Monday, January 21, 2013

The Power of Forgiveness


To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable,
because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
C.S. Lewis

Henri Nouwen once said, “When a wound is healed, there still can be some leftover pain.”

Left behind pain comes in all sorts of ways. It could be due to a divorce (your parents or your own), a death in the family, a family member’s illness, a rape, or abuse (physical, sexual or emotional).

Even if it wasn’t a traumatic experience, people hurt each other all the time in large and small ways. Often, because men and women tend to see life through completely different filters, we end up hurting each other without meaning to or knowing it. Even little hurts and repeated disappointments can pile up and turn into a mountain of resentment.

Forgiveness is the key to healing
A major key that heals brokenness (of all kinds) is forgiving past pain, either forgiving the person who hurt you or forgiving yourself—or both. 

When you feel wronged, you think the other person owes you something. They owe you an apology, an explanation, a childhood, a relationship or a marriage. Whatever it is, you are holding them prisoner, but you are the one with the pain.

Andy Stanley says that when you do not forgive, it’s as if you hold that person hostage in your heart. You take them out once in a while, beat them up, and put them back. Instead, he says, we are to, in a sense, release the person and say, “You don’t owe me.”

Easier said than done, right?

Here is the key. Forgiveness is not acting like everything is okay. It does not mean that you condone what happened, agree with it or like it.

You are not overlooking the offense or excusing it, and you are definitely not letting the offender off the hook for their words or actions. Instead, you’re putting them on God’s hook, and trusting God to deal with it fairly because He said He would.

Oh, that person is still on the hook for what they’ve done. They’re just not on YOUR hook for justice—they’re on God’s hook.

As you release the person who’s wronged you to God, He ensures justice is served; not you. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

Indeed, the God of unconditional love is also our advocate for justice.

Forgiveness comes in time, not always right away. Sometimes we have to grieve it first, and pray that we can feel it. How do you forgive?

* Acknowledge you have been hurt. “I have been wronged.”

* Receive God’s forgiveness. “I have been wrong, too. I need forgiveness.”

* Choose to forgive. “I’m wrestling with why I should I forgive him?”

* Release to God in prayer—and forgive. “Because God has forgiven me, I will forgive him.”

Because God has first forgiven us, He commands us to forgive others. Ephesians 4:31, 32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Forgiveness is an act of your will; it is a choice. And doing so releases you!

What is binding you—bitterness, anger, resentment, or offense?  Perhaps it’s time to release your vice grip hold and forgive. Give God your thirst, your ache, and your needs.

As you choose to forgive and release, you will find freedom and peace.

(To find out more about forgiveness, check out "When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty" by Jackie M. Johnson. Also available in Kindle format.)



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