The Sweet Peace Of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a very personal topic for me, it is something I fought tooth and nail for years. I felt that I had a right to be upset about things that had happened to me. I have struggled with bitterness, betrayal and anger (to name a few things) that held me back from forgiveness and the peace that comes along with it.
I have come to a place in my life where I am finally walking in true forgiveness and it is fabulous. I have peace and more joy than ever before. It took a lot of hard work and a lot of prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit to get to this place. When I share with people the journey of forgivness I've taken most of them are surprised and they say that I am strong. I tell them I'm strong in the Lord. They say I'm crazy, I say I'm peaceful. Some say I'm weak...well I know that isn't true.
Why should I forgive others? I don't want to.
Do you want to forgive others? I hope so! Who wants to walk around being a victim for the rest of their lives? I'd rather be victorious. My pastor has said that you can't move forward if you are looking back and this is so true. Where would I be if I had not forgiven? I'd be depressed, I would be holding myself back. You can't reach your full potential if you are living in a victim mentality. You can't have true peace and you cannot have forgiveness for yourself if you deny it to others.
My husband John pointed out to me that the Lord's prayer says something that we oftentimes overlook..."Forgive me my tresspasses as I forgive those who tresspass against me." He said that most of us just want to be forgiven but we don't think about the fact that we have probably asked to be forgiven AS WE FORGIVE OTHERS. Ouch. If God were to forgive me the way I used to forgive others, I would be in a sad situation. Here is a parable from Matthew chapter 18...
21 Then Peter came up to Him and said, Lord, how many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? [As many as] up to seven times?
22 Jesus answered him, I tell you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven!
23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a human king who wished to settle accounts with his attendants.
24 When he began the accounting, one was brought to him who owed him 10,000 talents [probably about $10,000,000],
25 And because he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and his children and everything that he possessed, and payment to be made.
26 So the attendant fell on his knees, begging him, Have patience with me and I will pay you everything.
27 And his master's heart was moved with compassion, and he released him and forgave him [cancelling] the debt.
28 But that same attendant, as he went out, found one of his fellow attendants who owed him a hundred denarii [about twenty dollars]; and he caught him by the throat and said, Pay what you owe!
29 So his fellow attendant fell down and begged him earnestly, Give me time, and I will pay you all !
30 But he was unwilling, and he went out and had him put in prison till he should pay the debt.
31 When his fellow attendants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and told everything that had taken place to their master.
32 Then his master called him and said to him, You contemptible and wicked attendant! I forgave and cancelled all that [great] debt of yours because you begged me to.
33 And should you not have had pity and mercy on your fellow attendant, as I had pity and mercy on you?
34 And in wrath his master turned him over to the torturers (the jailers), till he should pay all that he owed.
35 So also My heavenly Father will deal with every one of you if you do not freely forgive your brother from your heart his offenses.
Matthew 6:14 - For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Mark 11:25 - And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
So here are just a few reasons you want to forgive.
- You want God to forgive you.
- You want peace.
- You want to be victorious and successful, not a depressed victim.
- You want to live the way God wants you to live, according to His Holy Spirit.
Where is the justice in this? I want my pound of flesh!
The good news is that once you truly reach the point of forgiveness, this isn't an issue. You won't be worried about it. But God is just. He takes care of His children. He is the avenger, He hands out justice, it is not our job. When we try to take situations into our own hands, we remove God's ability to act on our behalf. I don't know about you, but I would rather leave justice in the hands of the Almighty...I am only human. He can do a much better job of it.
Proverbs 20:22 - Do not say, "I'll pay you back for this wrong!" Wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you."
Okay, so how do I do it? How do I truly forgive?
1.) Thank God for the forgiveness of your own sins. Remember that He has given you a clean slate.
2.) Ask the Lord to give you a forgiving heart and a desire to love others the way He loves them (and the way He loves you!) One of the hardest things that I had to realize is that God loves everyone equally. He loved Adolph Hitler as much as he loved Jesus. Was He pleased with Hitler? Of course not. But He loved him. God loves the person I need to forgive as much as He loves me. I need to love that person.
3.) Pray for that person. If they are not saved, pray constantly for their salvation. If they are saved, pray that they will come to the place that God wants them to be. Pray that they will live their lives by the leading of the Holy Spirit.
4.) You might not be able to forget but you can do something! I used to hate the term "Forgive and forget". I still don't think it's very realistic, but it does have a good intention. What is realistic though is to remove all of the negative feelings we hold towards others and not dwell on them. If an unforgiving thought comes to mind, anger, rage, bitterness, then push it away and pray.
Something that lets me know that I have truly forgiven someone is when my grief over their soul overcomes any grief I have about whatever it was that I held against them.
What if I am the person who needs forgiven?
Well we all need forgiveness from the Heavenly Father, but He gives it freely. We just need to ask, receive and then live by His will. But if you are the person who has wronged somebody, make it right. It is very humbling but very necessary. You will know in your spirit what you need to do. I have had very small, "minor" situations in which there has been a disagreement or a misunderstanding and I felt no peace until I made it right. I can't really see any situation in which it wouldn't be a good idea to ask for forgivness, but I am not God or the Holy Spirit so listen and you will know what is right.
Okay, I have forgiven. Now can I tell them that I've forgiven them?
Oh, probably not. But like asking for forgiveness from other people, listen to the Holy Spirit, He will guide you. Sometimes we hold onto things that the other person doesn't even remember. Sometimes telling someone we have forgiven them is a way for us to subconsciously feel superior. There are some occasions where it is necessary though. I can imagine that there are tons of people who feel like they cannot forgive themselves because they think they have done something unforgiveable or that the other person would never forgive them. And if they only knew that you had forgiven them, they could take the step towards freedom and towards the love of God.
Nothing bad can come out of forgiveness. God loves you. You love God. You want to be who He wants you to be. You want to be peaceful and joyful and loving. It will all be okay!
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