When my kids are in trouble and have to say they’re sorry to the injured or hurt party, I always make them say, “Please forgive me for…” Most of the time they follow through properly, but sometimes, especially with the youngest, it’s met with puppy eyes, smiles, hugs and kisses for the recently bitten sibling. It seems innocent, but there is a process to an apology that starts at a young age and only gains more genuineness as they grow. Usually when a timeout or spanking is about to occur the louder the cries of, “I’m sorry. I said I was sorry!” can be heard throughout the house.
I wish we still as adults, carried the innocence of a child in our hearts. Forgiving one another is commanded of us many times over in the New Testament and is one of the hardest to follow through with.
Ephesians 4:31-32…Forgiving each other.
Luke 6:37…Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Mark 11:25…Forgive, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.
James 5:16…Confess your sins to each other.
Acts 2:38…Repent and be baptized.
I have found that as life races by, the consequences of sin get bigger and become harder to say those “simple” but rather quite complex words. I read once that “forgiveness is the bridge to healing. Without it we can’t heal and will stay in a constant state of bitterness until the peace is given.”
As I was about to receive the grace, mercy and eternal gift of life freely, but sacrificially, given to me on Easter weekend years ago, I couldn’t honestly go through this spiritual celebration without giving that same opportunity to my husband. It was a release to the pressure of having to be mad, bitter, and feeling stuck in the journey towards my healing. It opened floodgates of tears that led to later years of healing. Recently, a young woman shared with me how she told her ex-husband she forgave him for the pain, the wrong and the confusion in their failed marriage, but also asked for her part in the failed marriage to be forgiven. Unfortunately, he is a non-believer and was completely clueless as to what was going on, but for the wife, she found it to be the beginning to healing and freedom she hadn’t experienced yet in her journey.
“God didn’t wait to be crucified until we fully understood the impact His death would have on us. He died. He forgave. He gave us life.”
We need to respond in the same way, challenging ourselves to look past the scars and sometimes bloody mess of our sins and actions, to offer to those who have hurt us the worst because God did the same for you and for me. We need to forgive as we have been forgiven.
Forgiveness has finally became the easy part of my journey because I realized Christ forgave my sins and ugliness within. Who am I, or you, not to forgive? Allowing those negative thoughts to creep into your mind leaves no room for God’s joy to restore you. Forgiving my husband doesn’t make him right; it makes me free. God continues to help me let go of the hurt and anger, release the pain through forgiveness, clear the resentment, stop the rehearsing of the pain in my mind, and from stewing in my hurt, so I can ultimately be healthy and whole. I, by no means, have this skill mastered, but daily seek to allow God to work through me being quick to forgive and to accept forgiveness from others.
Here are a few reminders and steps to work towards the action of forgiveness:
1.) Flexing the forgiveness muscle. Think of this action as an exercise, building strength in your forgiveness muscle. The first year after my husband confessed to infidelity, I reminded my heart and mind, “I forgive you.” There were times I would tell Tim directly or more often just between God and I when the pain of betrayal would seep in. It took time for my words to meet up with my thoughts and actions, but eventually it got easier. Start working on this forgiveness muscle with your kids at a young age allowing them to see how offering forgiveness can be rewarding for themselves and others. Accepting forgiveness is just as hard.
2.) Self check of you heart. Are there areas in your life where forgiveness is needed? Do you see a root of bitterness causing sour friendships or toxic relationships? Seek advice from professionals or mentors to help guide you through the process of letting go, releasing the anger in healthy ways so the destruction of pain doesn’t get any larger. Maybe something you did to hurt someone else has not been dealt with properly. Be the bigger person and seek forgiveness so that God can bless you in that area of your life. Don’t play the judge. Do you have a hard time allowing God to bring justice, or are you trying to punish others for the hurt in your life?
3.) Be accountable and set an example. Little lives are watching your actions and will mimic what you do or don’t say. I will often times get on one knee and ask our kids to forgive mommy for the harsh tone, edgy voice or frustration throughout the day. Every mama has a moment or two they’d love to go back and redo. Make sure the kids see you going through the steps so they can be exampled how this action of forgiveness works. I often ask our kids to “redo” an action or question so the tone matches their hearts. Redo’s work for adults as well!
“A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” -Ruth Bell Graham
Ask your spouse how you are doing in this area? Do they see you holding on to grudges or allowing God to take the burdens of the past and present to the cross? When meeting with a betrayed wife, I ask if they struggle with becoming historic towards their husband. Can you imagine if God were to become historic with our sins? I shutter to think of what that lecture would feel like. In the same way, we should never hold a loved ones sins over them in a heated argument or when feeling the consequence of their sins press against our lives. Seek accountability in your life to help you not dredge the past up and to help you walk the words you offered.
“A betrayer’s humble repentance in word and deed will pave the way for the betrayed to again risk opening his or her heart offering the sweet fruit of forgiveness that can lead to restoration and renewed joy.” – Tim Jackson
4.) Pray. Sounds like the perfect Sunday school answer, but honestly, it’s what’s needed. Pray that God will soften the areas in your life that are in need of a little forgiveness workout. Maybe it’s a co-worker that nags on you all day who needs a dose of grace offered to them. Hard to judge someone if you never ask how they are doing. Maybe they are dealing with hard stuff and need a friend to come alongside them in support. Is there a family member that makes your skin crawl at the near mention of their name? Ask God to soften your approach and mend those broken relationships. When was the last time you genuinely prayed for your spouse? I find the quickest way to get rid of a grudge or evil thought is to pray for the one who caused the pain. Yes, I prayed for the women who were involved with my husband and caused a spilt in our marriage bed. I desperately cried to God asking for those women to find salvation through the cross and for my heart to extend forgiveness to them. Honest prayers can be extremely powerful tools used when perfecting the art of forgiveness.
If you need prayer or someone to help you walk through this art of forgiveness, contact me at www.redeemed613.com.