out- “I don’t want to forgive, I don’t feel like it.” The choice to do so may also make you feel hypocritical, like you’re lying to God and yourself. But, tell Him, “Lord, I honestly don’t feel like forgiving, but, as an act of my will, in obedience to your Word, and because I don’t want to be trapped in this past, I choose to forgive and let this (person or circumstance go into your care.)” Yes, the feelings will need to catch up to the confession. But, whether or not we discover all the details, and can define what is being felt, we can decide to forgive and start the process. In doing so, God will manifest His saving power to get us out of our rut and keep us above it, because we are being spiritually minded. (Col. 3:1-3) You see, the longer we delay forgiving, the deeper the hooks of pain, bitterness and anger will pierce into one's soul, and eventually we don’t even realize how we’ve been reshaped by our hurt. Therefore, don’t allow feelings to rule you. Yes, those emotions are real. They may genuinely hurt, even agonizingly so. But if we choose to forgive, based on how Jesus did so on the cross, even with just the knowledge of the hurt, God will begin the healing process. “Father I forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Abusers, usually never realize what they're doing to others. But, in God’s sight, whether we understand it or not, isn’t the point. We don’t have to go into all the details for Him to heal us and set us free. Satan loves it if you continue to delay making the choice to forgive. Therefore, I say, forgive quickly. Release the pain to Him as He gives you revelation to do so. Then, trust slowly. You may have to repeat this practice a lot. This also doesn’t mean you have to stay in a situation that’s abusive, as that’s just plain contrary to the character and ways of God. He delivers the oppressed. He’s also made provision for us, and will hide us in His presence, or The Secret Place (Psalms 91; John 8:58-59: Psalms 31:20; 27:5) as we cry out for him to do so in the fashion that concerns our needs. Obviously, you may have to exit those situations, but, if you forgive, you’ll be able to hear and receive His guidance clearly. Otherwise, until you do so, you’ll become increasingly and deeply mired in a miserable assortment of torments, and eventually won't be able to emerge from the problems at hand.
I know fully well that many will argue in defense of retaining their bitterness, anger and hatred, saying I can’t forgive! I don’t feel like it. But I beg you to hear me. Give God space to work in your life, and practice forgiveness constantly. Otherwise, you could become entombed in your past, and miss out on a lot of the things that God has for your future. Please think about this dear one. It’s crucial to everything that lies ahead.