A concept that I have always struggled with.
A practice that, as of recently, I thought I had pretty much down-pat.
I was wrong.
I recently had to grapple with my understanding & practice of forgiveness. Someone close to me hurt me severely…& when I hurt, I hurt deep & long. I told myself I wasn’t angry or bitter. I told myself that it didn’t matter, that I had moved on. But every now & then, something would happen & a new, fresh anger would stir up & rise to the surface, but would eventually fade back. I went a long while without feeling anything negative towards this person & situation, but finally, something occurred that became the straw that broke the camel’s back. Something occurred that rose a fierce anger & frustration in my heart- one that was so strong it whispered tempting words in my ears give up all desires I had for resolution & reconciliation.
I felt the desire to give up any want for reconciliation & as much as I desired it, I realized it was wrong. I began to question my heart- what was causing this thought, this desire to cut off any hope of reconciliation? I knew it was not a heart after Christ, but I couldn’t figure out why I felt this way. All I knew what that I didn’t want to forgive without any sign of repentance & change by the person who hurt me. I kept telling myself, “I’ll forgive this person, but I don’t want to continue to be duped but them.”
In the silence & darkness in my mind, I just prayed & I heard God respond, “You don’t really want to forgive because to forgive means to do so without trust & without any hope the person won’t commit the hurt again. When I died on the cross to forgive YOUR sins, I did it KNOWING you would continually sin against me over, & over, & over, & over again. But I did it anyway because I love you. I did it for you, despite you.”
“I did it for you, despite you.”
When I heard that whisper in my heart, it’s like the world stood still. My jaw dropped. I am almost thankful for the situation that led to this because it has given me a new understanding of forgiveness & what Christ did for me & you on the cross.
To forgive is not just letting it go. It’s not just forgetting or pretending it never happened. It is something that is almost impossible to describe.
Forgiveness is letting go of the debt you are holding against the person who wronged you. It’s letting go of the need for an apology or change in behavior. It’s saying, “You know what? I love you, what you’re doing is wrong, I’ve confronted you & you won’t change, but I won’t let it change my heart toward you & I won’t let your actions continue to be a burden on my heart.” It is letting go of a desire for vindication. It’s being okay with not ever getting an “I’m sorry” or seeing change.
Forgiving like Christ is letting all of that go, KNOWING the person will probably turn & do the same thing to you again, but still continuing to love & pray for them, even though they don’t deserve it…because guess what…none of us deserve what Christ did for us, either, & yet…
When you comprehend that…it will sweep over you like a wave. It will knock you off the foundations you thought you knew. It did me. It will not be something you fully understand or are able to fully carry out immediately…but it will break your heart towards God & towards those you’ve been carrying grudges against. There will be times you forget or have to remind yourself really hard. It’s not like it’ll click & stick in your heart the exact same, forever. It will have to be something you re-apply for every new & difficult circumstance. Don’t get me wrong, forgiveness does not mean everything will go back to normal or that the relationship will be restored, partially or at all, but it will utterly change your life.
Because forgiving like Christ isn’t trusting it won’t happen again. Forgiving like Christ is trusting it WILL, but forgiving, loving, & praying for them, anyway.
It’s so much harder than I thought.
Be blessed, friends.