But what about when someone wrongs me? How do I handle that? Like most of us, I've had plenty of bad experiences in life. I've battled family dysfunction, lies, abuse, and even rejection. I've gone through several very painful breakups. I've experienced several life altering events that few people ever experience in life. I've learned that having four babies at once it one of the best experiences in life, but there's also a down side that doesn't feel so good but does make us stronger.
The Bible tells me that I have to forgive those who've attacked us personally, those who've spread nasty rumors about us, those who've acted out of selfishness and anger, even those who've said words so unkind and untrue they've moved me to sobs. But you see, the Bible doesn't understand that I've already forgiven them once and they came back not one time again, but twice, three times, even four times and sinned against me repeatedly. Surely, there's somewhere in the Bible to address these repeat offenders. Oh...here it is! Matthew 18:21-22:
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times".
What? Surely somewhere it is written that my situation is different, that I don't have to forgive in THIS situation. Nope - nowhere does it give exclusions for my particular case. No matter what, I must forgive the offender(s).
But finding forgiveness is a different story. I've turned to God for the strength to forgive in spite of all of the hurt this situation has caused me. Repeatedly, I've asked God to help me resolve a situation we've been struggling with.
I've said foolish things like "I'll forgive them, but, they have to come to me and apologize first. This isn't the case with forgiveness. One should forgive anytime they are ready. While "I'm sorry" is nice to hear, it's not needed in order to forgive another. I've also realized that you don't have to tell the other person you've forgiven them. There's no need for it. Silent forgiveness is still forgiveness.
But it's also important to distinguish that forgiving and forgetting are two very different things. It's not forgiving as much as it is refusing to recall the offense. Forgiveness means not bringing it up to the offender, others, or yourself. It means only bringing it up to God when you're asking Him for help. This can be challenging; especially when others think that forgiveness means the relationship is restored. Forgiveness does not mean the relationship is magically restored. You can forgive someone without ever speaking to them again. Just because you release the pain they caused you, does not mean you restore the relationship. It's okay to take a break until you are ready. You can choose to forgive someone but keep your distance to prevent further hurt. Forgiveness does open up the possibility for a relationship in the future. Perhaps with time, forgiveness can eventually lead to stronger relationships, however, this is determined by both the offender and the offended. It's not for someone else to say or to push for reconcilliation. Often, if someone interferes in the healing process that is a part of forgiveness, it can lead to further hurt. Pressuring someone who is in the midst of this process and struggling to forgive can lead to further unforgiveness and often brings the offended back to the place they were struggling to leave.
Forgiveness is something so beautiful, yet so complicated. Forgiveness is written all through God's Word. According to Pastor Schuler at Harvest Bible Chapel in Cypress, "Forgiveness is the highest human characteristic". We should forgive all the time. I've been struggling with forgiveness on some issues lately and am praying for strength, courage and the ability to break this hurt and pain that's leading me to unforgiveness. What about you? Is there a situation in your life that has you struggling to forgive? How do you focus on overcoming unforgiveness? I'd love to hear your stories and I'd love to pray for you as you pray for me.
Until next time,
Love and Prayers,