I have a dear friend who recently posted on Facebook about the struggle of forgiveness, and it made me think how seldom in life I have suffered the agony of deep hurt. For me to give advice about that subject is about like asking a kid at the YMCA pool to help Michael Phelps with his backstroke. However, God’s word is sufficient to show us His plan so we aren’t saddled with grief and despair.
Forgiveness isn’t easy. Truthfully, few things in the Christian life are. That’s because we have a personal adversary who seeks to derail the process of forgiveness in order to stop our fellowship with Christ. If he can distract us from the peace offered by Jesus, he can keep us from knowing experiencing the comfort of God. The devil throws the hurt we have felt in our faces with such persistence that we can have our vision blocked by the painful experiences of our hurts.
Steps in the Process of Forgiveness
Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetfulness, and that’s challenging, too. Only God is able to choose not to remember our sins against us (Hebrews 8:12). Humans have a hard time not recalling the wounds that we have suffered. When we do, it’s easy to get out the shovel of despair and dig up the evidence again. That doesn’t make it easier to forgive and move on. It makes it harder on us. Recalling our hurts refreshes the pain, reminds us of our loss, and makes us feel like with just landed on “do not pass go.” We feel stuck. That’s where the idea of “taking every thought captive unto the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) must be part of our daily discipline. Don’t let your thoughts run free, or else they will take you to the graveyard of despair and death instead of standing by the empty tomb of Jesus’ resurrection power for new life. Think what God says, not what the devil suggests. Remember the promise that God's grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9) instead of settling down in the pain of the past. Don’t try to stand on the shore of memory while the waves of sorrow come splashing in your face. Move back from the waves by thinking the things that are “true, honorable, and right” (Philippians 4:8). You can’t think two things at once, and by thinking what is right, what is wrong is pushed aside. Rehearse the promises of God instead of the pain inflicted by man.
God has designed the healing and comfort that He offers to be accessed, but not hoarded. The Apostle Paul wrote that the God of all comfort, “who comforts us in all of our afflictions,” does this so we will be able to minister to others with the comfort that we have received (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). This has two great results. Those around us in need of God’s touch are able to find strength they need. And, in the process, it takes our minds off of ourselves. Paul said elsewhere that “we are not to look out for our own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
Walking through these steps doesn’t mean we are insulated from pain, or from the sadness that our hurts have created. Those are real experiences. But by preparing for the onslaught of memories and hurts, and getting ready for the attack that could send us into a spiral downward, we are refusing to give place for the devil (Ephesians 4:27). Instead, dressed in the armor of God (Galatians 6:11-17).
Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it is worth it. It allows you to release into the hands of God the things you can’t afford to carry anyway. That frees your hands to do something we all need to do instead: be lifted up in worship rather than being burdened by worry. May God help us to walk in the promise of His sufficiency. It is up to Him make all things right.