The hard step of forgiveness:
“A real step of courage and will. We must forgive those who hurt us. The reason is simple: Bitterness and unforgiveness set their hooks deep in our hearts; they are chains that hold us captive to the wounds and the messages of those wounds. Until you forgive, you remain their prisoner. Paul warns us that unforgiveness and bitterness can wreck our lives and the lives of others (Eph. 4:31; Heb. 12:15). We have to let it all go.
’Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’” (Col. 3:13)
(Captivating, pp. 103-104)
I know what some of you are thinking…”There’s just no way I can forgive.” “Easier said than done.” “It’s easy for God to forgive.” “I don’t feel like forgiving yet.”
Some of us are waiting to feel something first, as though forgiveness means we should have some ushy-gushy feeling of releasing the person. That’s how I thought when I faced the decision of forgiving my greatest offender.
Undergoing prayer counseling several years ago, walking through every relationship of my past and dealing with the spiritual issues surrounding each one, we came upon forgiveness. Sharing the thoughts above, among many others, I sat waiting in silence, trying to feel forgiveness and release. That is when the prayer counselor said, “It’s not about a feeling. Forgiving is an act of the will. Feelings come later.”
With her words there was a sense of relief. I had a choice to make, an act of the will. Step one, you could say. If I waited for feelings to come first, they would never come! But if I wanted my heart to follow, I had to choose to forgive.
Forgiving is not saying the wound didn’t matter, rather, the opposite. It is saying it did matter, and it hurt me deeply. What you did was wrong, and I release you to God. I will not be your captive any more. (Captivating)
It took a while for my heart to catch up, but I found it to be true that as long as I was unforgiving, I was bound to my offenders and to the messages of their wounds. Not only does the act of forgiving release the person to God, but it also releases our own heart!
Bitterness and anger no longer controlled me. It stopped spewing itself upon my family. Greater depths of healing were freeing my heart daily through the courageous act of forgiving. And I was no longer a prisoner to my offenders.
Who are you struggling to forgive? Will you take the first step today? Ask Jesus to give you the courage.
There is much more to explore and sift through here, and we will. But today, choose to trust God with all your fears and questions as you take step one: choose to forgive. (It's not what you may think...)