Yesterday I was looking at a friends facebook status that she posted:
just because you've made the CHOICE to forgive, doesn't mean the pain goes away immediately...BUT you can learn to manage the pain instead of allowing the pain to manage you (Krista Deary)
this got me to thinking about my own testimony of forgiveness in my life which led to a few responses...
My first response to that status:
One of my biggest lessons in life was learning about forgiveness. What really helped me as I grew through the process of forgiveness was:
1) I had to mentally imagine myself letting that person of the hook for how they had hurt me. It wasn't that I was saying what they did was okay... it was that I did not get to punish that person... it was only hurting me and causing anger and bitterness by placing that person on the hook.
2) I chose to then try to see that person with the eyes of Christ from that time forward. Not bringing up thoughts of the past but pushing those aside and focusing on the grace and love that God has for that person. And the forgiveness that God gave that person, just as He has forgiven me.
3) repeat steps 1 & 2 until I see this person for all Christ created only that person to do.
I am still in this process... forgiveness can be challenging. It has been 10 years since I chose to forgive. The hardest part is that I continually have to forgive this person again and again for new pain that is caused... but God grants me that same grace... He forgives me again and again and again and... you get the picture. We have to chose to forgive to find total healing and forgiveness for our own sins. God is just and is the only judge who can make us pay for our wrong doings. He also paid the price so we don't have to suffer eternal damnation. We get the gift of grace each day. We have total forgiveness if only we ask for it. Just remembering how God has changed my life in the area of forgiveness gives me a good heart check today. Thanks for the reminder. Now to repeat these steps again :)
Reading through the words I have written and sifting through my heart has challenged me to see my heart with more areas of forgiving that need to be done. I am in no way finished with the work that the Lord has begun in me... even if it was ten years ago when He began the healing process. As I was talking to my dear friend Jo (who lives in Scotland) yesterday via skype I shared some of my pain and she reminded me that we are all so broken. We are humanity. We are not perfect. We are going to fail each other. We are going to cause pain. We are all a work in progress. So I need to again let go of pain and forgive and forgive again and again.
Then someone else commented after my response, I will not name this person since I don't know this person. But this was the comment:
What about when you forgive, but your family won't. When they won't even consider your feelings, and you feel like you have to choose between the two..
My response to that came after more sifting through my heart and remembering what God has already walked me through and what verses and promises I need to rely on to continue to forgive and forgive again and again.
Here is my second response:
When I chose to forgive, I chose as my personal decision. It was not based on the understanding that someone else was going to receive that forgiveness and our relationship would then be restored. I forgave so my own heart would find the freedom of forgiveness. It was between me and the Lord. I didn't have to tell that person that I forgave them. It was only so I could have healing and move past the anger and pain and bitterness my unforgiving heart and mind were stuck churning through.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
We have to forgive so that our hearts can be right with God and so we can receive His forgiveness. It is the personal choice of your family members to be right with God or not.
I forgave and made the decision to tell the person that I forgave. It was important for me to tell specifically what I was putting behind me/letting this person "off the hook"/forgiving for. When I had this conversation, no changes happened in the relationship except on my end. I found myself slowly training my mind and heart to see this person differently. I had to take this person off the hook in my mind repeatedly when Satan tried to remind me of the past pain. I reminded Satan that I had forgiven this person.
It wasn't until seven years after I had forgiven this person that I received a glimpse of the process of forgiveness. I got a phone call one afternoon. The person on the other end of the phone, who I had chosen to forgive seven years before, was calling me to ask for forgiveness. This person listed all of the reasons they wanted forgiveness. They were finally in a place where God had worked on their heart and brought Light to the areas that needed to find freedom of forgiveness. This is a very humbling step for anyone to do. To admit you have wronged someone takes great courage and humility. I don't think this would have happened if my heart had remained hardened toward this person or if my attitude when near this person had been bitter and harsh. God did the work on my heart and helped me find the freedom of forgiveness before He worked on this other persons heart.
We have a choice to forgive. It is one of the most challenging acts we can do. It is also a part of how we show love.
1st Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
There it is... "keeps no record of wrongs"... sounds like forgiveness to me. This has been the next greatest challenge of my life. Choosing to love each person with every attribute in this definition of love. As someone who was hurt greatly and chose to forgive... the only way I could continue to have an attitude of forgiveness towards the person who had wronged me was to have a continual hope. "Love always hopes." It was God's perfect timing when He did the work in the heart of the person who I had chosen to forgive... it was seven years later that the hope He had started in my heart, the Love that He had opened my eyes to, finally came to fruition.
These two areas of forgiveness and love are my biggest life lessons... more like my testimony. Remember that our God has no limitations. I certainly did not feel hopeful at the very moment when I chose to forgive. It is a process. We are in process. He is able to do more than we can hope or imagine (Eph 3:20). As you step in obedience and chose to forgive, God will start working on the hearts of those around you. They will notice a change in you as you continually chose to have an attitude of forgiveness and love.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
He is faithful! He will not leave you or let you walk through the process of forgiveness alone. Call on Him for wisdom and strength. He will meet you each day and give you that strength to forgive and forgive again. My life is a testimony to God's ability to bring healing and forgiveness. I hope my story gives you some hope for your story of forgiveness.
I am still walking through forgiveness in my life. Knowing we are all broken and in need of His grace allows my heart to feel hope that some day forgiveness will be second nature to me.
To anyone who may be reading this who I have hurt or offended. Please let me know, so that our hearts can be right toward one another and so we can be aligned with Christ in an attitude of forgiveness and grace. I do not profess to be perfect, I am just as broken as the rest of humanity.
Lord, thank you for beginning this work in my life... I know you will be ever so faithful to complete it!