Taking a backseat to grudges and playing the victim, forgiveness waits patiently for you to make a move. It sees your struggle each day, the way you strap on those other heavy burdens, not understanding why, despite the fact you have a choice, you choose enslavement over freedom.
It watches as your chains cut deeper into your skin each day, but it knows it remains useless until you choose to pick it up and drop everything else you hold in its place. But that would mean releasing what you consider your reason for hurt, what you use to protect yourself despite the truth of its damage.
Actions speak louder than emotions
We’ve all heard sermons or parents’ speeches on why forgiveness is Biblical, healthy and necessary. Many of us could jot down 10 different reasons why one should forgive and the dangers of holding on instead of letting go. We could spew off a definition without missing a beat.
When it comes to putting the definition into action, though, this is where it gets tricky. We say, “I forgive you,” and yet cringe every time we see or even think of the culprit. We read Bible verses about the subject and really “feel” it, but the next day we wake up not exactly in the same emotional state in which forgiveness resides.
We will never hold fast to forgiveness if we can’t realize this truth: Forgiveness is not an emotion. It’s an action.
Forgiveness does not mean the feeling you get when you’re no longer angry at someone. It’s not the moment you want to hang out with that person again. Forgiveness is the choice you make to let go of the debt you’re keeping track of every moment. It’s waking up each day and asking God to help you forgive.
A daily choice
Most of us have someone to forgive. We’re only human, after all, and we hurt each other and even ourselves. While it takes one word, one situation, one action to bring about the need for forgiveness, it takes a daily choice to forgive. Sometimes a moment by moment choice. And it’s in those moments action is needed.
In our sin nature, we can’t simply forgive. Satan doesn’t even really need to try to entice us to hold onto our grudges and pain. For some reason, we desire the victim over the Victor, and our flesh never truly lets go enough to forgive.
That’s the tricky thing about forgiveness. It’s not just a one-time deal. Forgiving means letting go every single time you think of your hurt. That may sound tedious and emotionally draining, but the positive side to this is you’re not on your own.
The importance of prayer and wisdom of the Holy Spirit can’t be overlooked here. We need our Savior in order to release the chains we pick up each day. We need the reminder that He forgave us before we asked for forgiveness. He forgave us even as our sins crucified Him. He forgave us knowing we would rebel against His love every single day.
Just as habits are formed through repetitive action, forgiveness is achieved through continual prayer. Unfortunately, most times it’s more complicated than just saying the words “I forgive you” and being done with the situation forever in our hearts. While God removes our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), our fallen nature makes it a tad more difficult for us to forgive like that.
No perfect answer
It would be pretty wonderful if there existed a step-by-step process to ensure forgiveness in a way where we could forgive once and never go back to our hurt. But this sinful world makes life more unpredictable. And Satan likes to remind you of your hurt and make you question if you truly forgave at all. If you’re struggling with forgiveness, here are some practical steps in the right direction, keeping in mind there is no perfect equation.
Find a friend, mentor or someone you trust to pray with you. If Jesus is your Savior, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. But there is something powerful about prayer with a fellow believer. Take this opportunity to reveal your struggle with this person as a way of accountability. Then, pray aloud, telling God you forgive the source of your hurt and how you desire freedom from this burden.
Dwell on the above prayer every time the hurt surfaces. Satan will attempt to push your burden back on you. He will try to convince you that you didn’t actually forgive. Remind yourself that you not only gave forgiveness, but you have a witness that can testify on your behalf. Then tell Satan to get lost.
Remind yourself forgiveness is an action, not an emotion. You won’t feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside when you speak words of forgiveness. That doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven. It just means you haven’t healed from the hurt yet. Every time you dwell on the situation that caused you pain, remind yourself that you forgave. Pray again, asking God to help you release your hurt. You may need to pray another prayer of forgiveness. This doesn’t mean your first prayer meant nothing, it just means that you need to forgive for the current hurt. Eventually, the pain will cease.
There are no perfect answers or steps for forgiveness. But that doesn’t mean we should allow the pain of grudges and unforgiveness to enslave us. We all know the freedom we experience when we let go of hurt. Why would we sit back and let sin control our attitudes when we have the power of freedom in Christ? Choose letting go. Choose freedom.
Let’s Talk About It: What are practical ways you can choose forgiveness over bitterness?