I didn’t want to forgive them. They’d emotionally abused me for a long time, and it felt like a bone bruise — deeply hurting and hard to heal. Like a dog, I licked that wound often over the years. It became a banner I could hang out when I wanted either sympathy or admiration for putting up with it for so many years. I mistakenly thought it made me a better Christian witness to acknowledge the pain I’d suffered, and still residually experienced.
But in reality, pride was at the heart of my resistance. If I forgave them, the hurt would dissolve. My banner would disintegrate at the foot of the cross and turn to dust. No more empathy from others.
When we harbor unforgiveness, we block the love and mercy the Father wants to give us. Our hardness of heart becomes a dam that withholds the flow of His life-giving Spirit. The verse above is not so much a tit for tat thing as it is a cause and effect. Until we go through the painstaking effort to forgive, that wound controls our thoughts, colors our view of the world, and dictates our reactions. God cannot make room in a heart so filled with concrete ugliness.
Once we practice forgiveness, we realize how wonderful it is that God forgives us. Jesus’ act of taking on our sins becomes even more vivid. It's like wearing a pair of glasses for the first time — everything is clearer, brighter, and more vibrant. Smugness dissolves. Our hearts melt. God enters.
Dear Lord, help me to be quicker to forgive so that the hurt doesn’t build up and block your mercy in my life. Help me to realize we all need forgiveness. Release the shackles of pain from my reactions so I may see others as you do. Then we can both heal. Amen.
Go Deeper — Look over some of these verses in the Bible on forgiveness. Ask God to open your heart to those you need to forgive and then help you go down that path.
Read Further — Read this testimony about how bitterness and unforgiveness can be toxic.
Photo Credit: Tony Lavoitch