Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven
I don’t know about you, but I have found that forgiveness is a different experience for various people and many times, larger people, struggle with past circumstances in life which push them towards unhealthy behavior.
Let me explain, as someone who has struggled with my weight over all my life, I realize that self-esteem was at the root of much of my behavior. You see, growing up moving from town to town, and always being the new kid...there were times early on where I was made fun of for all kinds of reasons, and I began to believe that I just deserved much of the behavior.
I allowed words said to me and actions taken against me to just pile up. I never let them go, never forgave the people who did and said things, I just let them sit. I had some very tragic and unjust actions occur that were sad, unnecessary, and ugly.
Part of my health journey while on Biggest Loser was realizing that I had to move through forgiveness and embrace who I was.
When we struggle with forgiveness, we experience a barrier to our spiritual growth.
Over the last number of years, I have come across several writings on forgiveness and I’ve adopted them as my own. What I’m going to share today is not my own, but it is what I have come to practice. So I want to thank all the various writers and pastors who have helped me forgive.
One author wrote about what forgiveness is not.
- When you forgive a person, it does not mean you are immediately healed.
- When you forgive a person, it does not mean you are going to be buddy/buddy.
- When we forgive a person, it does not mean we surrender the right to restitution or justice when appropriate.
- When we forgive a person, it does not mean that we trust them.
- When we forgive a person, we are not avoiding pain, we are opening the door to healing.
- When we forgive, we take the journey at the pace we are able to handle...the deeper the hurt, the longer the journey.
What is forgiveness?
Some people who have troubles with forgiveness think that forgiveness does not take the harm of sin seriously. But forgiveness does take it very seriously. Forgiveness does not excuse sin, it does not say "O that’s alright, your sin really wasn’t a bother, my stay in the hospital wasn’t that long, and I was able to catch up on my reading!" No forgiveness calls sin, sin, and in many ways it holds the sinner accountable for their actions. Forgiveness is to release, to let go, relinquish, get rid of sin—ours and those we’ve been victimized by.
You have most likely heard someone say, Or maybe you have said yourself "Ill forgive them when they come and say they are sorry." This is not God’s way God says "I forgive you, now will you accept it by confessing and repenting?" If we wait for a confession to forgive, most often we will be waiting a long time.
We must remember that God’s grace is free, but it is not cheap. When God’s grace comes into our lives, it does not leave us as we were, it changes us. And one of the first changes that it make is to give us the power to forgive. By forgiving others we are proving that we have accepted God’s forgiveness, and are living in it!
1) Forgiveness is a process.
If we have wronged someone, I mean seriously wounded them, it is unfair for us to go to them and say, “I’m really sorry I hurt you, can you forgive me.” In many ways this approach can not take seriously the wrong committed against another. What we should say instead is, “I have wronged you. I recognize that. I deeply regret what I have done. I will live now in a different way, and hope that someday forgiveness will be possible between us.” The focus needs to be on making amends, and not just seeking forgiveness. You see, we must realize that forgiveness is not about clearing a perpetrator’s conscience. It is not about bringing peace to the life of the wrongdoer. The focus of forgiveness and reconciliation is about bringing healing to the victim. You see when we discuss forgiveness we cannot separate it from reconciliation and healing.
As a victim, if we are unable to clearly forgive, and meant it—we should respond and say, “I too want forgiveness to be real between us. Can we work on it until we know that we’ve experienced it together?”
2) Forgiveness is hard work.
It is not easy to give up our right to be hurt, to be angry to get back, to hate the other for what they have done. You may have had terrible things done to you by someone you loved and trusted, and they hurt you and broke your trust. You may have lost a great deal because of someone’s actions.
3) Forgiveness is an act of faith.
All of the above is true. Forgiveness is a process; it is hard work, and it is an act of faith. Forgiveness says, "you hurt me, and what you did was wrong, but I will not hold it against you, I will not try to get back at you and I will not hate you for it." Forgiveness brings freedom, joy, and life. The lack of forgiveness brings obsession, resentment, bitterness, and death.
We must forgive those who have hurt us. Not only because God commands it, but because it is the best thing for us. When we refuse to forgive the bitterness grows like cancer within us and it eats away at us, causing stress and illness and great lack of joy.
When we refuse to forgive, we allow the sin that was committed against us to continue to make us its’ victim. We need to stop the pain and forgive.
In l880, James Garfield was elected president of the United States, but after only six months in office, he was shot in the back with a revolver. He never lost consciousness. At the hospital, the doctor probed the wound with his little finger to seek the bullet. He couldn’t find it, so he tried a silver-tipped probe. Still he couldn’t locate the bullet.
They took Garfield back to Washington, D.C. Despite the summer heat, they tried to keep him comfortable. He was growing very weak. Teams of doctors tried to locate the bullet, probing the wound over and over. In desperation they asked Alexander Graham Bell, who was working on a little device called the telephone, to see if he could locate the metal inside the president’s body. He came, he sought, and he too failed. The president hung on through July, through August, but in September he finally died-not from the wound, but from infection. The repeated probing, which the physicians thought would help the man, eventually killed him.
So it is with people who dwell too long on their wounds and refuse to release it in forgiveness to God and to others.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 MSG Don’t sit there watching the wind. Do your own work. Don’t stare at the clouds. Get on with your life.