Monday, May 20, 2013

Why is it so difficult to forgive and move on?

"Forgive them? But preacher, you don't know what they have done TO me! You don't know what they have said ABOUT me! You just don't understand!" If I have heard that once, I have heard that a hundred times... sadly I have have heard it coming from my own lips as well. "God how can I forgive him/her after what they have done/said?" I believe we have all faced a time (or many times) in our life where we have faced that seemingly impossible to climb mountain of forgiveness! I know that I have and from time to time still struggle with this very issue in my life, but I also know what God's Word instructs us about this subject and this is where I find my personal solace in such a troubling time.

The Bible is very clear about forgiveness. In Matt 6:14-15: "For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing." We are called to forgive others as God has forgiven us, and if we are unwilling to forgive others God has said that He would not forgive us. However, what I want us to see in this passage is NOT a God imposed cause/effect principle, but rather a God-led love/reconcile precept that can and should guide our actions as believers! This is because God has LED the way in the realm of forgiveness. God initiated a plan of forgiveness that is focused on forgiving any who call on His name in repentance. This is a forgiveness that brings redemption and reconciliation to God. This is a forgiveness that serves as a gateway to an eternity with God in heaven and without it humanity is hopelessly lost, unforgiven and headed to an eternity without God.

God initiated a plan of forgiveness that was and still is fleshed out in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Christ! Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary paid the price for the sin of the world and when we confess our sin to God we are promised that He is faithful and just to forgive us of that sin and cleanse us from unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). However, what about the believer who believes that their circumstances rise above God's command that we forgive one another? What about the believer who harbors resentment and an unforgiving attitude toward a brother or sister in Christ who has wronged them in some way OR with a person outside of the family of God that has wronged them? What happens then?

I was recently counseling a young minister who was dealing with a difficult situation that had arisen in his life and where he had truly gotten the short end of the stick and had been wronged. His heart was broken and he told me he was trying to walk the road of forgiveness toward those who had wronged him, but was struggling. After consoling him over his pain, I shared that he needed to take a proactive approach to this situation and let whatever it was that happened against him go. I told him that it does not matter why someone wrongs us or what they have done to us, no amount of ill will toward them will undo what they have done. I told him that it was really useless for us to seek understanding as to why someone would wrong us, because we would not understand it anyway!

I counseled him with the many references in Scripture about forgiveness and he assured me he understood Scripture and what it was telling him, but he was just so hurt and did not understand. My advice to him was to look to Jesus. I shared that I was positively sure that our Savior, as he was being beaten, flogged and crucified had thoughts of why... because all He had done was bring healing and the teaching of the Kingdom of Heaven. However, in spite of all those against Him, Jesus was resolute in His mission for the Father. We see that He set aside His feelings and sense of justice to submit to the will of the Father. We also see that on the Cross Jesus uttered those famous words, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do..." Even in death, Jesus was willing to forgive those who had wronged Him.

In life, we will face difficulty in this world and on many occasions the difficulties and pain will come from those we least expect it from, such as those within the body of Christ! When this happens, our calling is to rest in the One who has saved us and the calling He has on our lives! We are called to a mission for Him and not to please others. I painted the picture for this young minister that when we try to hang onto these types of situations and harbor ill will or hard feelings toward those who have wronged us that it is like a shipwreck survivor trying to hang onto the boat and pull the boat up out of the water. It is physically impossible and the only thing it will do is drag the survivor under. So it goes with forgiveness, we must learn to forgive and let go of any harbored feelings or ill will toward those who have wronged us because it is only when we let go can we be 'rescued' and delivered from the 'shipwreck' of unforgiveness.

But preacher you are talking about forgiveness what does 'letting go' have to do with forgiveness? Well to be simple about this... forgiveness IS letting go... when we 'forgive' we are letting go of all harbored resentment and feelings toward a particular situation or person(s). This does not mean that those parties were right in what they have done or that we condone what they have done, but what it does mean is that we have let go of our right to hold them accountable. We have let it go and turned it over to God. When we do that, the burden of our heart will be lifted and we can move on, but this is not an easy task to accomplish. To 'let go' we must be able to trust in God, His grace and His deliverance. When we harbor these feelings and refuse to let go it reveals that we do NOT trust God's judgments and that we feel we have to dispense justice, and thereby scarring ourselves by taking on God's job, for which we are NOT equipped or capable.

Forgiveness is crucial for the believer and MUST be a daily part of our lives! Don't allow the enemy a foothold in your life by harboring ill will toward anyone who has wronged you. Forgive them and turn all things over to the Lord and allow His Holy Spirit to strengthen you and encourage you as you submit to God's calling on your life. Don't allow the cancer of unforgiveness to eat away at your soul, but allow the Spirit of God to deliver you and cleanse you! 
Col 1:9-12... Live For Him!

1 comment:

  1. Speaking of forgiveness: you know, after raping Bathsheba and having her husband killed in battle, I don't recall King David ever asking forgiveness nor getting forgiveness from either of their families, his men, or even his family, for that matter. Now, one can certainly note that David lived a pretty rough life with most of his children eventually turning against him or at the least ignoring him, but this brings me to wonder about where the guilt of sin is to be placed?
    King David responds to the Prophet Nathan, after he helps David to see his sin, by falling before God and claiming that against only Him has he sinned. In this forgiveness issue, who has sinned against whom and who deserves confession and may offer forgiveness? Perhaps we have somehow, over time, equated debt with forgiveness. We have incorporated the idea of "forgiving debt" into our vocabulary, albeit, usually in regard to a monetary burden.
    The Greek word from Jesus' model prayer found in Matthew 6 suggests three root understandings of debt (opheileo): a pecuniary burden (to owe), figuratively to be under obligation (ought), and moral failure in duty.
    Approaching your friend's dilemma of an inability to completely forgive, perhaps helping him to identify that we as believer's have a duty to set people free from the bondage of their sin will help him to see that he is the only human that holds the key that will set his offender free. Again, I am not sure we can truly forgive sin, because every indication is that only God can be sinned against, however, we can absolve each other from the consequences of sin: guilt, shame, lowered self-esteem, etc. by pointing the sinner to the source of freedom, that is Christ Jesus.
    The one who has been wronged can only do this if they have first sought out God's good intention in their life by allowing them to participate in the situation as the recipient of the sinner's debt (be it a financial loss, or failure to act, or moral lapse). After all, we must fall back on Romans 8 and remember that "...all things are working for the good of God, for those that are called of Him..." I don't claim to understand it, but I also don't claim to have eternity's view.
    The balancing point is what you have mentioned in trust. We must trust that God knows what He is doing and our part in this work is to seek His glorification. So, how can the pain of being the recipient of another's sin against God be brought to then glorify God? Only by self-assessement; we are not to judge others but we are to constantly be judging ourselves against the image of Christ Jesus. Perhaps, our participation in the evil event as recipient then becomes the act of our loving God bringing a corrective to our life, or perhaps He is setting us up for one of His miracles?
    As believers, we can only go so far with this, for our self-limiting humanness stops us from letting God have the full reigns to our lives. We can't see the end for ourselves so we will not let go of the control. You are correct in telling your friend, the first step is learning to lean wholly on God and His word.
    The Word of God is a lamp at our feet and light for our step at a time. Yet, faith demands that we take a step. We cannot stand still, perseverating in our thoughts and expect God to do anything. A wise person once said,"Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results each time is the definition of insanity."
    Go, Be, Do