Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ready To Forgive

“Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”  ~ Colossians 3:13, TLB

As I typed out the above verse, two words stood out to me and the more I stared at the verse, the more those two words kept hitting me right between the eyes: 



Words that don’t allow for much wiggle room. This verse doesn’t say ‘you probably shouldn’t hold grudges.’  Nor does it imply that you might want to consider forgiving others.  It’s quite clear – NEVER hold grudges.  You MUST forgive others.

Again -- I KNOW this is extremely hard. At times, it borders on the impossible. Yet, if we're struggling and wrestling with a spirit of unforgiveness, we need to remember that:

Forgiveness is essential to living as a follower of Christ.  It is a high calling; at the same time, it is a hard calling.  A calling you may have great difficulty in answering. Someone may be reading this right now and think, “But she has NO IDEA what I’ve been through! She doesn’t understand what that person DID to me! I just can’t get over it and I can’t forgive them! Besides, they don’t deserve it!”

I get that, I really, truly do.  I’ve never lost a precious loved one to another's random, stupid, thoughtless decision, or to a premeditated heartless, violent act by someone else. I’ve never experienced the sickening shock of having a spouse confront me after years of marriage to tell me it’s all been a sham and they’re leaving me for someone else.  I've never had a parent turn their back on me, abandon me, or had them stand idly and silently by while allowing another family member to perform unspeakable acts on me.

However -- many years ago, when I was a teenaged girl in what seems now like another lifetime, I was raped by someone I considered a good friend. Raped and literally kicked to the curb on a stormy night, with no way of getting home. Scared.  Ashamed. Angry. And broken. So very broken.

Not many people know this, but my current marriage is actually my second one.  In my first marriage, I was the victim of domestic violence and suffered much physical, mental and emotional abuse at the hands of a man who swore before God, family and friends to love, honor and obey me 'til death do us part. Death was pretty darn close the night he shoved a loaded revolver in my mouth and laughing said, 'Let's play Russian Roulette!' 

I’ve been betrayed by someone I admired greatly, and had malicious, slanderous, ugly gossip spread throughout my office by two friends and coworkers who were like sisters to me.  I’ve been mistreated over and over by those who claimed to love me. I thought I’d forgiven these people, but it took years for me to see, with alarming and humiliating clarity, and through painful, yet cleansing, Christian counseling, that I had failed miserably to do so.

It’s said that harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die. I drank deeply from the cup of unforgiveness for a very long time, emptying it often.  And the only person who suffered the consequences, as well as the awful, metallic taste of anger, bitterness and resentment – was me.

Speaking of consequences – here’s a rather unsettling wake-up call for us: if we choose not to forgive another’s transgressions, the result of that choice will be that God won’t forgive us of ours as well.  

Be mindful that forgiveness doesn’t mean we tolerate and condone the sinful behaviors and actions of another.  It’s not making light of or believing and having others believe the offense was no big deal. And, as one wise reader reminded me in a comment on the first post in this Forgiveness trilogy"Forgiveness does not equal trust."  Amen!  South African leader Desmond Tutu, who led his nation through the painful process of forgiveness and reconciliation, had this to say:

“Forgiveness and being reconciled are not about pretending that things are other than they are.  It is not patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong.”

And Dr. Gary Inrig, pastor and author, says “Forgiveness looks sin in the eye and nevertheless speaks costly words: ‘I forgive you.’”

Yes, forgiveness can be painful and costly for those of us who are doing the forgiving, especially when the offense has been monumental and the perpetrator shows no signs of remorse nor feels there is any reason for them to be forgiven.  But forgiveness does help to lead and guide us down the path of healing.  The path of peace.  The path of freedom. Forgiveness is indeed a journey. 

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and discover that the prisoner…was you.” ~ Lewis B. Smedes

I’m reminded of two amazing stories. One made headlines back in October 2006, when an entire Amish community forgave one man his unimaginably heinous sin of murdering their children in a one room school house in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.  Forgiving the unforgivable is not a quick and easy offering of a cheap pardon, but an extremely costly gift of grace. 

The other story is of Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom, and the incredible act of forgiveness she was able to extend, many years later, to the man who had been one of the guards at Ravensbruck, the concentration camp in which Corrie and her sister, Betsie, had been exiled (and where Betsie eventually was killed).  In both instances, I am blown away by the depth of their extreme forgiveness. 

The only way I believe any of us can even attempt to sincerely forgive is to run to Jesus. He's been there, dear ones.  Right where you and I are, or were, or will be again sometime soon. Jesus has stood in that place -- poised at the crossroads of forgiveness and revenge. And choosing the path of forgiveness. Choosing to forgive the unforgivable, the inexcusable and the impossible.

Forgiven, by Ross Docken
Cry out to Him, lean into Him and rely totally on Him in your weakness.  Look to our precious Savior for help in letting go of all our anger, hatred, bitterness, pain; our vengeful and malicious thoughts, and let His love envelop our heart, mind and spirit.  Allow Him to speak through us and to forgive others through us. This is something we cannot do by ourselves in our own supposed strength, but through Him who strengthens us!  Our Lord may quickly and supernaturally ignite forgiveness in your heart, allowing healing to take place immediately.  Or, as He did with me, He may take you on a longer, slower journey, acting and speaking through a compassionate, trusting Christian counselor. 

Now it's time for the painful, difficult question -- who in your life needs pardoning today, dear one?  To whom do you need to extend the mercy and grace of God? Take a deep breath -- are you ready to forgive?

Most times, at the end of a blog post, I'll include song lyrics or a video of that particular song for how it relates to the story or for its personal meaning for me.  This time, however, I decided to share the video of the story behind the song, 'Forgiveness,' by singer Matthew West. It's a powerful story of a woman who chose, in Christ's strength, to live out the verse below: 

"Get rid of all bitterness rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you." ~ Ephesians 4:31-32, NIV


  1. Wow. What a powerful post! Lovely series, Pam. And I'm lost for words at your story.
    It's especially hard to forgive when the perpetrator shows no remorse and is even confident in their wrong actions. It's kind of irritating when you forgive and forgive only for that person to remain unchanged.
    I will keep referring back to this series. Thank you.

  2. Thank you, Rebekah, for your wonderful encouragement. I'm hopeful that any of the 3 posts in this little series will make an impact on someone who has been through hell themselves and is struggling with forgiveness. Much love to you, dear one. <3


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