Sorry I’ve been MIA! I know I skipped a study for March but God has been deaaaaaling with me. I typically write these as I’m coming out of a test and I hadn’t exactly been passing any of them last month, LOL. I’ll be the first to admit I’m as flawed as they come and although many of you have shared that my posts have helped you in some way, I honestly use them to keep myself on track! I usually just start by writing how I’m feeling and as I see my thoughts on paper, God shows me the errors or progression of my thinking through scripture. It’s a process I take very seriously, and I would never come on here to talk about anything God hadn’t already checked me on. As you can tell by the title, forgiveness is what we’ve been dealing with as of late.
I’ve always understood that I was to forgive. The first prayer I ever learned says, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” But what does that even look like in the scope of everyday life? Like yes, I know, forgive—don’t keep talking about, don’t keep thinking about it, let it go. But sometimes it’s easier said than done!
I’ve prayed the same prayer over and over for months, “God purify my heart. Help me to forgive and understand those who have hurt and disappointed me.” But for the most part, I felt like I was failing at living out the command of forgiveness the way God intended.
“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”—Luke 17:4
Seven times though? But wait, Jesus says in Matthew 18:22, “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”
Listen Linda. That’s not 490 times over the course of your life you will have to forgive, but one single person gets that many chances! And when you think about it, only someone close to you would be in your life long enough to be forgiven 490 times. A person doesn’t really have the capacity to hurt you if they aren’t someone you care about. So God is not talking about the person in traffic or your co-worker—he’s talking about the people who know how to hurt you, and make the decision to whether intentionally or not.
This is important because it can seem harder to forgive those we love because we always expect for them to know better than to continually hurt us. We expect them to love us the way we love them. Well God knew it wouldn’t always be like that. He also knew that if his people were seen forgiving those who hurt them over and over, that would be the greatest example of his willingness to always forgive us.
I still have moments when I struggle with it though. Because what if they never apologize? Or apologize but you know they don’t mean it because their actions show they have no remorse? There are times when I let my thoughts run rampant with every detail of what hurt me over and over, which only breeds disdain in my heart. I go on these rambling rants of why I’m so angry, which sometimes makes me feel better and sometimes I feel worse—an emotional roller coaster and the total opposite of how God wants us to live. In these moments of weakness I am reminded that even greater than being an example of God’s willingness to forgive, I know he commands us to forgive for our own peace. So the anger and discontent doesn’t lead us away from him.
Fortunately, it has drawn me closer.
It has forced me to examine the brokenness that was always there but that wasn’t exposed until I was forced to look at it. A cycle that would have kept going until I dealt with the real root of my issues. Why was my hope so rooted in them that they could cause me this much pain? Why do I cling to things that I know are bad for me? Why don’t I trust God with my life the way I trust man? I can go on all day with the questions God has put on my heart through this process but the more I study scripture for the answers, the more I realize that my foundation was never Jesus. It couldn’t have been because I cared too much about what other people said and did.
So forgiving those I love has been about checking the cracks in my own life. The person who hurt you has worlds of issues in their life and upbringing that we will never understand, but what about you? What is really standing in the way of you forgiving the way God commands us to?
I don’t know about y’all but whenever I feel especially lost, the book of James pulls me ALL the way together. I mean it checks me so quick it’s insane. Every single verse is power-packed, but this passage really spoke to me when it came to the forgiveness I was battling.
“3And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. 4You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. 5Do you think the scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. 6And he gives grace generously. As the scriptures say,
‘God opposes the proud
But gives grace to the humble.’
7So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. 9Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”—James 4:3-10
I got a few things from this:
- Sometimes we think we are exempt from forgiveness because of our pride. We don’t want to look foolish to others because the world has told us that what that person did was inexcusable. But God tells us here (and everywhere else in the bible) that to be friends of the world makes us enemies of his! We forgive because God commands us to, it is not contingent upon what is acceptable to others.
- “Do you think the scriptures have no meaning?” God is serious when he commands us to do things and everything he tells us has a purpose. We must be faithful to the spirit God has put inside of us. Holy Spirit guides and directs us, so if he lives inside of you—bitterness and unforgiveness cannot. His spirit is one of forgiveness and understanding, so ours must be too.
- “And he gives grace generously.” Grace is the free and unmerited favor of God, and he gives it generously. Unselfishly. So I hope you don’t think that grace is only for you when you mess up. That grace is for all who call out to him and live in faith for his response. That includes you and the people who’ve hurt you.
- In me asking to master forgiveness, what about my motives have been wrong? All along I’ve been asking “How could they do this to me?” “Why is this happening to me?” “What’s wrong with me?” But was it ever even about me? Humble yourself Dominique! Come before God and repent for not living out his commands in your own life.
“Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief.”
Mourn over your own sin. Ask God’s forgiveness for being so consumed with what you think is wrong with everyone else. Then you will see that mastering forgiveness is about realizing that you, too, are forgiven daily. None of us are without sin, and yea some actions are far worse than others, but we aren’t the ones who decide that. Thank God we don’t carry the burden of figuring out why people do the things they do. We don’t have to understand why people hurt us, or how they will live with themselves after—all we are responsible for are our own transgressions.
“14If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”—Matthew 6:14-15
There was I time when I didn’t know God the way I know him now. I was a mess then, and even knowing him now doesn’t always exempt me from being a mess, but God is patient with me. He’s merciful. He’s faithful. He’s sovereign. He is forgiving—so who am I not to be?
THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU NEED TO INVITE THESE PEOPLE BACK IN YOUR LIFE. (Speaking to myself here!)
There is purpose in your journey of forgiveness, and there is purpose in them hurting and leaving you. God is dealing with your heart, so let him deal with theirs.
I’m not saying it will always be easy to forgive once we get to a mature place in Christ, but I do know that you won’t set up shop and live in your grief. You won’t stay there and it will be easier to come out of.
There are so many people in the world who go their entire lives bitter, angry, and blaming all their problems on what people have done to them. But if they let it go, if they sought understanding through Christ, they would not only free themselves, but they would be showing other people how to be free. They would be freeing the people who hurt them from shame and ultimately they would be seeking the kingdom of God above all else. This is my goal in forgiveness—to get to a point where my spiritual freedom is useful to those who are still hurting. Including those who have hurt me.
“2Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3Make every effort to keep yourselves together with peace. 4For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.”—Ephesians 4:2-3