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The Key to Forgiveness

In my distress I called upon the Lord and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears.
-Psalm 18:6, NKJV

About two years ago, someone whom I had grown to trust, hurt me. It had taken me quite some time to trust this person and not long after I let my guard down, I felt the heavy blow of an emotional sucker punch. The person even tried to justify the behavior and cause me to question my perception of the event. As a result, the chance at a long-term friendship went out the window. I tried my best to move on, to forgive, and to forget. However, every time I saw the person or every time someone mentioned the person, I would feel hurt all over again. 

One day, during my quiet time with God, the person and the incident came to mind. God said that forgiving this person was a key component in my spiritual development. I cried out to God, “How do I forgive this person!” When I didn’t hear back from God, I ended my devotional time with unresolved feelings and went on about my morning. 

Later that day, I was attending a weekly midday prayer group. Usually, I just listen and pray silently. However, when the time came to share prayer requests, the Holy Spirit spoke and told me to speak. There was a long silence and God used that silence to make room for me to speak. 

I shared a few details with the group and told them that usually forgiveness is easy for me but this time I was finding it to be difficult. As I shared, I realized that I was struggling with being willing to forgive. I also realized that there are two components to forgiveness – being willing and being able. If we are willing, God can help us with being able; however, if we are not willing, God can’t help us. In that moment of revelation, I cried out to God once more, “God, help me to be willing to forgive!”

The beautiful thing was that the group never judged me. No one preached a sermon on forgiveness. No one made me feel guilty because I wasn’t perfect. No one asked for the details. No one took sides and tried to make me feel better. As people from the group prayed for me, people shared in the chat their similar experiences.

One of the group members reminded me that Jesus was betrayed, spat on, and killed. As soon as she said that I felt the heaviness of unforgiveness lift. That was what I’d forgotten, my Savior, my Hero, my Jesus. He had been through the same thing. He had been through worse. Jesus is well acquainted with the need to forgive, especially when the offense makes no sense. With just the thought of Jesus, just like that, two years of painful unforgiveness were gone. I was free! I am free!

This experience taught me a few things. First, I was not being honest with God. I was trying to skip a step. I didn’t want to admit that I was unwilling to forgive because it would make me a “bad” Christian. Plus, I didn’t want to get hurt again, which meant I kept up my guard. I needed to be willing to forgive instead of trying to make myself do it unwillingly. In other words, I needed to surrender to the process of forgiveness.

Second, because I was trying to force myself, I was trying to forgive all on my own. I had disconnected the power to forgive from the power of the Holy Spirit. Forgiveness is a divine act that requires divine intervention. We must place our forgiveness issues in God’s care.

Finally, until I was able to forgive, I was being held hostage in my spiritual healing, growth, and development. In other words, I was stuck in a moment from my past with no ability to flourish beyond that point. All of this is to say that while forgiveness may be hard, God is always willing and able. We simply need to cry out to God for help. 

Prompt for Thought: Are you struggling with unforgiveness, including forgiving yourself? Is it because you are unwilling or is it because you are unable? In either case, give it to God. Ask God to help you. Write out a prayer asking God for help with forgiveness. Pray the prayer expecting God to answer in perfect time in God’s own way. 

Prayer for the Journey: Dear God, we admit it, forgiveness is hard. Even forgiving ourselves is hard. Yet, while we know it’s hard, for you all things are possible. So, we come to you today with our forgiveness issues. Help us to see clearly through your eyes the purpose and power of forgiveness. Help us when we are unwilling. Help us when we are unable. Help us to always remember Jesus’ example of forgiveness, the ultimate example of love, the forgiveness of our sins, and the repair of the breach between you and us. God, thank you for loving us better than we could ever love ourselves. In Jesus’ name, Amen.