We hear often how forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. While this is absolutely true, in the bigger picture, the ability to forgive others is a gift given to us from God…because truly “to forgive is divine.” Within ourselves we human beings just don’t seem to have the capacity to wipe others slate clean in our minds and hearts on our own power. Our form of forgiveness is convoluted with strings attached, hidden pockets of pain and bitterness that surface at the most inconvenient times – complete with elephant-type memories regarding the deeply painful acts and attitudes toward us. How we struggle with forgiveness! Pure forgiveness is indeed a freely-given gift from the only perfect forgiver, Jesus Christ.
We know we are supposed to forgive. The Lord’s prayer, reads in part:
and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. Matthew 6:12
This is clearly not an option, but a command from God who has forgiven us – that we MUST forgive those who have inflicted pain upon us to have a clear relationship with God. But, oh how we struggle!
In a sense, granting forgiveness is like hitting bottom with a drug or alcohol addiction. What finally causes one to surrender is unique to each person. Those who love an addict agonize in prayer over them and keep hoping that each new crisis or even happy “big life moment” will be THAT THING that will cause that one to admit there is a problem, surrender to Christ and submit to a program that will help them overcome their addiction. But that turning point is indeed different for every person who has made that huge u-turn in life. And so it is with forgiveness. For the person who knows they need to forgive and willingly travels that journey toward totally releasing that person or group of people in their lives that has caused pain, the point of letting go mentally and emotionally differs.
But God is faithful. Forgiveness is for real. If we are seeking to obey Him in this area, He will provide that necessary ability to forgive fully, but it is a journey. It is a process. The gift of forgiveness – the ability from God to forgive others is a sweetness to our soul. It brings smiles and relief and often times reconciliation and tenderness to a relationship that looked like it was beyond recovery. Forgiveness is a miracle.
Forgiveness is and isn’t many things.
Forgiveness does not mean that we minimize what that person has done. Forgiveness most certainly will cost us in some way. We may have to endure the consequences for the other person’s sin against us, and perhaps for a very long time. Forgiveness does not mean we necessarily go back to “life as normal.” The act of forgiveness sometimes means that we are separated from that person, yet our hearts are at peace. Sometimes, the relationship becomes stronger and more connected with granting forgiveness. We do not have power over the outcome of granting forgiveness, but obeying God by forgiving is always for our good. The is greatness and exhilaration in the peace that God provides to our souls when we forgive.
Forgiveness is freedom. We give up the notion to desire any punishment or ill will toward that person in our minds. We can pray that God will bless them and mean it, and go on with our lives. We find ourselves to be “bigger”, stronger, more generous and sweeter human beings. The best part of forgiveness is that it opens the doorway to run to God full throttle, leaping up into His arms and experiencing that sweet communion that cannot be described in words. There is nothing between God and ourselves when we willingly forgive others, and in the process admit our own sins and weaknesses.
Our hearts are softened by granting forgiveness. This too is a gift from God.
I will given them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they wil truly be my people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11:19-20