Monday, February 22, 2010

Thoughts on Forgiveness

A few days ago the memory of someone I hadn't seen for a really long time popped into my head. The nicest way I can describe this person is that they're a real pain in the lower posterior parts. (I apologize if that offends you.) This person didn't abuse me in any particularly horrific way, but they did hurt me a lot with their words and their actions were pretty unpleasant too. Just thinking about them made me want to give them a piece of my mind all over again. Ah! There was a clue that Jesus and I needed to have a talk about this. I thought I'd already forgiven this person and I had, but my gut reaction told me that there was more work to be done.

Jesus had a bit to say about forgiveness and He set the bar pretty high. How many times do we need to forgive someone who wrongs us? Pretty much to infinity. (Matthew 18:21-22) What if we don't forgive? God won't forgive us. (Matthew 6:15) (I find that one pretty terrifying since I need His forgiveness a lot.) When we let unforgiveness settle in it becomes bitterness and resentment. There's a whole lot about that in the Bible too and it's not good.

Whoever coined the phrase "To err is human, to forgive is divine" was really on to something. When it comes to forgiveness we really need the help of the Holy Spirit. The good news is that He's ready and eager to help us!

My thoughts on forgiveness led me to two conclusions: 1. When I don't forgive someone (or let go of my resentment) it's because I think they need to suffer a bit before I can be okay; and 2. I think that their actions can somehow thwart God's good plans for my life.

Romans 12:19 says:
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, "I will take revenge I will pay them back," says the Lord.
So, if we're not willing to leave the "payback" to God, does that mean we don't trust Him, that we don't believe He'll do what He says He'll do? When I think very long on this verse I find myself wanting to make sure my own accounts with God are clear.

As far as someone else's actions thwarting God's good plans for my life... Well, actually, I'm the only one that can do that!! A good way to do it is by hanging on to bitterness and resentment. The promise about His good plans for us in Jeremiah 29:11 doesn't say anything about "unless...". Unless someone abuses you or lies to you or gossips about you or says horrible and hurtful things to you or doesn't appreciate you or disappoints your expectations... It's a given that some or all of those things are going to happen to you if you interact with broken human beings. The Good News is that we don't have to live broken and devastated because of them!

Jeremiah 30:17 contains a beautiful promise: "'I will give you back your health and heal your wounds,' says the Lord." Hurtful things that are said and done to us can definitely cause great sickness in our spirits, souls and bodies. God says He'll restore our broken places if we'll surrender them to Him: "I will give you back your health and heal you." This just makes me want to snuggle right up close to my Papa, be healed, and let Him take care of the bad guys.

Of course, we have an enemy who wants the poison of resentment to remain in our hearts. As humans with a capacity to remember things, it's easy to let the toxins creep back in. Jesus told us a really good way to take care of this: "Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you." (Luke 6:28) If we start to pray for blessing in the lives of those who hurt us, two really great things are going to happen. There will be no room for unforgiveness, and God will be answering our prayers for them. Let me tell you that there have been some people I've had to pray many blessings on before I no longer felt a twitch at the thought of them! Someone asked me if I didn't think it was wrong to bless a person who was intentionally living in sin? Well, a huge part of God's great blessing in our lives is conviction of sin. What greater blessing is there than to be free of the curse of sin? When we pray for God to bless them, we're leaving it all in His good and perfect hands.

Filling my mind with all these thoughts of God's goodness and His promises made me want to repent of the bitterness and to let go of the pain and the traces of resentment toward this person. If anyone comes to mind that you need to forgive, or forgive again, I pray that you will and that God will bless you with a great awareness of His love for you. He's got it covered. He'll take care of the junk. He just wants you to let it all go so that your hands will be empty of the stuff you've been hanging onto--with your hands free you can receive His gifts. He's longing to overwhelm you with His goodness.

(Please note that this post isn't about having healthy boundaries with unhealthy people, just about the heart issues.)


  1. I love the disclaimer at the bottom ;)

    I have been very aware of my bitterness lately...interesting that the same topic came up in your blog!

  2. Michelle, I read a quote a long ago, I think I was about 15 and never forgot it. It said
    " Anger not only burns the vessel on which is it poured, it burns the vessel in which it is stored". How True....

    Thank you for this gentle reminder on forgivness...