You’ve been wronged and are more than hurt. Your spirit is crushed, you are seeing red and even feel like your blood is boiling. You want to scream, maybe you even do. You want to lash out, want to make the offender suffer in a way that is torturous so that they will feel regret and sorrow for breaking you down. Have you ever felt this way? Ever been so betrayed by a loved one that the thought of revenge made an evil laugh escape your belly; one that rivaled the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz?
Forgiveness, is it really possible?
I wish I could say I was innocent of these emotions, that I have never felt the sting of betrayal or wanted revenge just like the TV show. I wish I could say my immediate response to a wrong doing is always filled with grace and poise. I wish I could say that I am above child-like tantrums when I have been wronged and I always take the higher road; you know the road that resembles a biblical reaction from a child of God. But no, even though I strive to grow deeper in my walk with the Lord, when a wrong has been done, I couldn’t be further away from resembling the character of Jesus. (Insert guilty head hanging here.)
But I have a feeling I am not alone in this and have a slight hunch that forgiveness is a slippery slope for many Christians. The question is why? Why is it so unbelievably painful to extend forgiveness when I have already experienced grace BEYOND what I could imagine and way beyond what I deserve?
In recent months, I was wronged and was not interested in making nice or taking a cue from the movie Frozen and “letting it go.” No. I wanted my anger to stew, wanted to let it fester, and let it continue to feed and manifest itself in me. Funny though, while I felt I was justified in my anger, God showed me otherwise. He didn’t pat me on the back and say, “It’s ok, Sarah Ann. This wrong was a big one so I’m going to give you a free pass and you can stay as mad as you want. I understand and you are right.”
Instead, morning after morning in my time with Him, I wrestled with the anger I wanted to carry around with me as a symbol that I had been hurt. Morning after morning, His Word grabbed a hold of me and shook me to the core, as I fought to hold on to my badge of injustice. There’s only so much conviction I can take from the Lord and after two months, God’s Truth finally broke the bonds of my anger. The light bulb clicked in my head and after almost 37 years of life, I could finally understand the meaning of grace and what it looks like to extend it to others, even when they deserve it the least.
When you are like me, stubborn and damaged by the wrong doing of others, keep these Truths close at hand to experience the forgiveness that can only come from the grace of the Lord.
1. Remember you are a sinner, too.
Oh, this is hard to remember after I’ve been wronged! I find myself up on my high horse, feeling superior and unfortunately, sometimes judgmental at my offender. It’s easy to look down on someone, especially if you feel justified in your anger.
Then, I imagine myself facing a mirror, with the Lord standing by my side as He beckons me to take a good, hard look at myself.. He gently asks me what I see in the reflection, but it is too hard to look. When I am standing next to the Lord, my superiority suddenly diminishes in the glory of His image. While it is easy to judge someone who has offended me, comparing myself to Jesus, I will lose 100% of the time. The truth is, I am a sinner, marred by own fleshly imperfections, and even on my very best days, I am not God nor do I resemble His image in any way.
So in those moments when I am on my pedestal, looking down at the lowly sinner below me, I try to remember that I am just as much in need of a Savior as my offender and that no one, especially me is perfect. Yet God still forgave me even though He didn’t have to. He could have left me as I was, a damaged and broken sinner, without hope. But he didn’t. He showed me love, welcomed me with grace and accepted me EXACTLY as I am.
2. We are commanded by God’s Word to forgive and to extend grace.
When I was experiencing the hurt of being wronged, I kept stumbling onto verses about forgiveness. One day I came across the passage in Matthew 18:21-35 where Jesus is talking to Peter about forgiveness. Peter questions Jesus on how many times we should forgive. Jesus answers, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Jesus illustrates with a parable of a servant who was given grace and his debt was forgiven by His master. Yet, the same servant did not show grace to another who was indebted to him. Even though grace was shown to the servant, he didn’t embrace that grace by extending it to others. View the full passage at Bible Gateway.
I don’t know about you, but I often forget to offer grace to others and forget that grace that was poured out freely at the cross for me with no strings attached. I need to strive to forgive others a little easier, no strings attached, no matter how many times it takes. God asks that we forgive, every single time, despite the offense, no matter how much we are hurt.
3. Let God convict the offender, not you.
When I have been wronged, my first instinct is to want to judge, cast the first stone and be the one to dole out the punishment. Yet that is not my job, no matter how much I want to punish and convict for the wrong, that job belongs to God alone. God promises in His Word that He will punish those who are guilty. Numbers 14:18 states “…Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished….” God is just and provides discipline to all. He will handle the punishment, not me. So let God bring to light the sin of others and trust the promise of His Word and that it will be dealt with accordingly.
4. Forgiveness frees the person who forgives, not necessarily the one who offends.
When you are holding on to anger with clenched fists, you are not free. You are really in chains, a slave to the anger you are desperate to hold on to. Soon bitterness begins to take root and the rage bottles up. God can’t use you like that. But when you forgive, no matter how painful it may be, you will be free from the toxicity of anger and God can work through your life again. God will soften your hardened heart and spirit, allowing you to be open to His leading and guidance. With God’s healing, you will feel free and no longer be enslaved to an unforgiving spirit. The one who offended you may not notice the difference, especially if your relationship is forever changed, but you will notice the spring in your step and the lighthearted feeling that true peace from the Lord brings.
5. Forgiveness mean dying to one’s pride.
Can you tell that I struggle with forgiveness? Can you see that I tend to carry a grudge and am not quick to say that all is well? Here’s why. I tend to grab a hold to the idea that it if I forgive, it means I condone the behavior and that I am saying that what my offender did is alright. But that is pride standing in my way of the freedom that Christ offers when I forgive others. Forgiveness means humbling yourself, even though you’ve been wronged and letting go of the pride you are shouldering to extend grace when it is not deserved.
6. Recognize it’s a process.
Letting go of the baggage of anger is not easy. It’s a process that you might have to do on a minute by minute basis at first until you release it fully. Then when you forgive, you may suddenly find that old habits are creeping up and you are starting to harbor ill feelings. Stop and release the burden again to the Lord. Anger is sneaky and stealthy, ready to rob you of joy, love and peace. Forgive like the parable in Matthew 18 mentioned above. Forgive seventy-times seven or as many times as it takes for you to rid yourself of the bondage that anger brings.
7. True forgiveness can only come from the Lord.
I don’t think I would have been able to fully forgive and lay down my anger without help from the Lord. When you allow Him to work in your heart, you experience the joy in knowing your value and worth does not come from another person, but in the Lord alone. This is where the healing begins. It’s not instant but God can heal your heart, and make you whole.
The Lord can restore broken relationships!
I’ve seen husband and wife with a strengthened marriage after infidelity. I’ve witnessed a shattered friendship put back together after an unthinkable act of betrayal. I’ve watched as a prodigal son came home and a family was reunited, all because of the healing power of the Lord. When you let Him restore the brokenness and make beauty from ashes, He heals relationships that were once crushed by sin. With the healing comes peace, freedom and completeness in Him.
Check out this convicting song by Matthew West, “Forgiveness”.