I remember years ago being in a parenting class in the basement of Faith Tabernacle. We had been talking for a few weeks on forgiveness and how to really walk through it successfully. I remember my one friend, Sheryl, she was completely vulnerable and uttered a comment wrapped in a question that really resembled what so many of us struggled with. She said, "I go and pray and when I start to pray my desire is to bless my enemy but it takes everything in me in that instant for me not to start cursing them.” What a profound statement, why? Because we’ve all been there! How many times have we gone to pray and we’ve really really reallllllly wanted to extend forgiveness to someone, but in the same instance our brain is being rattled as it recalls all that this person has done to us!
So many times I’ve come to the Father and started praying for someone I’ve been struggling with. I’ll ask The Lord to bless them and literally as I pray that, my mind ceases… and I think, “Well, I dont’ want the to be blessed more than I am!” Oh God forgive me, bless them. I pray you would give them the desires of their heart” And the whole time I'm trying to pray, my flesh and my spirit are waring! Really, You have to exercise forgiveness. You have to WORK.. and I mean sometimes you really have to WOOORRRK at forgiving people. They’ll be the same people that will walk all over you. They’ll be the ones that will dismiss your gifts, take advantage of you, slight you and abuse you. Our job is to release it, and to trust God.
The world tells us pay them back, that they dont’ deserve you, they don’t deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t saying let’s have coffee once a week and be BFF’s. Forgiveness is releasing them. It’s the art of letting go of unfulfilled expectation. It’s the art of letting go of being wronged. It’s picking up those heavy bags, dropping them off at the foot of the cross and trusting that God will heal all things in due time and take care of what needs to be taken care of. I remember one summer we took our youth to a youth conference in Indiana. The Youth Pastor, Gary Osborne was sharing about forgiveness. He was giving an example of how we’ll say we’ve forgiven someone, but when that person does us wrong again, we go over to the filing cabinet, take out the file with their name on it and go over EVERYTHING they’ve done and every wrong they’ve made against us! How many times have we said, “You’re forgiven!” Only to be wronged again! We march right over to that filing cabinet, yank our their file and throw it in their face. I’m telling you, I am SOOO thankful that when I do a bonehead thing the Lord doesn’t march over to the filing cabinet and pull out my file! I’m thankful that He’s gracious to forgive and cleanse me from all unrighteousness!
The Psalms say, "As far as the east is from the west that’s how far our transgressions are from Him.”
So when I start to feel justified, when I start to feel entitled, when I want to pin someone to the wall, I pray, "God remind me what I’ve been forgiven of! Remind me of how clean you’ve made my slate!" When Jamie was young in his faith, he prayed for the Father’s Heart. A heart of love and compassion, a heart of forgiveness, he prayed for an unoffendable heart” and wow, He has been a great encouragement in this for me. There are many people who have done us wrong, many who have walked out, many who have slighted, many who have abandoned, many who have hurt us/me. But we continually pray for God’s best over them, honestly that’s the best medicine. It’s the best advice. It sounds CRAZYYYYY!! Especially because some wrongs are deep. Some leave DEEP DEEP wounds in our lives. Some leave holes and scars. Sometimes we are left with other peoples messes. They come into our life, leave it it shambles, they dust their hands off, move on and leave us struggling to pick up the pieces. Those are the hard ones. Those are the ones we have to pray and ask God to guard our hearts and we HAVE to call our thoughts to attention. Pray. Trust God as the great judge, and not in a way that says, “GO GET EM” GOD!” But God, give me the grace to be able to walk through this with a clean heart, a clean mind and pure motives. There are some who have done things to hurt us and they have absolutely no idea they have. Release it. Look at it through a clean lens. Take off the offended glasses, cast off previous hurts and rejection so you can assess the situation properly. So many have years and years of hurt, of unforgiveness, rejection, and bitterness pent up that even the tiniest of situations can offend them. Ask the Lord to heal your heart and mind, or your wounds WILL go deeper, and deeper and deeper. When you ask Him to heal you, you know what? He will!
I remember one day I was driving to a women’s group. I remember on the way there thinking of these ladies and all the crazy lives they’ve had. Some women have been abused, abandoned, trafficked, addicted, divorced, widowed, etc… as I was sitting at the intersection of Huron and Clark, I started weeping feeling completely inadequate. I remember crying out to God, “Why did you choose me to minister to these women? WHY? How do I tell them to move on? How do I tell them to forgive and let go? God I can’t even relate to them, why me?! I am completely unqualified to do this! And just like that a WAVE hit me, and I mean HIT ME HARD! Holy Spirit started FLASHING situations I'd gone through in my life, that I had come through and COMPLETELY forgotten about. I mean completely! At that moment I needed windshield wipers for my eyeballs because I was out of control. My God, had literally healed my heart from some really, really dark times. Dark times as a teen mom, dark times in my marriage, dark times of abandonment, dark times of failures, dark times of rejection. I was the perfect one to minister to this group! Now it was GAME ON! Oh man, when Holy Spirit lights me up from the inside you better watch out! Game over, the lies have been revealed and the truth was about to be unleashed and these women set free! I have been healed, I have extended forgiveness, I have come out of the fire untouched and unscorched, come on people just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, I had no SMELL OF FIRE on my clothing!! If you could have seen me walk into that Group, it was Game OVER! I had been a testimony! I had gone through some GARBAGGGGE! I had had some people do some terrible things to me, but when I asked, when I contended for their forgiveness, when I went to bat in prayer asking God to bless them and like my friend said at the same time wrestling with not wanting to curse them, God started working!Why? Because I continually went back to the foot of the cross! See forgiveness doesn’t help the one whose offended or hurt you, forgiveness helps you! It takes your hard heart and softens it again. It will clear your thought life, it will allow you to think on people and really hope for the best for them. You WILL have to FIGHT for forgiveness and fighting is messy. Fighting is painful, but when you come out on top, it will be worth it! Blame comes natural for us. But when we learn to step up to the plate, when we learn to take ownership of our own thoughts and heart and release forgiveness, we WIN, EVERY SINGLE TIME!
If God before us, who can be against us!
John Bevere said it best, “Those who can’t forgive, have forgotten what they’ve been forgiven of.’
No matter how hard, no matter how bad, God can literally renew your mind. God can heal your heart. God can heal your thought patterns, how do I know? Because He’s done it for me!