When my kids were small they’d come home from school with a story to tell about how someone snatched a toy from them or how a so-called friend had suddenly excluded them from a group of friends they were playing with. Some kids can just brush it off like nothing but not my kids. They were genuinely hurt. We would then go into a discussion on what led up to the bad behavior from the other kid and then I would talk them through the hurt and provide a shoulder and share the power of forgiveness with them. Of course if the bad behavior from these friends continued, I’d urge my kids to steer clear from anyone who was being unkind to them and to let me and the teacher know if they were being mistreated or bullied. As my kids got older they’d go on to experience other hurts and betrayals in life. I’d instruct them as best I could to be careful of the friends they chose especially if I noted someone in their circle had a mean streak and proved to be unworthy as a friend. When I was in my late teens, early twenties I had my share of heartbreaks and difficult relationships that left me bitter, hurt and even hateful. From the boyfriend who stood me up on prom night, (YES prom night of all nights) to the boyfriend who was addicted to crack and proved to be a liar and a cheat. For many years I held on to such anger and hate towards these two. But I got older and wiser and with the Lord’s help eventually found the strength to let go and let God and was finally able to forgive.
For a lot of us, forgiving someone who has wronged us in some way is a mighty hard thing to do especially if the hurt cuts deep into our soul. We often hear the phrase “forgive and forget” as if the offense committed was no big deal. Have you ever felt so hurt by someone that you feel like you can’t even breath because you are so consumed by anger? Some offenses are easy to forgive and move on from while others may take years. Unfortunately I for one know how incredibly hard it is to forgive people who have been the source of so much hurt and pain. I have had many instances throughout my life where I’ve felt consumed by heartbreak and thought I would never recover from a cut so deep. When these emotions are not met with constant prayer, you can bet that these feelings will gnaw at your soul until you give it to God. When you allow your anger to build up day after day, month after month and year after year, the wound you’ve been licking all these years gets infected and will fester and when you hold on to the anger it explodes like an infected boil that oozes after it has erupted. I know, that was a bit graphic but just trying to get my point across. One thing I have found to be true is that our God is a mighty God and He is bigger than any problem or situation we are facing and definitely bigger than any deep ugly wound we’ve been carrying around for years.
In studying the bible I have found the following scripture talks about the immense hate one brother had for another.
(Genesis 27:41) ~ “Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
Have you ever hated anyone so fiercely or have been hurt so badly that you felt such anger and pain to the point of never wanting to have anything to do with that person ever again or maybe even wishing them dead? Let me tell you about an experience I had with someone I worked with for 3 years. Though I never wished this person dead, now way! She was definitely a difficult person to be around to the point I was tempted to quit my job of 20+ years. This was a person who was in a position of leadership in the department I was working in and I was one of many employees who reported to her. I’ll call her “Jane”. Jane was already a director and was in charge of multiple departments and when my manager was booted from my department, instead of hiring a new manager, my department was given to Jane to manage. Jane was not happy about this. My department was a mess and the previous manager did not do a good job and pretty much left a huge mess for Jane to clean up. While Jane definitely did a great job of cleaning up all the mistakes the previous manager made, she made a lot of enemies along the way. She was rude, obnoxious, insulting, hurtful, cold-hearted, insensitive and just plain mean. She had no filter and would say whatever was on her mind regardless of how inappropriate it was. Asking for time off to tend to doctor’s appointments or kids school activities was an absolute nightmare. Everyone walked on egg shells around her as she was quick to criticize and micro-manage our work and would often single out someone and literally look for mistakes to point out. If you showed up to work with so much as a wrinkle on your shirt, it would get pointed out. It was that bad. Despite all this, she was a good leader in the sense of running a tight ship. She made sure everyone knew what their role was and that the work got done in a timely manner. She was just a miserable soul to be around.
You might ask “did you hate this woman?”, honestly I really disliked her and to a degree I almost feared her. And yes, I regret to say that at times, on the really bad days, there was a tinge of hate there as well. I really treasured my weekends off but Sunday nights were difficult for me to the point of tears because I dreaded going in to work that Monday. My stomach was always in knots and I just always had a sickened feeling at work. But despite all the misery she brought on me and my co-workers, I felt sorry for her. She must have had an awful childhood or some life changing event that made her so difficult to be around. I’ll be honest and say, I really had to fight off feelings of hate. Hate is so evil and so un-Christ-like. I’d find myself praying for her and asking God to soften her heart and to help me forgive her all the grief she was causing me. Here is a verse that stands out in the bible that really spoke to my heart ~
(Colossians 3:13) ~ “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do”
Jane was a Christian if you could believe it. She would often talk about God, and despite her mean streak we would on rare occasions have interesting conversations about the Lord but at times I would silently question and wonder if she was a true Christian because her behavior towards others would reflect otherwise. There were times she would surprise me for instance when she offered to pray with me because my little girl was having a rough time adjusting to her new teacher at school and it was clearly affecting me as some mornings I struggled to get her to school without her throwing a fit. Jane saw how this worried me and offered to pray. It was moments like these that gave me hope and I could see God working in her. One day out of the blue Jane announced her resignation. There was no notice and the day she made the announcement was her last day at the office. As we said goodbye, I hugged her and wished her well and asked her to keep in touch but she never did and I never heard from her again. I was happy for her because she was clearly miserable and not in a happy place in her life. I saw the relief in her face when she left that day. I could see the job responsibilities and the staff complaints mounted against her were wearing her down. To be honest, I think we all (including Jane) breathed a sigh of relief when she left. It was a blessing for all of us and I think an answer to a lot of prayers, even hers.
Forgiving someone who has caused you so much grief can be hard. Let me tell you there have been some real big time events that have taken place in my life that required me to really dig deep down in my soul and find the strength to forgive. It’s not easy but like it says in the bible “with God all things are possible”.
(Matthew 19:6) ~ But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”.
There are all sorts of life events that people go through and one might even ask how they can possibly forgive someone for causing them so much grief. Here is a list of some things you might be dealing with at the moment:
- Betrayal from a trusted friend
- Cheating partner/spouse
- Business partner stealing from you
- Family relative/child/sibling stealing from you
- Someone spreading false rumors about you
- Difficult boss or co-worker
- Constant criticism from a friend, co-worker or family member
- Verbal abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Child abuse
- Abandonment by a parent
- Loss of a family member/child at the hands of another (note: This was a difficult one to include and I know an impossible thing to forgive, but I hope through much prayer and petition that you find comfort in the Lord and let Him speak to your heart on this matter.)
These are just a few that I could think of. Some VERY painful as you can imagine. My heart breaks at knowing that some of you who may be reading this have faced or are facing some of these situations. I won’t sit here and tell you that it’s easy to forgive and move on. It’s not, especially if you’ve endured a lifetime of heartache and loss. It can turn a person bitter and steal your joy. But one thing I know for sure is that God is right there with you my friends and just as He is the healer of sickness, He is also the healer of broken hearts too and can lift you from the deepest depths of despair and can turn any situation around and let you feel joy in your lives again and allow you to share it as a testimony to others.
I know that some situations require almost a miracle and literally every ounce of your being to find the courage and strength to forgive someone. It’s these situations where I feel that it is literally between you and the Lord. Constant communion with God, being alone with Him in prayer, crying out to Him and pleading for Him to speak to your heart and to let Him do what only HE can do by letting go and letting Him carry you through these difficult times.
Going back to the scripture I posted above in Genesis 27:41 where Esau expresses his hate for his brother Jacob. Though Esau was foolish for selling his birthright to his brother who clearly took advantage of him (that’s a whole other discussion), his ability to look past his anger and hate and find the strength to embrace Jacob, really spoke volumes.
(Genesis 33:4) ~ “But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him and they wept.”
Another well known event that took place in biblical times that truly resonates the power of forgiveness is the well known story of when Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37:12-36). They looked down on their brother Joseph with such envy and hate to the point of throwing him into a well and later banishing him from their lives and causing their father unending grief and heartache by telling him that his beloved son died. A rotten thing to do, right? But God clearly had a plan for Joseph and despite all the trials he faced while in slavery he stayed focused on the Lord and trusted Him. As the story goes on, Joseph had a gift of interpreting dreams and the Pharaoh of Egypt found him to be a discerning and wise slave and decided to appoint him ruler of all Egypt. While Joseph was in a position of power the country was faced with severe famine and many people went to him looking for food. Joseph’s brothers who sold him into slavery were feeling the effects of the famine and were sent to Egypt by their father to look for food. Since Joseph was governor of all the land and was in charge of all the grain, his brothers had to go to him to buy food. He was older and unrecognizable to his brothers. They didn’t know it was their brother whom they sold but Joseph recognized his brothers right away. Joseph was robbed of many precious years by the betrayal of his own brothers. If anyone had just cause to bear a grudge, it was Joseph.
Can you imagine coming face to face with the very people who should have loved you and protected you? Your own blood, your own family, the very people we are taught to trust and who should always have our backs. I simply can’t imagine that kind of betrayal. But as the story goes on in Genesis 45 Joseph wept loudly at one point and finally revealed himself to his brothers who were in shock to learn that their brother whom they sold into slavery was now ruler of Egypt. He forgave them on the spot and explained that God used their act of betrayal to bring him to Egypt so he could save their lives. Joseph went on to provide for his family by bringing them to Egypt because he wanted the best for them.
When you forgive someone it means you are forgiving an inexcusable act and for some it can be a painful, difficult thing to do. Unfortunately it is something we must do often. It is also worth noting that when you forgive someone you are letting go of your natural right to revenge. Some people think they have the right to retaliation . Trust me I am guilty of this myself. As human beings we are not responsible for the moral balance in the universe. That is God’s place. Our job is to forgo vengeance and leave it to God to judge.
In the instance of being in an abusive relationship, forgiveness does not mean you should stick around for the abuse to continue. In the case of spousal abuse we must always remember that our bodies are a temple of God. One should never remain in an abusive home. Verbal, physical, sexual abuse and/or emotional mistreatment of any kind is NOT acceptable to God. No one should ever stay in a situation where abuse is present. Prayer about the situation and separation from the person is certainly warranted.
God’s plan is always at work my friends. We may face horrible trials but our Father will always reveal Himself. I pray that this post gives you some understanding and some peace in knowing that you are not alone and that you are deeply loved by our Father who knows all too well the heartaches we have all experienced for He has experienced them ten fold. It is also my most sincere hope and prayer that through your journey in finding the will to forgive that you may also find encouragement and understanding in the scriptures.
If you are facing a difficult situation in your life right now, one that is requiring you to forgive please know that I am praying for you because I know how hard it can be. Another important thing to note is that we must also find the strength to forgive ourselves. I think we’ve all done something stupid or hurtful to someone and when we look back we think “what was I thinking” or “why did I do that”. Trust me, I’ve been there too. No one wants us to forgive ourselves more than the Lord himself. I’ll share more on this in my next post. Goodnight for now.
~ Please look for Part 2 of Forgiveness where I will discuss the importance of self-forgiving and how forgiveness can be healing.