I believe we all have encountered an experience when we felt as though we were treated unfairly. We were taken advantage of. Cheated. Abandoned. Rejected. Cast aside. Undervalued. Abused. Emotionally hurt. Ridiculed. Criticized. Forgotten. Persecuted. Bullied. Need I say more? The list could go on.
In times of deep hurting and pain we often find it easy to become angry and bitter. We hurt, so we want others to feel the same pain that they inflicted upon us. We want others to know the ache that they caused us and we seek to get revenge at all costs. We desire them to know the anguish they caused our heart. We don’t feel as though we can feel okay again until God has brought ultimate justice. The pain feels like it is a constant burden to carry because we can’t let go of the heavy ache that consistently drags our heart down every day.
We don’t just grow bitter with our circumstances, lives, or even people, but when terrible things occur we look to God, the One who is in control of all things and question how He could allow this to happen. Even though forgiveness often needs to be extended to people, it deeply impacts our relationship with God. When we grow weary and angry in our circumstances, we often draw God into the mix and hold a grudge as to why He would allow pain like this if He loves us unconditionally. Sometimes we may not even realize that unresolved forgiveness is hindering our relationship with God. Take a moment and ponder if there are any areas you may be harboring unforgiveness in your heart. This may often involve some deep digging to discover areas we have been overlooking to seek out forgiveness in our lives. It could even be something from many years ago. Unresolved hurts from a painful past can sometimes feel resolved, when in reality, they are indistinctly haunting you in your present circumstances. Be sure to take some time in prayer asking God to reveal any harbored unforgiveness in your heart, because it truly does influence your relationship with God, no matter how far back the pain goes.
Forgiveness seems easy when the offenses are insignificant, until it requires us to let go of severe hurts and anguish that have tarnished our heart. This is something I have struggled with recently, and in all honesty, it’s been something I have difficulty admitting my failure in. While sometimes we can find kindness to display to those who have hurt us, the ache grows deeper than the surface. We can put on a happy exterior and act like all is fine, while within us, we are battling our need to tightly grip the pain and not let it go. We seek to relive the pain because somehow it feels like by doing so, it’s not being forgotten or overlooked.
I’ve heard it said many times that forgiveness isn’t ridding someone of their actions, but rather, it is freeing you from the weighty burden it causes you to continue holding on to the pain. While I have found this to be true, it still definitely does not make the process easier. Offering forgiveness can often feel like it’s taking that gaping hole in your heart and pretending like it never happened. It feels as though by handing over those hurtful experiences to God is like admitting that they didn’t affect you in any way, when in reality those were the things that tore your heart in two, and in some cases, caused you to never truly be the same again.
It is here that I find myself selfishly wallowing. Self pity. Thinking only of myself and my hurts, instead of thinking how I would like to be treated if I was in that place seeking forgiveness. I would appreciate grace displayed. Let’s look at a passage in scripture that relates to forgiveness.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him.
Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me” he begged,” and I will pay back everything.”
The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.” But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.
He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded.
His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.”
In this passage we are given the illustration on how we can interpret our actions when we choose not to display forgiveness to others when we have been extended the most undeserved grace Jesus has so freely offered. We often go around holding grudges and “choking” it out of those who have hurt us until we get our apology or desired justice. God’s perspective can be interpreted as the “master” in the passage and looks at us gripping our circumstances “by the throat” and not releasing those deep scars on our heart. We expect to be forgiven, but when it comes to applying that to our personal relationships with others we expect a totally different treatment.
Looking even deeper into a love so strong that was willing to come and offer grace to us even when we didn’t even desire to be forgiven. A sinner like me was offered forgiveness by a God who did no wrong and chose to love someone as lowly and imperfect as me. If a perfect God could display such grace and forgiveness to someone so undeserving as me, I too should be able to extend that same grace to others. We may never be able to fully understand the extent of God’s grace for all of us, but God always sees the depth of pain that we have endured and knows the level of grace we have offered to others. Nothing goes unnoticed. Not even the deepest of pain.
Even through the hardest of circumstances when it seems like you can’t let go of something that is just seems “unforgivable,” we should remember these truths:
01. We are just as guilty
When we compare our life with another and determine that we haven’t committed as many “dreadful” sins as that person, we must remember that in God’s eyes none of us are worthy of eternity in heaven. We cannot achieve perfection without God’s grace. It is only through Him that we are considered worthy to accept His free gift of eternal life. When we choose to judge others and hold a grudge or seek revenge on another, we are in fact, taking God’s role of judgement. We are bearing that burden that we never were truly created to carry. God sees us all the same, no favoritism. If God can look at all of us equally and not seek revenge, shouldn’t we too?
02. Don’t let Satan win
Shifting the perspective on our circumstances can help us see things in a different light. When we choose to hold the bitterness within our hearts and cease to offer forgiveness it truly affects our relationship with God, others and even ourselves. When Satan deceives us with his underhanded schemes he is drawing us away from the true Source who can help mend our brokenness. Satan wants to get us so caught up on the pain that we won’t let go. He wants us to continually wallow in our self-pity just like a snowball rolling down a large hill, accumulating and growing as it picks up speed over time.
03. There could be more than meets the eye
Sometimes there’s more to a circumstance than we can see. We only see one side of the story, while God sees the whole picture. We don’t always know what others are going through and what they’re dealing with. It isn’t our place to judge them and seek revenge when we don’t know what is fully going on. You never know what battles they may be facing.
04. This circumstance isn’t about me, but rather about how God is displayed
This is a tough one. Our circumstances aren’t about us, but how we handle them. Did we become angry and seek revenge or did we display love and compassion? It’s a hard thing to do. In every circumstance we should focus not on how we’ve been hurt, but rather how we acted through it. Did others see Christ displayed in us? Did they see a difference in us? Did we choose to act how Jesus would? Or did we let our feelings get the best of us? Choose to react how Jesus would. Display His love towards others even when it goes against your feelings.
05. Offer your forgiveness, it’s up to them to accept it
Sometimes people aren’t aware of the deep wounds they caused on your heart. Sometimes people don’t want to admit to their actions. Sometimes the pain of the circumstance is hard enough to endure, let alone when you never got that apology. When it didn’t mean enough to that person to make it right. When they didn’t realize how their actions hit you harder than they realized. When the pain you suffered through felt like it went unnoticed and unheard. When someone who deeply hurt us doesn’t offer an apology it makes the process that much more difficult. When we display forgiveness, even to someone who isn’t sorry for what they’ve done, we aren’t letting what they did slip through the cracks and get overlooked. God is still taking care of it. It’s just one less thing we need to burden our heart with. We are giving it over to God and letting Him handle it. We aren’t choosing to seek revenge or harbor on the hurtful things anymore. In result, we are setting free that “disease” that was contaminating our soul. When we feel unable to offer forgiveness we can seek God for strength to be able to offer them grace even when we don’t have the love to display it on our own. We no longer have to feel infected with that “sickness” eating away at us anymore. Christ has healed our heart filling it with His love, so in result, we can display it to others.
Forgiveness is something that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not something that we can check off our list and mark it as “complete.” Sometimes true forgiveness from a hurtful circumstance can take immense time to overcome. Offering up forgiveness isn’t often just a one time thing, in many cases we need to do it repetitively until we finally are able to hand it over to God and move on. Even though the pain of the circumstance may seem like it’s being “forgotten” by offering your forgiveness it never goes unnoticed by God. He sees the pain and the effort it took to forgive that person. He sees. He knows. Go to Him and ask Him to reveal to you any unforgiveness that you may have been harboring over time. Don’t let it come between you and Him. Your relationship with Him is more valuable than that circumstance you can’t let go of. Ask Him to help you let go of the grip you so tightly hold and release the situation into His hands. He’s a fair Judge. He’ll take care of it in the best way possible.