Google “forgiveness,” and you will get 17,800,000 results in .06 seconds. This post will make it 17,800,001.
Clearly this topic has been covered. A lot. There’s probably nothing I can say that hasn’t been said already, and if I began clicking through the millions of Google results, I’m sure this post would end up in the trash before I pressed “publish” out of sheer intimidation. But I’m not going to click through, instead, I’m going to bring my non-theologian, non-expert, totally average, everyday woman-ness to the conversation and share my own observations, however unoriginal they may be. If you’ve read enough on this topic, now’s the time to navigate away from this page!
Experiencing perfect forgiveness is to know freedom. Humanity is the recipient of the greatest act of forgiveness in history, when Divinity, in order to restore us into relationship, chose to absolve us of all faults for all eternity though the substitutionary life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You have been forgiven, totally exonerated, and all that’s needed for you to claim this forgiveness is acceptance of it, by faith. But on my heart right now is the other side of forgiveness, the side where we, in response to what God has done for us, choose to forgive others.
In Isaiah chapter 43 verse 25 God says, “I–yes, I alone–will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” Hidden in this verse is the key to abundant life. Can you guess what it is? While it’s true that the part about our sins being blotted out for ever and always and never thought of again is absolutely astounding and well deserving of long hard meditation, it’s that phrase “for my own sake” that’s the money quote. God just totally gave up the goods in those four words! Abundant life comes from bestowing forgiveness on others not because they deserve it (God knows we didn’t when he did) but for our own sake!
Forgiving an offender is pure power. We hold on to our grudges and harbor unforgiveness as if our very lives depended upon it – when in reality, our lives are a dark shadow of the brilliance they could be when we keep bitterness as a companion. We think we are punishing those who have wronged us. But what we are doing is relinquishing control to the one who has hurt us. We are empowering them to continue to cause us pain by our refusal to let go of resentment. Making the choice to consciously forgive is the most effective and efficient way to restore joy and start living an abundant life. When we forgive another, we have effectively stripped them of their power over our well-being.
Please remember, forgiving someone does not mean that you have condoned their mistreatment of you, nor does it mean you have to let them back in to your circle of trust. It simply means that you have made the choice to let go of the grievances you have against them. It means that you are relinquishing to God the job that rightly belongs only to the Great Judge, and that you are no longer seeking to be the punisher.
Unforgiveness is an addictive substance that clouds your vision and hampers your ability to exercise sound judgment. It is impossible to see your circumstances or the people in them clearly when unforgiveness is part of the picture. You may think you are responding appropriately to any given encounter with the one against whom you hold your grudge, when in fact, you may be the main contributor to the strained relationship. Only in choosing the detox plan of forgiveness will you be restored to wholeness.
Asking the Spirit of God to direct you, let your mind settle on someone you need to forgive; your spouse, your parents, a friend, a child, a coworker, even a stranger. Some of you may think there is no one against whom you nurse a grudge. If this is really the case, then there is no one in this wide world who possesses the ability to emotionally wound you. You will have rendered them all powerless to do so! If, however, you are like everyone else, there is someone out there that still rankles you, someone you know has behaved badly, someone not deserving of your respect (which is NOT the same thing as forgiveness), someone who hurts your heart. Do you have someone in mind?
One of the most unique gifts our Creator has bestowed upon us is the ability to imagine things as being different than they are. For me, it’s easier to take an abstract concept like forgiveness and move it into practical application by employing my imagination. So, just for now, I’d like you to imagine what it would feel like to release that big, grizzly, self-righteous grudge you are so fond of. Imagine the offender holds no power over your ability to have and enjoy the abundant life that is available to those who are in a right relationship with God – the God who has purely and perfectly forgiven you. Imagine, just for a moment, that you have forgiven the one who has hurt you. Don’t worry, this is just pretend, you’re not really forgiving them, you’re just imagining what it would feel like if you ever did choose to forgive.
Would it be so bad? Would your desire for revenge and punishment feel better sitting in your spirit than the lightness and peace of a forgiving heart? Feel your sanctimonious thirst for revenge and punishment. Feel the weight of it. Feel the burden, the tightness in your chest, feel the thick mud and mire clogging your ability to see clearly. Now shift your focus to the beauty and majesty of the God who loves you supremely. The God made of Fire and Rainbows.
Is there still room in your spirit for the weight of your unforgiveness? Pretend just once more that you have let it go. The hurtful words that have been said hold no power over you; you are a child of the God who rejoices over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). The wounds that have been inflicted no longer fester; you have submitted them to care of the Great Physician, who is supernaturally healing you. The mistreatment you have suffered has no bearing on who you are in this moment, because the Comforter has wrapped a shield around you and is showing you the way out. Imagine there is no need to punish your offender. Remember it is God’s job to avenge you (Romans 12:19). Remember the perfect forgiveness you have received. Imagine you have the power to forgive. Feel the freedom. Feel the burden lift from your shoulders.
If you can imagine it, you can do it. If you felt the freedom, then what are you waiting for? Your abundant life filled with the peace of God can begin this very moment if you chose to forgive – for your own sake.