Thursday Tips: Forgiveness

Yesterday we addressed S’s question regarding forgiveness.  Take a moment and read it so you have a reference point.  I was moved and challenged by a comment written by a reader.  Here was Cathy’s response:

My “best friend” (the only friend I’ve ever had like this in my life) hurt me deeply at the beginning of this year and it was ugly. I was utterly blind-sided and she basically took years of very close friendship and tossed it away.  My first reaction was anger and bewilderment, but that turned to bitterness. I quickly realized that God had something in this for me. Something I didn’t think I needed to work on, but I was so wrong. I needed to learn how to forgive. Truly forgive. Not just say the words and pretend while secretly harboring bitterness and dislike in my heart.

I struggled with the “fairness” of forgiving her.

I struggled with the deep hurt she caused, the horrible words she said and the broken trust.

But more than anything I struggled with the fact that by NOT forgiving her I was being disobedient to my God.

And that broke me.

 I finally (months later, over the summer) came to a place of forgiveness I didn’t think possible. There is still hurt and a deeply broken trust that will take time to heal, but I forgive her. There isn’t bitterness or anger. We don’t talk much anymore, other than passing by at church. But I am at peace knowing that God isn’t necessarily asking me to  be her best friend again, He is just asking me to show her the grace He has shown me.

So thankful for the pain and tears and hurt and loneliness and loss He allowed. Joyful that He loves me enough to teach me these difficult things.

I think Cathy shows us a beautiful picture of what it looks like to follow after Jesus in obedience.  Forgiveness isn’t a feeling or forcing yourself to pretend you weren’t hurt.  Forgiveness is a decision you make to obey God.  When we refuse to forgive it can leave us unsettled, just like Cathy mentioned.  It can often keep us from being able to pray or grow in our relationship with the Lord or with others.  When we don’t forgive we make bitterness and hurt an idol.

Today I wanted to share just a few “tips” that can help us on our journey to forgiveness and release.  I’m not a professional counselor, nor am I suggesting that tips have the ability to fix things, but I am hoping that these steps will remind us to spend more time on our knees.

-Remember that the call to forgive includes everyone: parents, siblings, family, neighbors, friends, classmates, clerks, employees, teachers, bosses, leaders, pastors, politicians, sports heroes, and presidents.  Anyone who brings up negative feelings in your mind is someone you are called to forgive.  Gulp.  Forgiveness is an entire lifestyle change, not just a diet you engage in after a particularly bad season.  We are to forgive those who hurt us (intentionally or unintentionally) EVERY time we pray.

-If you need to, make a list of everyone who has hurt you in your entire life.  Yep.  That’s what I said.  Now begin to write a prayer forgiving each name individually.  Forgive them by name.  If you need to take a break, read Ephesians 4:29-5:2 and then start praying again.

“Don’t say anything that would hurt another person. Instead, speak only what is good so that you can give help wherever it is needed. That way, what you say will help those who hear you. Don’t give God’s Holy Spirit any reason to be upset with you. He has put his seal on you for the day you will be set free from the world of sin.

Get rid of your bitterness, hot tempers, anger, loud quarreling, cursing, and hatred. Be kind to each other, sympathetic, forgiving each other as God has forgiven you through Christ.  Imitate God, since you are the children he loves. Live in love as Christ also loved us. He gave his life for us as an offering and sacrifice, a soothing aroma to God.”  Ephesians 4:29-5:2, GWT

-Memorize Ephesians 4:29-5:2

-As you pray, use your imagination and picture Jesus standing before you.  Feel the weight of your sin, and the depth of His forgiveness.

“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12, NLT

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  Romans 3:23, NLT

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23, NLT

Now picture each of the people you struggle to forgive also standing before your Savior.  Tell Jesus of the wrong done to you by each individual.  Describe your hurt and pain… and then watch how He responds.

“If Jesus appeared at your dining room table tonight with knowledge of everything you are and are not, total comprehension of your life story and every skeleton hidden in your closet; if He laid out the real state of your present discipleship with the hidden agenda, the mixed motives, and the dark desires buried in your psyche, you would feel His acceptance and forgiveness.” – Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

Have mercy on us, Oh Lord.