It was such a timely conversation, as my ladies' small group just discussed the topic of forgiveness as a part of our study of Priscilla Shirer's book, The Resolution for Women. Among the women in the group there were all sorts of old hurts and scars...from parents, from close friends, from spouses. The gut wrenching stories, the pain that made us cringe and tear up even as we discussed it, led to a few seemingly legitimate points for us about WHY it is so hard to forgive:
What if the offender isn't sorry and/or asking for forgiveness?
If I let it go it, won't it feel like they got away with this?
Is that fair?
The pain is real. The questions are valid. Yet, they do not negate the primary message of the Gospel: forgive as you have been forgiven.
"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" Colossians 3:13 NIV
"Forgiveness means releasing into His hands the person, the circumstance and the outcome. All of it. That's the way He did it with us, right?"
And so as my precious friend with tear-filled eyes committed, "I can't carry this forever. As difficult as it is, even when I don't want to, I must forgive" my heart was being indelibly marked. He's gone. He made his choice and now it is time for her to make hers. She has decided to not be stuck in this place of bitterness. I was moved...by her vulnerability, her courage and her obedience.
As Priscilla Shirer wrote: "This is the framework of forgiveness we are to follow--releasing others from the very real charges we've stacked up against them and freeing them from their debt, whether they've admitted their mistake or not...Forgiveness is a miracle. It really is. It's a supernatural outworking of God's Spirit through you, enabling you to extend something you could never do apart from His indwelling activity."
My friend and I discussed that it is the essence of the word itself. To forgive is to FOR-go my flesh's desire to hold onto my hurts and to GIVE them up to my Father in heaven so He can heal my heart. To forgive is to FOR-go my temptation to lord past mistakes over another and GIVE them over to God so He can handle it.
Unless we all shrink wrap our hearts, this will be a part of the human experience. It is a tale as old as time, the reality that broken people inevitably hurt each other. As Paul David Tripp writes, "Find comfort as you read Scripture because the mess of relationships that we deal with everyday is on almost every page of the Bible."
We must examine our hearts and submit our fleshly feelings to Him for healing, peace and strength. And as hard as it sounds, I am convinced it is the way to feel light and free.