Updated: Jan 10
Do you struggle with forgiveness? Forgiving is probably one of the hardest things for us to do. I have been inspired this month to write about forgiveness as this is an area which I have struggled with in the past and that I still work on daily. Many of us struggle with forgiving others and do not see a way out. However, it is a vital part of our walk on this earth and I want to encourage you along with me as I walk on this constant journey towards a Heart of Forgiveness.
God has forgiven you…
How many times do we sin daily? Really think about it! You have probably already sinned at least 5 times today, but guess what God has forgiven you. One day it occurred to me that if God can forgive me so many times throughout the day, why can’t I forgive others? Forgiveness is truly not easy however, it is possible or God would not have told us to do it. With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)
Jesus taught us a special prayer in Matthew 6, which is popularly known as the Lord’s prayer. It states at verse 12 ‘and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors’. In essence, whenever you read or proclaim this prayer you are saying God should forgive you AS you forgive those who have wronged you. At verse 14, it clearly states that ‘if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive you but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses. I do not believe that much more needs to be said on this point apart from the fact that we need to forgive others so that God can forgive us. Forgive others even as God in Christ forgave you!
So many people struggle with forgiving themselves and they allow this to let guilt creep into their lives. This may sound familiar to you! You may find it difficult to forgive yourself for the past mistakes that you have made, even those from 10 years ago. But did you know that not forgiving yourself will hold you back and can even stop you from receiving certain blessings in your life. We all make mistakes but God has forgiven you so forgive yourself and move forward! The first step in this process is being honest with yourself. Acknowledge that you have done wrong, repent and pray for help so that you can move on…
Now we come on to one of our biggest struggles within forgiveness, forgiving others! One thing that I have learned, especially over the last year is that forgiveness is a choice. I had to make a conscious choice and effort to forgive those that had offended me, to the extent that I have now decided in advance to forgive people when they offend me (not easy at all!). I realised that not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I also realised that not forgiving was leading me to other things such as gossiping and I began to get convicted by the Holy Spirit. We choose not to forgive others but fail to realise that we are the ones affected by this decision as we deny ourselves of inner peace.
Let us compare an offence to a scar. If you fall over and hurt yourself, you are likely to get a cut. If you do not take care of that cut and allow it to heal it may get infected and leave a nasty scar. The same way, if we do not deal with offence, it will affect us and may leave a wound leading to an emotional scar, making it much harder to forgive. Offence will come, it is inevitable but we need to deal with it right away and allow God to heal any wounds in our life.
How many times should people offend us and we forgive them? Jesus said up to 70 times 7 (Matthew 18:21-22) meaning we should forgive with no limit!
Love One Another…
Love truly covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). By forgiving, we are demonstrating love. God gave us the perfect definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient, Love is kind, Love does not envy, Love does not boast, Love is not proud, Love is not easily provoked and seeks no evil. If we actively work towards genuinely loving each other there will be no room for unforgiveness.
A few reasons we may find it difficult to forgive
You may have been badly hurt in the past, especially by someone close to you
The other party in the situation makes it difficult for you to forgive them
You may have a previous history of being hurt, which has led to a lack of trust
The inability for you to see your own mistake in the situation leading you to place the blame solely on the other party (the blame game)
You see forgiveness as a weakness
Some practical steps which we may use to overcome the struggle with forgiveness
Acknowledge that you are hurt and that you are struggling with forgiveness
Let the person know that they have offended you and try to resolve the matter (before approaching anyone else)
Take it to God rather than taking it to everyone else (avoid gossiping about it)
Read scriptures on forgiveness and meditate on them
Read the biblical way of dealing with offences and start to apply it - Matthew 18: 15-21
Read the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18: 21-35
Pray daily that God will give you a heart of forgiveness
Pray for the person who has offended you and consciously show them love
Do not repay evil with evil – but rather overcome with good
Final Word of Encouragement…
Forgiveness is definitely not an easy thing to do, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 3:14). I am still on the journey but I want to encourage you to join me on this journey towards having a heart of forgiveness by making a decision today to forgive yourself and to forgive those who may have offended you, using some of the practical steps above. I pray that as you make this decision, may God give you the strength to let go of any hurt and lead you towards a heart of forgiveness.