Forgiveness: Letting Go And Moving Forward

One of the most difficult things we must deal with in this life is the hurt from a loved one or someone very close to us. A father abandons his children for no reason. A spouse must adjust when his mate leaves him for someone else. Your fiancé/fiancée breaks off the relationship two weeks before the wedding. Or your best friend betrays you in a way you never imagined. It’s hard to deal with the anger and hurt, and you ask yourself “why?” But it’s more difficult to do what God has commanded us to do toward this person, when we believe they don’t deserve it: forgive. Jesus said, “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26).

Forgive means to pardon someone, release them from a debt (something we feel they owe to us), to cease to feel anger and resentment toward the other person. So when God commands us to forgive, is He instructing us to pardon this person that actually hurt us, and also give up the right to stay angry and resentful toward him/her? Yes, He is. God knows it’s not always easy, but with His help we can forgive. Forgiveness does something for us—God uses it to set us free to move forward.

When we forgive, we learn more of who God is, someone who is full of mercy and ready to forgive us when we fall short: “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (Psalm 86:5). It takes a mighty wonderful God to forgive all our sins—past, present and future and send His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to pay the awesome price! Jonah was so familiar with God’s forgiveness that he refused to go tell the people of Nineveh to repent (Jonah 4:2)! I believe one of the reasons God commands us to forgive is because He knows the many times we’re going to fall short and let Him down. Yet He forgives us and gives us chance after chance, when we know we don’t always deserve it. In the same way, we must realize that those closest to us will hurt us, even with the best intentions. But God commands us to forgive. In order to forgive and move forward:

  1. Acknowledge you’re hurt. You’re probably saying “You don’t know what this person did to me!” I may not know but Jesus Christ does! Our Savior had one of His own disciples to betray him and another disciple to deny any association with Jesus not once but three times! Be real with God about you’re feeling, and allow Him to heal the hurt and fill you with His peace (1 Peter 5:7).
  2. Forgive and release that situation or person to God. Forgiveness is a decision, regardless of how we feel. As God fills you with His peace and enables you to release the situation, you are set free! Forgiving someone does not mean you ignore or justify what they did to you. It means that you are not going to allow that situation/person to keep you bound in anger and bitterness. When you don’t surrender to God, the anger and bitterness can spill over like toxic waste into future relationships. Many relationships suffer because the other party is paying for someone else’s hurt toward us.
  3. Ask God “What would you have me to learn from this?” We don’t always understand it, but God allows even hurtful situations to bring about good in our lives (Romans 8:28). God may reveal to you certain attitudes that must change, or whether you need to release certain people that are hindering you from achieving His purposes in your life.
  4. Pray for the person. It may be the last thing on your mind, but Jesus tells us to pray for those who despitefully use you (Matthew 5:44). The offender may come and ask for your forgiveness. But if he does not, or does not feel that he did anything wrong, all you can do is pray for that person and turn him over to God. The offender’s change of heart is God’s responsibility, not yours.
  5. Keep forgiving. A disciple asked Jesus how often he should forgive. Jesus told him he must forgive as often as that person needs it (Matthew 18:21-23). God continues to extend his mercy toward us for every mistake we make, ask God to help you do the same: “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

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