Sunday, April 28, 2013

How Do You Know When You Have Truly Forgiven?

Last spring, as I studied my Bible to help me work through something difficult, I took notes as the Lord led me through it. I did not post it at the time because I did not want to add anything else to the situation. I scheduled it months ago to post on Sundays in April and May.

One of the questions I get a lot is how I am able to forgive certain things that have happened to me. Often, the person is cautioning me to hold onto some resentment as a way of protecting myself. That's not what my God teaches or desires from me. I can give complete forgiveness and still check in with Him every step of the way. God has never let me down in this and some very incredible answers to prayers have resulted from it. I greatly desire His blessings in my life, so that is a strong motivator to do things His way over my way. That doesn't mean I don't wrestle sometimes though.

An enemy is someone who deliberately hurts you. God says I was once enemies with Him with my willful sin. (Romans 5:10) Realizing who I was and the weight of what He did makes it easier to forgive those who hurt me. I've done the hard work through self examination, prayer, and aligning my will with God's. But, have I really let it go? How do I know for sure I've truly forgiven? 

When we hold onto bad feelings, we are in bondage. The joy I know in Christ is dampened as long as I stay full of those negative thoughts and feelings. When I surrender those, God returns my joy. My spirit soars with the freedom in Christ after being in bondage to my rebellion.

God restores my peace. I am no longer constantly thinking about what happened. 

God changes my focus. I stop thinking about how it made me or mine feel and how it hurt our lives. Instead, I start thinking about what I can do to help them see that God wants to give them more than what they have. I start praying for them to find peace and forgiveness. My thoughts change from self-ish to self-less.

My attitude towards them changes. God gently reminds me that we are imperfect people trying to relate in imperfect circumstances. He loves them, so I should too. They are created in His image so there is something good about them. 

God will give me insight to their motives. Sometimes I see the person was in a completely different place than I was, so what looked like to me was hurtful, was actually them making a good gesture. It was thoughtless, but not spiteful.

The angry feelings go away. God takes those out and puts deep, abiding love for the person in my heart. It seems like the worse they were to me, the more love God puts in my heart for them after they hurt me. I understand how someone is able to love someone who murdered their loved one. It's because of the measure of love God pours out to fill the void of the deep hurt He took away. People who have not seen this in their own walk with the Lord don't comprehend this, but it happens.

I am able to accept them right where they are. I can accept their imperfections and weaknesses. When they sin again, I understand it is because of that part of them that is weak. 

I no longer want to punch them in the nose (retaliate), but want see them so I can hug them. I want to tell them how much love God has put in my heart for them so they can hear His love for them. I can't contain this. It's spills out of me onto them. This is another thing many don't understand until it happens to them. It's real, and it happens when you give your grievances against another person to the Lord.

God puts a desire to have them back in my life. Since I am very familiar with deep hurt, this is unsettling to me. I don't like getting hurt and know very well it can happen again. Resisting what God is putting in my heart is rebellion. I have to remind myself that I can safely trust the Lord. (This is NOT the same as a relationship with an abusive person.) 

It is a sad fact that the relationships God meant to bless us can become so mixed up with sin that they end up bringing us a great deal of pain. I believe all things are possible with God. He can do anything! The freewill He has given us means all things are not possible with an individual who refuses the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. God will attempt to work in their life, but He will give them a choice to accept or refuse. We are to be focused on our lives, not theirs. God looks to our heart and knows where we stand in a relationship...exampling Christ by being willing to forgive or exampling satan by being ready to accuse...and will reward or discipline us accordingly.

To the people in my life who think I forgive too easily... You can only see the outside. Inside, there is a lot going on. It costs me to forgive, but I gain more than I lose. I struggle. I take steps forward only to slip backwards and have to do that work again. But, that is how you grow. You keep trying without giving up. You keep seeking the Lord's help and take action where He leads. You self discipline those negative thoughts and feelings with Scripture. You make the God honoring choice even when it is the hard choice.