Friday, January 23, 2009

Forgiveness: Not a Done Deal

Say what? Strange title. Though thankfully, when we seek God's forgiveness, He forgives. It is then wiped from His mind, His memory, His slate. He does not struggle with forgiving us. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. Hebrews 8:12 However, we mere mortals are so much different. We cannot say, I forgive and it necessarily be a done deal. Sometimes, many times, we must go back and forgive the person and infraction again and again. Each time we are reminded of the occurrence. Each time we feel the impact of that pain. Each time we try to relive that hurt. Yes, we must choose to say "No, I do forgive you. I forgive you for hurting me again and again on this issue." We must continually forgive. It's not a once forgiven always forgiven. Each time we have a thought muster up, we must choose to forgive that act. Each time we are disappointed by the actions of another we must forgive again.

Let me illustrate with a friend's situation. I hope to be clear while being vague and protecting identity. The husband and father left the family. The children struggle with anger toward the father. Even once coming to accept his abandonment and forgiving him, there are continual instances in which continual forgiveness is needed. When dad doesn't show up for his weekend...the children must forgive. When dad doesn't show up for their ball games...the children must forgive. When dad doesn't call as promised...the children must forgive. So, even if forgiveness is extended to the dad for leaving the family and causing emotional pain and abandonment, there are future events that will call the children to forgive that hurt again. There's a ho' 'nother (to mimic Pastor Ed Young Jr) set of forgiveness with the wife. She will continually be bopped in the head with instances requiring her to forgive her prodigal spouse. When the car breaks down...she must forgive. When the child support is late...she must forgive. When the stress of raising their children alone is too much...she must forgive.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22

Contrary to what some believe, forgiveness is not as easy as just doing it. It's not easy to say "I forgive because Christ does." Anyone who is in that position, I must wonder if true and deep forgiveness has been extended. Yes, we should forgive because Christ first forgave us. He tells us He will not forgive us if we don't forgive others. 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. Matthew 6:14-15 Forgive, and you will be forgiven Luke 6:37.

However, I don't see where He said it would be easy or even instant. How can we truly forgive an offense immediately and instantly? If someone has figured it out, please share with us all. I had a dear friend tell me I was to forgive (happen to be her) immediately and instantly. However, I cannot conscientiously say I forgive her (or anyone), not "feel" it truly, and then face my Lord. I can't profess to her, anyone, or my Lord I forgive and then my actions and heart say something totally different. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." Matthew 18:35 From the heart...not just the lips. It hurts badly to be deceived, rejected, abandoned, mistreated. It seems to be there is nothing worse than to be abandon or loyalty taken. To depend on someone, to trust someone, to rely on someone, to expect their presence, love, and loyalty to always be there...and then nothing.

We cannot control what another does. Forgiveness really isn't about the other person. It is about the condition of our heart. Forgiveness is the firewall to bitterness and resentment. Without forgiveness, we take the risk of bitterness creeping into our heart and damaging it. Once it takes up full residency, it can cause such pain and trials in our lives. It is also harder to rid our heart of it once it resides there long term.

When my soul cries to sleep from loneliness...I must forgive. When the yard and house maintenance are too much for one...I must forgive. When I pass the Valentine cards and long to send one...I must forgive. When my heart is filled with how come...I must forgive. When decisions are left to be made alone...I must forgive. When help with broken appliances is needed...I must forgive. When memories of beautiful times flow...I must forgive. When love pours from my heart meant to be shared...I must forgive. When simple feels of missing and longing linger...I must forgive. When I don't understand how satan so easily had his way in deceiving my beloved...I must forgive. When abandonment is overpowering...I must forgive. When it's all too much to accept or comprehend...I must Christ did. I must speak from my heart as Christ did...forgive him for he knows not what he's doing. He knows not the gravity of decisions and paths not of God chosen. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Luke 23:24

We know that to extend forgiveness is primarily for ourselves. To forgive another benefits us more than the other person. However, I know my heart deeply longs to be forgiven. My heart knows that the bonds of satan and his ability to use bitterness, anger, resentment, and heart hardness will no longer be. My heart leaps for the joy that will fill my heart upon receiving forgiveness. My heart anticipates his transformation when he releases forgiveness to me. When forgiveness is extended by the other and received by me, we know hearts will be free, free to love each other again, free to live by God's plans and His plans alone. Such freedom comes with forgiveness.

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

Continually Forgiving,


Anonymous said...

I completely hear forgive...and forget...Something I think we will never learn hear on earth. I think that forgiveness is important, but something that takes a lot of prayer...from the heart to get through. But maybe the remeberance is something we should take with us, to learn from. How do we know when we have forgiven if we don't forget? I suppose (from my past experiences) that is when you can think of those things that happened, without being angered, without those initial feelings coming back into our minds.

Love your thoughts

Pam said...

Have you read any of Beth Moore's "praying God's Word" book? She has a whole chapter on forgiveness... and prayers to pray for those you need to forgive. I read them often. Very often. and I change. He hasn't. But, I have.

Sharon said...

This is so hard I know, I suffer with the same. We forgive but never forget. It takes alot of praying, asking God's help, help us with our hardened hearts because thats what it becomes, right?
I feel your heart Paula, I wish I could help, I wish I could be there, just sitting with you talking, but mostly listening.
I pray every night for you, I pray so hard that Chris would feel the Love you have waiting for him, I pray that God will send him back too you.
Forgiveness is always hard in some situations like yours, but I know God hears your cry's and I know he will answer your prayers, in "time".

Thank You, Jesus, that I am being freed of the evil of unforgiveness.
Let Your Holy Spirit fill me with light and let every dark area of my mind be enlightened.
Lord Jesus, I especially pray for the grace of forgiveness for the ONE PERSON in life who has HURT ME THE MOST. I pray Lord that you will give my sister the peace that she so deserves that she may have joy filled into her heart and the hurt and pain be released from her,
I pray this in your Holy Name.

I Love you Paula, I am always here for you.

JnL4God said...

So very heart felt. I so agree, it is not instant, especially if it envolves any type of violation or trespass, because that also breaks a trust. And just saying I forgive you is the act of obedience to God, but to truly feel it takes time. Great post as always. Been thinking of you, hope all is well.
Give yourself a hug from me. Love,

Carol said...

Paula Friend,

Forgivness, it's one I have had to work through. I can remember praying how Lord how do I forgive. Especially when your heart is broken, or you have anger and frustration that can be overwhelming.

Sometimes after I got through the forgiviness of my x husband leaving Brinn and I, I would then learn new things, or he would do something new that would cause the process to start all over.

Prayer, crying out to God to soothe my heart, and start the healing process to forgive.

I love this post, it's not an overnight thing, but a process that God takes us through. We must heal and not drink the poisin of resentment.

I continue to pray for you. I love you my friend.


Pamela (His maidservant) said...

Yes we must forgive and no it is not easy or without pain but there is a reward. Keep that attitude.

And YES I will pray for you this week about leading that bible study. I encourage you to embrace the uncertainity. God may have more planned in this than you can ever imagine. Keep me posted!!

and should I be so bold to pray your beloved is miserable, without peace, until he returns to God and you?

In His Graces~Pamela

Beth in NC said...

Great post! Forgiveness was one of the hardest bridges I've had to cross. One book (besides God's word obviously - ha) that really helped me was The Bait of Satan by John Bevere. "OFFENSE" is the bait ... and it goes/grows from there.

When we finally get the revelation of what Jesus did for us -- He who was INNOCENT - it totally removes the platform of self-pity right out from under our feet.

Thank you for sharing with us!

Amy said...

This was such a well timed post for me to read. I have been faced with this very situation regarding a long time friendship of my own recently.
Thank you for the encouragement that I found here today.
God Bless,

Linda - Nickers and Ink said...

Lovely blog!

Grace - it's all about God's grace, isn't it? 8-)


HEART OF A READY WRITER – Reading Through the Bible in 2009

Sheryl said...

Great post. As I was reading it I was realizing how much peace I have which is a product of true forgiveness. I really have forgiven and it's so great to be free from that bondage of bitterness. You are right it is a choice we must make over & over.

And it is God's doing, not ours. No way could we extend that forgiveness on our own.


Tonja said...

As hard as it is, we must. However, God looks at the heart, and I think He knows if we are truly trying to forgive. I think it is a process. For me it is that when a hurt comes to my mind, I say to my self, "I choose to let it go." And everytime I think of it, I say it again and again until I no longer think of it.

Laura said...

Oh, friend. How you inspire. To be so wounded, yet speak of forgiveness. I'm with Sharon, I feel your heart--pray for you always--wish I could be there to be a shoulder. I'm lifting you up.

I've been under the weather for a few days, but feeling better. Think of you often...

valerie said...

Forgiveness - God knows it's not easy.....
He says to do it though, so He knows what is best for us. I pray that you will be encouraged today in a special way.
I have the book Pam mentioned "Praying God's Word" and it's one of my favorites.
Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers today, Paula.

Abba's Girl said...

We must make a decision to forgive. Most of the time it does not happen instantly when we make the decision but is a process. I have learned when I pray for the person to be blessed by God, I am able to truly forgive them much quicker than if I do not pray for them. I never pray for them to be convicted of sin, just to be blessed by the Lord and for them to know the Lord is the One Who blesses them.

Natalie said...

Forgive and forget? I think there is a reason we aren't able to forget certain situations. Although it brings about various emotions, it's stored in our memory bank to make us stronger. This was a tough post to think about. Thank you.

Jenn @ Casa de Castro said...

Interesting thoughts. Forgiveness? Indeed. Forget? I'm not sure about that part. Remembering things helps us to see God's faithfulness to us and gives us more reasons to testify to His goodness. In my life, I've forgiven the assailants in my rape, but if I completely forgot about that, how would I be able to use that experience to minister to others who are going through their own healing. That said, I know there is often a fine line between forgiveness and forgetting. In interpersonal relationships, we're called to forgive and not keep a record of wrongs. I suppose that is in some form... forgetting.

Thought-provoking post!

Still praying for you and believing God for His very best in your life!

Yolanda said...

It would be so much EASIER to have a delete button in our own hard drive (brain) when it comes to forgiveness. I think the forgiving is the easiest part, it's the forgetting of the offense that is the hardest for me.

Forgiving and the remembrance are some how linked...perhaps to keep this woman on her knees, clining to my Lord.


Denise said...

I learned forgiveness many years ago and it was such a tough lesson.. It is a choice and something HE tells us to do.. It brings healing to us every time....and we will never know how it will effect the one that is in need of our forgiveness. I am slow to remember that to forgive is good for me......... He is a good God!

Yolanda said...

This morning at 4:45 a.m., 15 minutes before the alarm, the Lord awoke me with such a sweet learning time with Him. I am not in Matthew currenlty, I am in Numbers.

But what God ever so gently reminded me Paula was that you and I have been forgiven MUCH...may we forgive others of their little.

Matthew 18:21-35

Love to you....Yolanda

Mari said...

In our marriage class at chruch our Pastor has said repeatedly that forgiveness is a process. It's not something you do and then move on. Your words in this post are just so true. I believe in some instances you get to a point where you no longer need to go through the forgiving process again but that time frame is going to be different for each situation. Thank you for this post. What a blessing.

Tracy said...

Beautifully spoken, Paula...your desire to forgive despite your pain is humbling to me. It is true, we must often forgive over and over and over again. I've always struggled even more with forgetting. Keep your heart postured toward you know, God is at work even when you're not feeling it. Know you always remain in my prayers.