As we head into the New Year, let’s dive into the grace of forgiveness. Over the course of our lives, there will be many instances in which we need forgiveness and other times in which we need to offer forgiveness. For anyone who has been deeply hurt or even betrayed by a family member, close friend or someone they loved, true forgiveness may be the most difficult thing we are tasked with in this life. Forgiveness at its core is unconditional love.
Forgiveness is no easy feat. Depending on the circumstances and how we've been impacted by the outcomes, forgiveness in some situations can feel almost impossible. In complete transparency, this is an area I have struggled with massively over the last several years in a specific area. In fact, I started this very article on forgiveness one year ago, but found I was still so hurt and had not fully forgiven that I could not go on writing, let alone publish the article in good conscience acting as though I had made it to the other side.
At times, I felt that by forgiving it made the situation as though it never happened or granted the other person freedom where I didn't believe it was earned. In reality, the only person who was continually hurt by refusing to let go and forgive was me. This unforgiveness resulted in a heart of bitterness and pain. There would be instances where a wave of memories would hit and because I was still so deeply hurt, I would become irritable and angry, impacting those who didn't deserve to be on the receiving end of it, like my kids and husband. What made things worse is I didn't fully understand what had happened and was never given full clarity, let alone an apology. This made offering grace and forgiveness much more difficult. I would never have made it through this pain had it not been for God's grace and healing. I could not have done this on my own.
There is no one way to forgive. This comes with time and intention to heal, which can be an immensely painful process. True forgiveness can only occur when we recognize the regular need for our own forgiveness. Jesus, a perfect and sinless man, offered unconditional love and forgiveness for all of our sins through His sacrificial death on the cross. He was betrayed, rejected, humiliated and put through immense torture and pain for us. To help us understand the importance and necessity of forgiveness, He tells us in the Bible there may be times we need to forgive our brother seventy times seven. This is equal to 490 acts of offense and 490 acts of forgiveness.
Sometimes, the offense is so deep, so hurtful, so impactful and/or so life-changing the forgiveness must occur over and over again for the same offense. The wave of remembrance in that one act hits us over and over again. With each wave of remembering, we must offer the grace of forgiveness again and again. This does not mean we need to stay in a situation that is unsafe for us mentally or physically, but we do need to forgive and let go of any bitterness and toxicity that causes us further pain. If held onto for long enough, toxic thoughts will manifest physically leading to weakened immune systems, illness and increased risk for injury.
I encourage you, if you are struggling with forgiveness now, or at any point in the future to do whatever it is you need to do to heal. Seek Jesus through prayer and ask for His help. He will provide everything you need to move forward in the process but you must be intentional, even in the pain.
We can only reach our highest potential when we offer forgiveness and choose to let go of anger, envy and bitterness. We can trust God that what is before us is greater than what is behind us.