Learning to Forgive
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22, NASB).
I have lived through some painful experiences. Those I’ve loved have disappointed me and rejected me, but now I know that my identity is found in Christ alone. Others no longer determine who I am. I am who God says I am. I have also learned how to forgive those who have hurt me. I have learned what forgiveness is and what it is not.
In her book, “Your Scars are Beautiful to God: Finding Peace and Purpose in the Hurts of Your Past,” Sharon Jaynes says:
Unforgiveness can be likened to a parasite; it feeds on the anger and hurt of its host, finding its most satisfying nourishment in human pain. It thrives on the cycle of replayed scenes, recalled anguish, and rehashed justification for holding fast to grudges. Essentially, unforgiveness grows plump on our desire for revenge…While many of us don’t have a plan to exact revenge, we somehow think that holding on to the unforgiveness is revenge enough…The only person being hurt when you choose not to forgive is you. It’s as if we are hitting our own heads against the wall in order to punish the other person (p. 89).
Sharon Jaynes goes on to say forgiveness does not mean we are saying what the person did is okay, and it does not mean we should put ourselves in a position to be mistreated again. Also, forgiveness has nothing to do with whether the other person deserves it. We are called to forgive others because the Lord forgave us, and we are called to put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:13-14, NASB).
As Sharon Jaynes puts it, “Nothing will make us more bitter than an unforgiving spirit. And nothing will dissolve bitterness more quickly than a decision to forgive and let go of the offense or disappointment. We cannot be bitter and get better at the same time (p. 91). That is worth repeating:
We cannot be bitter and get better at the same time.
So, how do you know if you have truly forgiven someone? The answer is simple – when you have truly forgiven someone, you are filled with God’s peace.
I was sitting in church on June 7, 2015. This may be the only time I was thankful that my husband was not sitting next to me. The Pastor’s message was on “Forgiveness and Families.” As I listened, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me, and I heard Him gently whisper, “You need to forgive him.” I had to act. I prayed, and I thanked God for empowering me to forgive my husband and let go of the offense.
Later that day, I shared God’s mercy, love, and amazing grace with my husband. I told him that I mistakenly thought I had already forgiven him, but my heart wasn’t ready. Now, my heart is ready to forgive you. He said, “Thank you,” and held me in his arms. It was a healing moment.
It was a God moment.
Loving Father, Your peace is a precious gift. But all too often, we hold on to anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness, all of which are obstacles to Your mercy and grace. Holy Spirit, work in our hearts. Give us strength and power to extend Your mercy and grace to those in our lives who have hurt us. May we cast off the burden of unforgiveness so that we can live in Christ – free and completely forgiven! In Jesus’ name, amen.
God inflicts pain and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal. From six troubles, He will deliver you, even in seven, evil will not touch you (Job 5:18-19).
What Satan intended for evil, God will use for good.
I am on the path of healing and restoration with Jesus holding my hand every step of the way. I praise God for His mighty work in my life and marriage, and I look forward to the future with hope in my heart.
You may be wondering, what have I learned from this experience? I will share a few lessons I’ve learned:
- Pray the Word of God every day. When we pray God’s Word, we are praying His truth and healing into our situation.
- If you are holding on to unforgiveness, pray for God to work in your heart. Ask Him to soften your heart and help you have mercy and compassion for the person who hurt you. Thank God in advance for preparing your heart to forgive that person.
- Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (good advice straight from the mouth of Jesus Christ).
- Do not suffer in silence. Cry out to God. Seek comfort in Him. And seek comfort in trusted family members and friends. God will heal your wounds and make you even stronger than you were before.
- There is a purpose in your pain. I firmly believe that God allows us to suffer in order to mold us and prepare us for the work He has called us to do. God promised that He makes all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28, NASB). He is faithful (i.e., He always keeps His promises). We may not know what that purpose is right away, but when we choose to trust Him and walk by faith, He will reveal His purpose to us in His time. God has revealed that my purpose is to minister to and pray for other women who are in struggling marriages and even women who have gone through divorce. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), and in God’s eyes, they have made an everlasting covenant with Him to love, honor, and respect their spouses for the rest of their lives. All things are possible with God, and He can save any marriage, even marriages that have “ended” in divorce. God saved my marriage, and I am eternally grateful. My husband and I are living proof that God can use broken people and a previously broken marriage for His glory and His purpose.
- Tell your story. God does not comfort us to make us comfortable. He comforts us to make us comfort-able. That is, able to comfort others (Sharon Jaynes). We are called to be Christ in the world. We must tell our stories because our stories are God’s stories. Our stories are part of His overall plan and purpose. Share your story and what you have learned.
- Examine yourselves. Is there someone you’ve hurt, and you need to admit that what you said or did was wrong? Pray for God to bless you with a humble and yielding spirit. Pray for the courage to admit your mistake and ask for forgiveness.
- The enemy is not flesh and blood. It may seem like the person who hurt you is your enemy, but God is crazy in love with that person. Satan is the enemy. The apostle Paul instructed us to put on the full armor of God. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12, NASB). Understandably, you are probably furious with the person who hurt you. But remember that the person who wronged you is not your enemy. Satan is your enemy. When you shift your anger toward Satan instead of that person who wronged you, something inside of you will also shift. God will renew your mind with the truth of His Word, and the truth is powerful. The truth is transformational.
- The battle belongs to the Lord. I just finished a monthly devotional on the Book of Joshua. The overall theme of that book is that our battles belong to the Lord. When we try to fight our battles in our own strength, it is futile. But, when we surrender to God and acknowledge His sovereignty over our circumstances, we are empowered. We must remember that He goes before us. He always has our best interests at heart. He will fight our battles, but it is up to us to acknowledge His sovereignty and relinquish every ounce of control to Him. Remember, God is greater than your circumstances (1 John 4:4), and no purpose of His can be thwarted (Job 42:2).
In addition to the lessons above, God has revealed other insights. I am living Romans 8:28. Father, it really is true! You make all things work together for my good. So, what “good” has come from this experience?
- I have a more intimate relationship with God. I have grown closer to God in prayer.
- My relationship with my husband is getting better, and if I remain faithful to God and put my trust in Him, He will transform our marriage.
- God is softening my husband’s heart, and I am beginning to see positive changes in him. For example, thanks be to God that my husband is now praying with me every day for our marriage! And he is praying! Before, I would pray, and my husband would sit with me while I prayed, but now, he is praying with me. To God be the glory!
- God is prompting me to be introspective. What changes do I need to make so that we can have the marriage God wants for us? I am asking the Lord to mold me into the disciple, the servant, the wife, the mother, the daughter, the sister, the friend, the teacher, and the writer He created me to be.
- I am sharing my testimony. God is working through me to bring healing and hope to others who have walked a similar path. As Sharon Jaynes says, “God does not comfort us to make us comfortable. He comforts us to make us comfort-able, that is, able to comfort others.”
I am beginning to understand what the apostle Paul meant when he said, “And we exult in our tribulations…” (Romans 5:3). In the midst of my suffering, I could not possibly understand how to celebrate at the same time that I was suffering. But now that I have forgiven my husband, and Jesus has calmed the storm, I am beginning to see God’s purpose in the suffering. When we suffer for righteousness and truth, there is always a purpose in the suffering.
We must remember that forgiveness has nothing to do with our feelings. Forgiveness is a choice. We can choose to hold on to bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness; or, we can choose to forgive the person who hurt us, and trust God to work out the details. After all, God loves justice. We were not put on this earth to judge others, just as Jesus said, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” Christians are called to love God and to love one another. We are called to be merciful; to bear with one another, and to forgive one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven us. We must do our best to practice the mantra, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
In a recent “Girlfriends in God” devotional, Mary Southerland wrote, “True forgiveness always requires sacrifice on our part – a truth that may often seem unfair in human terms. After all, we are the ones who have been hurt. Why should we have to sacrifice anything? True forgiveness defies human logic and cannot be explained in human terms. Human forgiveness is an easier but shallow substitute and cheap imitation for the amazing power of God’s forgiveness” (GiG, January 27, 2015).
God wants us to pray for the people in our lives who have hurt us. Jesus instructed us to pray for those who persecute us and to love those who do not love us. Jesus is our example of sacrificial love. We will never feel like praying for someone who has hurt us. The flesh longs for revenge, but the Spirit is stronger than the flesh. When we pray in the Spirit, God softens our heart toward the person who hurt us. That is exactly what happened to me. During those 8 months when I was praying every day for my husband, God was softening my heart and preparing my heart to forgive him.
I will close with God’s Word and a prayer. Remember, whether you are in the storm, or Jesus has calmed the seas:
- Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her (Proverbs 3:13-15, NIV).
- The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy, and I will give thanks to Him in song (Psalm 28:7).
- And whatever we ask we receive from Him because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight (1 John 3:22).
- Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him! Standing firm in the faith…And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast (1 Peter 5:8-10).
Remember, the battle belongs to the Lord. Surrender to His will and put your trust in Him. Those who put their trust and hope in the Lord will never be disappointed.
Dear Lord Jesus,
Help me trust You at all times, especially in the desert experiences of my life. When I am tempted to live by sight rather than by faith. When I am tempted to depend on myself rather than on You. When I am tempted to question Your love. And when I am tempted to defect. Give me the faith, I pray, that Habakkuk had in his desert experience:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pens, and no cattle in the stalls,
Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in God my Savior!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer.
He enables me to go on the heights.
Jesus, help me see that the Father’s Word is not only more nourishing than food, but more necessary. And that He decrees bread or stones according to which one at the moment provides the best nourishment for my soul.
Help me never to doubt Your love for me, Lord. And keep me from the temptation of putting that love to the test. Keep me from being enticed by whatever trinkets Satan dangles before me, and guard me from the temptation of wanting anything more than I want You.
Give me the thirst to study God’s Word as You studied it. But, help me remember that it was not Your knowledge of God’s Word that brought you safely through temptation – even Satan had that – but it was Your obedience to His Word that brought You safely through temptation.
Lead me not into temptation, Lord, but deliver me from the Evil One. You know how weak I am and how vulnerable to his deceptions. But should you lead me into some desert to be tempted by him, help me remember that greater is Christ in me than (Satan) who is in the world (1 John 4:4), and if I resist Satan, he will flee (James 4:7).
Jesus, thank You that You have been tempted in every way that I am tempted. You are sympathetic to my struggles. Thank You that I may come boldly to Your throne of grace and there not only find mercy, but understanding. In Your name, I pray, amen.
Thank you for this so much. I know this post is YEARS old, but my storm is now and this is still so true and relevant. All posts I am finding on this site are nourishment for my soul and deepening and humbling my spirit. I continue to fight for the strength to stand and the willingness to submit my will for God’s. This is powerful and I am so so grateful. Blessings to you.