In Part 1 of this blog series we looked at Exodus 8 and how Pharaoh waited a day to have Moses ask God to get rid of the frogs. Carrying unforgiveness around in your heart is like carrying a bunch of frogs around with you. Forgiveness allows us to get rid of these frogs. If you did not read Part 1 of this blog series, you can read it here.
In Part 2, I shared a bit about my personal story and my journey to learn what real forgiveness was. If you did not read Part 2 of this blog series, you can read it here.
In Part 3, I discussed the ideas of admitting we need help, taking responsibility for our own happiness, stop putting it off, and turning your mess into your message. If you did not read Part 3 of this blog series, you can read it here.
In Part 4, I discussed the two major turning points in my life and how one of those turning points involved true forgiveness. If you did not read Part 4 of this blog series, you can read it here.
In Part 5, I discussed some reasons why we fake forgiveness. If you did not read Part 5 of this blog series, you can read it here.
In Part 6, I discussed some of the things that forgiveness is not. If you did not read Part 6 of this blog series, you can read it here.
In Part 7, I discussed what forgiveness is. If you did not read Part 7 of this blog series, you can read it here.
In Part 8, I discussed some ways you can know that you have forgiven someone. If you did not read Part 8 of this blog series, you can read it here.
In Part 9, we looked at the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 and discussed the importance Jesus puts on forgiveness. If you did not read Part 9 of this blog series, you can read it here.
In Part 10, we looked at the parable of the unmerciful servant, found in Matthew 18. We discussed the idea of how we should forgive others like God has forgiven us. If you did not read Part 10 of this blog series, you can read it here.
In Part 11, we talked about how Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery, found in John 8. If you did not read Part 11 of this blog series, you can read it here.
Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV)
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
When an offense committed towards us stays unforgiven, it festers in our hearts. When it festers in our hearts, we can’t confine it within our souls. It ends up spilling into other relationships we have with people. It starts to negatively impact the relationships we have with others. When we hold offenses committed by others in our hearts, it tends to blind us towards our own faults. It warps our self-perceptions. Offended people tend to think that they have the right to hurt others because of the hurt that they have experienced.
In the above two verses, Paul is telling us to forgive each other just as we have been forgiven ourselves. How do we do that?
So now it is time to get right to the heart of the matter and ask the million dollar question:
How Do I Forgive?
1. Believe the Gospel. We need to rejoice in the forgiveness that we ourselves have received. When God forgives us, He removes the barrier that sin placed between us and him so that our fellowship with God is restored. If we did not have the forgiveness from God because of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, none of us would be forgiven and each one of us world have hell to call our eternal homes. Apart from God and His forgiveness, we are all bad.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
We need to start our journey towards forgiveness by acknowledging our own sin and the forgiveness we received from it. The more aware we are of the enormity of our own sin that God freely forgave, the more inclined we are to show a willingness to forgive others.
2. Give it to God and trust Him. We need to take the wrong that was done to us and choose to give it to God and have faith and trust in God that He will “even the score” in His own time and in His own way. God sees all, knows all and still loves us all the same. He will judge each person as He sees fit according to His will and His plan and we need to give God the space to do that. In place of the wounds that the person who hurt us caused, we need to learn to substitute the wounds that Jesus bore to forgive us all of our own sins. Remember that Jesus was wounded on our behalf and therefore just as He bore the sufferings that were due to us, we should also accept the wounds and suffering that are due to others. We need to take our wounds and pour them out onto the foot of the cross.
When we are hurt by someone else, we have a tendency to want to remain in control of the situation. We want to be able to have revenge on that person if we want to. We want to be the judge and the jury in the trial and dole out the punishment that we see fit. We need to learn to let go of the power and control of the situation. We need to remember that God is the only judge and that we need to stay in the defendant’s box and let God make the judgment as He sees fit.
3. Surrender your attitude of victimhood. This in my opinion is the hardest part of forgiveness. We must be willing to surrender our attitude of “victimhood” and choose to never again be defined by what others have done to us. Some people want to keep their emotional wounds open, not wanting them to heal. For these people, their wounded past is their calling card. This calling card is their right to become manipulative, take advantage of others, and transfer their hatred back to the person that hurt them or even someone else. These people have grown accustomed to the frogs they carry with them. Some have even grown attached to them. Some have even given these frogs names. Unless we are willing to give up our right to hold onto our wounds (frogs), we will always return to them when a crisis arises in our lives.
4. Push past fear. Giving up control of a situation can be very scary for some. We tend to learn growing up that we need to learn to take care of ourselves and the best way many people think to do that is to stay in control of the situation. The fear of not knowing how the situation will end up can be a very overwhelming thing. We need to push past that fear and let God guide us and lead us on the path that is best suited for us and for our best overall good. Notice, I did not say the easiest path. Sometimes we will have to walk a more difficult path in the short-term to get to the place where we were supposed to go all along. If we can learn to do this God will change us from the inside out. God will change our hearts and how we define and show love to others. Even if the person who we forgive never changes, God can change us through the process of us forgiving them.
5. Replace destructive thoughts with God’s thoughts. We need to replace any destructive thoughts we might have towards the person who did us wrong and replace them with God’s thoughts towards this person. Where do we find these thoughts? We find them in the Bible. In the Bible we find verse after verse, demonstration after demonstration of how God loves His children. You are one of God’s children and so is the person you are forgiving. Take time to read the Bible and replace the loving Words found in the Bible with the destructive words you might be thinking up about that person in your mind.
What we put into our minds will dictate the kinds of thoughts we have and the things we say and do. If we put junk into our minds, junk will come out. If we put in positive things, like things we read in the Bible, those positive thoughts, words, and deeds are what will come out. Take control of your life and make the decision to put only positive things into your mind. You can’t control what that person did to you, but you have total control over how you respond to that person and the thoughts you have about that person.
The result of our decision to forgive is that we will be compassionate, living with an attitude of forgiveness that marks us as one of God’s children. We are never more like humans when we are bitter and never more like God when we forgive. I heard that saying somewhere and I think that is so true. Grudges that we hold towards others can become their own idols in our hearts. Focusing more on idols draws us away from God. The desire for vengeance can end up becoming more important to us than the willingness to obey God’s command to us to forgive.
God never intended that we bear the burden of the injustice we have experienced; He has promised to do that for us. Forgiveness is the only path toward restoring our relationship with God and freeing ourselves to do His will.
Just give it to Him and say, “Here, God. I’ve made this huge mess and I’m sorry. I’m giving it to You.” God won’t throw it back at you. He never leaves us to face anything He won’t heal us from. In the process, He will use our healing to bless other people in amazing and unexpected ways.
I ran across this prayer as I was looking into forgiveness. I think it is a good prayer to pray to help us with the area of forgiveness.
A Prayer for the Wounded
Father, will You go into the deepest places of my heart? Will you probe my conscience to reveal my sin? Will You pull the painful offenses out of my heart? Will you give me the strength to go to those whom I have wronged, or those who have injured me? Who, O Father, who is able to do these things? I cannot do them alone. Come to me at this moment. Set me free. I need Your help. I need to be broken and yielded. Grant to me all of these things, I ask. And don’t stop working in me so that I can move beyond where I am at. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
I can promise that if you pray this prayer to God with an open heart and genuinely ask for His help to reveal areas in your life that need to be corrected; He will answer you rather quickly. Then it is up to you to be willing to make the changes you need to in your life to make it more aligned with His will for your life.