A friend and I were recently talking about forgiveness. More specifically, we were talking about how to forgive. It’s easy to talk about forgiveness. Scripture is clear about the commands to forgive those who have wronged us.
” . . . as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)
” . . . but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:13)
Is it easy to forgive? Not necessarily.
Another friend recently asked a question on facebook regarding how to forgive someone who had wronged her. Many of the comments left just encouraged her to forgive or to pray about it. When I read the comments, it seemed like none of them acknowledged how deep a hurt could go or the difficulty that comes from trying to forgive. It can be very hard to forgive . . . even when it’s something we want to do.
So how can we forgive?
First, acknowledge that God does want us to forgive those who have wronged us. It doesn’t matter how deep the hurt goes or how wrong the other person is . . . regardless, God calls his children to have forgiving hearts, attitudes, and spirits.
Second, realize that forgiveness can take a long time. Perhaps in some instances it is easy to make the decision to forgive. Yet, in other instances when the hurt runs deep, it can take a long time (months even years) to work through the issues. It can take a long time because you may not always realize all the areas that the hurt touches. For example, when you have been hurt by someone you trusted, you may come to a point of genuine forgiveness. Some time later you may realize that even though you’ve forgiven, you have a harder time trusting people because you don’t want to be hurt in the same way again. Forgiveness is rarely a one time thing. When the hurt or reminders of the situation come up (sometimes even years later), it’s time to work through another aspect of how the original situation impacted your life.
Third, realize the forgiveness doesn’t negate the effects of the hurt. Even after you have forgiven those who have wronged you, the situation can still have long-lasting effects, perhaps even for the rest of your life. Forgiveness does not wipe away the situation and event. As I pointed out previously, forgiveness means being willing to live with the scars.
Fourth, pick a psalm. Many psalmists are very open about their struggles when they questioned God. They didn’t stuff down their emotion; they discussed them honestly before God. During a particularly trying season of my life, I clung to Psalm 13. The first half of the psalm is quite depressing . . . in a sense, perhaps even morbid. That’s how my emotions felt. I read this psalm over and over because I could relate to the psalmists emotions. The second half of the psalm is an affirmation of the blessings of God. Even when I didn’t feel like God was blessing me, I read the last verses to reaffirm the truth of God’s word to myself.
Fifth, be committed to coming to the point of forgiveness. Even though forgiveness is hard work and it can take a long time, as believers, we must be committed to coming to a point of forgiveness. We must never lose sight of the calling to which we have been called. We have been called to live holy lives, to forgive others, and to live peacefully with other believers. By the grace and work of God, we need to be committed to allowing his work of forgiveness to renew our hearts.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18)
This post is linked to Growing Home.