We’ve all been hurt. Whether through words or deeds, we’ve all experienced what it’s like to be deeply hurt by someone. In our hearts and minds, we know that forgiveness matters. Even those that don’t claim to be Christians know that forgiveness can bring freedom and peace. But how do we find the strength when it feels impossible to forgive? How do we move forward in our lives and relationships when someone has deeply hurt us or wronged us in some way? Is it even possible to let go?
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Why does forgiveness matter?
For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. – Matthew 6:14-15
Jesus made it clear. Forgiveness isn’t optional. It does, however, need to stem from the right heart. We forgive others, not because we have to, but because God forgave us.
Another reason to forgive is that it brings us both freedom and peace; while choosing not to forgive only reinforces the hurt in our lives. We begin to live our lives with a “victim” mentality. The pain someone brings to our lives only has power when we choose to live in that pain rather than forgive.
Do I have to forget to forgive?
The Bible doesn’t explicitly discuss the difference between forgiving and forgetting. But it’s safe to say we can draw some reasonable conclusions based on the Bible as a whole. The answer isn’t one size fits all, rather it’s case by case. This is why it is vital to be following the Holy Spirit’s lead. Was it a one-time offense? Hurtful words? Lies? Abuse?
One example the Bible does give is the issue of adultery and divorce. Jesus made it clear that divorce was permitted in the event of adultery. From this example, we can draw some reasonable conclusions about forgiveness. A person cheats on their spouse. That spouse is called to forgiveness. But that spouse is NOT required to stay married. They are not required to put themselves in a position where distrust would reign and they could possibly be cheated on once again.
While we are required to forgive, we are not required to be doormats. There are definitely circumstances where it makes sense to forgive and cut ties. We let go of relationships that continue to bring harm into our lives… especially if the offender is not willing to change their ways or admit their guilt. But this doesn’t mean we walk away from every person that wrongs us. Just as there are times where it makes sense to let go, there are also times when full restoration is in order. We simply need to live by the Spirit and follow His lead.
How do I find the strength when it feels impossible to forgive?
Honestly, it would be impossible to answer this question apart from Christ. I don’t know how people do it without Him. We’ve all been hurt… myself included. I know personally what it’s like to wonder how to cope when it seems impossible to forgive.
It’s not easy, but with Christ, all things are possible… even forgiveness.
Our strength comes from Him. Our wisdom comes from Him. And our healing comes from Him.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.