This is something that has been on my heart for a long time. My whole purpose for writing this blog is to encourage people towards living the abundant life God has for them. As I sit and ponder about the topic of abundant living, my heart always turns towards the topic of forgiveness.
Listen to me closely, my friends. It is IMPOSSIBLE to live a joy-filled, abundant life when there is unforgiveness in your heart. There is a reason God commands us to forgive others in the Bible, and it’s not just for the other person.
What Does it Mean to Forgive?
To forgive someone who has wronged you, is to show them an act of love. 1 Corinthians 13:5 notes that love keeps no records of wrong. This is what God has done for us, and what we should do for others. In Psalm 103:12 it says “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
My dear friends, God desires so deeply for us to live an abundant life, that he designed a beautiful system of forgiveness just for us. Then he modeled it for us, in the most intimate way, by giving it to us freely.
Why Should We Forgive?
We all have our hurts. Our pains that dig deep into the soul of who we are. We are designed to need affection, fellowship, and interaction with others, and when those relationships go awry, we get hurt. It’s natural, we are humans. Some of you have dealt with unimaginable hurts, betrayal, and abuses of all kinds. It has left you broken and trying to gather up the pieces. You have lived your whole life trying to hold yourself together, but the pain is still raw, and the anger/hatred/bitterness is pulsing through your veins. You want to experience joy, you want to experience freedom from the burden of the injustices that have been done to you. But how? And why? The questions haunt you.
God Forgave Us
You are beloved. Did you know that? God loves you with an infinite, unending, passionate, all-knowing, deep, sacrificial love. Yes, he loves you so much that he sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross in payment for your sins. In 1 John 1:9 it says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Therefore, if God can love and forgive us, and we are called to live our lives according to God’s will, then we should love and forgive others as well.
Unforgiveness Breeds Unhappiness
When unforgiveness is given room to fester in our hearts it creates the perfect atmosphere to breed unhappiness and discontent. It becomes easy to dwell on the hurt and the pain. I know so many people who are so stuck on a hurt from the past that they are not able to see the joys in the present. It’s like they are driving in a car looking through the rear view mirror. It’s time to let go. It’s time to experience the joy that God has for you today instead of rehashing the pain that you’ve experienced in the past.
There is Freedom in Forgiveness
Forgiving someone who has hurt you does not mean that you are going to let them hurt you again. It isn’t something that the other person has to earn. Forgiveness is for you! Lewis B. Smedes, a Christian author and professor, once said “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
I Want to Forgive, But I Don’t Know How
Some of you really want to forgive. You want the sweet release of freedom that comes with forgiveness. But you just don’t know how. The pain is too real and it runs too deep. If that’s you, the best place to start is just praying for that other person. You may not want to, it may hurt, but I promise you that if you start praying for the person who has hurt you, you will open up the door to allow forgiveness room to enter.
An Incredible Testimony of Forgiveness
If there is anyone who is qualified to speak on the power of forgiveness, it’s Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie’s family lived during the time of the Holocaust and helped many Jews escape by hiding them in a secret room in their house. You can read about it in her book The Hiding Place (affiliate link). Eventually they were caught and sent to a concentration camp where they were beaten, tortured, and abused on a daily basis. Corrie watched as her sister suffered and eventually died in one of these camps. Later, after she was released on a clerical error, she was put in a situation where she came face to face with one of her worst captors. Here is her account of how God brought her to a place of forgiveness.
“It was 1947, and I’d come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. It was the truth that they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown.
‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the
deepest ocean, gone forever. And even though I cannot find a Scripture for it, I believe God then places a sign out there that says, ’NO FISHING ALLOWED.’
The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a cap with skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush—the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were! That place was Ravensbruck, and the man who was making his way forward had been a guard—one of the most cruel guards.
Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!” And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? But I remembered him. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard there.” No, he did not remember me. “But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein,”—again the hand came out—”will you forgive me?”
And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again been forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place. Could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart.
But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.” And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust out my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!” For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then. But even then, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit.
[Holocaust Victim Forgives Captor, Citation: Corrie Ten Boom, Tramp for the Lord (Berkley, 1978), pp. 53-55] (source)”