I learned about nine years ago that forgiveness is a two-step process. I realized that before I could have a heart that was equipped to forgive others, I had to have a heart that accepted forgiveness from God for my own sins.
For many years, I knew that God loved me because the Bible told me so, but I really didnt accept that He would forgive me for my sins, much less forget about them. Why would He?
I had created this visual picture in my mind of what God probably looked like when I prayed or asked for forgiveness for the same past sin over and over, or new sins… again.
I envisioned Him sitting on His throne, looking down on me, with a solemn look on His holy face, head resting in His hands, and a heavy sigh leaving His almighty chest, as He uttered the words, “Tisk, tisk. Poor child, she just cant get her act together. What is wrong with her? How many times do I need to forgive her? Geeesh.”
But one day, something was different. Like the light bulb suddenly clicked on. My vision changed to seeing a God who was disgusted with me, to seeing a God who was smiling at me, with a tender heart, a gentle face, and a forgiving attitude.
As I listened to the speakers testimony at a womens event, it sounded remarkably similar to my own. I learned how she had spent years in the bondage of guilt, but found amazing freedom in the sufficient grace and mercy of Lord Jesus. That day, I found that same freedom.
For the first time ever, I accepted with my entire being that God truly did forgive me once and for all, and there was no need for me to continue to plea for His forgiveness for the same sins over and over. I finally understood what the verse meant in Psalm 130:3, when it read “If you, O Lord, kept a record of my sins, O Lord, who could stand?” God had forgiven and forgotten my sins, and I was cleansed. I fully grasped and understood that I no longer needed to live in captivity of the devil, who had spent years filling my head with lies. I was free. Truly free.
And my heart was changed forever.
Since that time, my faith has grown by leaps and bounds, but nonetheless, granting others that same mercy that I received from God is not near as easy! Receiving forgiveness is one thing, but giving it is a whole other ballgame. A game I had to learn how to play, and am still continually working at getting good at.
To give you an example, a couple years ago, I was faced with some very difficult circumstances, which involved some very difficult people. Sandpaper people you might call them – except this was the toughest sandpaper I had ever come in contact with! A small handful of these people stepped all over my feelings, treated me rudely, went out of their way to be mean, and even made me cry at times. After a while, I just got fuming mad!
I was fed up with being treated ugly, and fed up with their mean attitudes. I was tired of feeling like a punching bag. As the months drug slowly by, I became more and more upset, angry and resentful by the minute. For months those feelings grew and grew, and although I never acted out in revenge in any way, I must admit that I did entertain some ungodly thoughts.
But one day, I finally admitted the cold hard truth that I was simply making myself miserable by obsessing over how these people had treated me and being mad about it. It was getting to where I dreaded getting up in the morning, because I would think about the problem, talk about the problem, worry about the problem, hurt about the problem, and literally obsess about the problem!
I broke down and got on my knees, and asked God to forgive me for carrying this burden and for harboring this unforgiveness towards these people. I realized that the unforgiveness was like poison to my heart. I was ingesting this poison every day, but then expecting the other person(s) to suffer.
But guess what?! They were still going about their normal lives without a care in the world, as I was drowning in my all consuming emotions! I became addicted to wishing they would change, hoping that they would realize the error of their ways and ask for my forgiveness, desiring that we could be friends, or that maybe someone would give them the same treatment as they had given me, so they would know how they made me feel (see what I mean? Not a very Godly thought.)
Honestly, I was just plum tired of feeling down and discouraged – so after months of bondage to this anger and hurt, I simply chose to forgive. It wasnt easy, but I knew it was necessary. Not because they deserved it; not because I wanted to; not because I liked it! But because God commanded it.
I threw away that poison, and boy did I feel better! The problem was still there, but the poison was not. As I look back, I can see how God used that situation to bring me closer to Him, but in the midst of the crisis, it was still difficult.
One of those important lessons that I learned from that experience was the fact that I could not change other people, no matter how badly I wanted to. I could not change their actions and behaviors. I could not change their hearts……but I could most certainly change mine. I wanted my heart to be one full of God, not one full of anger. I wanted my love for the Lord to grow in my heart, not weeds of bitterness that would eventually wrap its way around my entire life.
Forgiveness is like art – it takes practice, it takes perfecting, it takes patience. I guess you could say these are the three Ps to forgiveness.
Now I want you to take a moment to think – do you need to put the three Ps into action in your life? Has someone wronged you? Has someone hurt you? Abused you in some way? Neglected you? Lied to you? Manipulated you? Been unfaithful to you? Stole from you? Harmed you? Wounded you?
Friend – forgive them. They probably do not deserve it, wont appreciate it and may not even realize it. But do it anyway – for YOU.
What does God do when we commit wrongs against Him? He forgives, and even forgets. Granted, we may never forget, but we can still forgive, through His strength. It is hard – but all things are possible with our God.
Max Lucado put it this way: “Quit focusing on what someone did TO you, and start focusing on what God did FOR you.”
You can do it. Throw out that poison today.
Challenge #3: The challenge for today is two-fold:
1. Forgive yourself. Let go of the shame, guilt and regrets that may have held you hostage for years. If you have repented, God has already forgiven you. God has already forgotten that sin and loves you for your repentance. Please do not allow any past sin, big or small, to keep you from realizing your incredible value to God. He loves you, and is ready and willing to extend His grace and mercy to you, if you are willing to accept it. Today could be the first day of total freedom. Embrace it.
2. Forgive that person whom you have been holding a grudge against for days, weeks, months, maybe years. Bask in the freedom that you will gain from being obedient to God in this way. Your rewards will be great.
Psalm 103:2-4 Praise the LORD, O my soul,and forget not all his benefits-who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.
Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Prayer for Today: Jesus, I ask for your forgiveness, plead for you to cleanse me, and wash in the blood in the lamb. Help me to never pick up that sin again, and to be free from any shame that the devil tries to heap upon me.
Lord, You know my heart, and you must know that there is nothing in me that wants to forgive this person who has hurt me. There is nothing in me that wants to pray for this person. But Lord, I know it is your will. I am tired, exhausted actually, of being weighted down by carrying this bitterness in my heart. I am afraid that this bitterness towards them will seep out into other areas of my life, and I am seeking your forgiveness for my refusal to forgive. I accept that you are the healer of hearts, and that you truly have forgiven me for all my sins. In the same way, please give me the strength and courage and supernatural ability if needed, to forgive the person(s) who have wounded me. I pray that they will one day see how they have hurt me, and maybe even apologize, but if I never receive that apology, I will still love you Lord, and trust in all your ways. I want to sleep peacefully tonight knowing that my heart is free from poison.
In Jesus name, Amen.