Forgiveness is the first and probably the hardest lesson the Holy Spirit - the Counselor - imparted to me when I finally turned to Him for help. I had carried around so much baggage for so long, and I really didn't know what to do with it. Not to get into too much detail here, but I had been rejected by every single person I had ever loved (not an exaggeration!) and consequently blamed myself – you see, all of those people couldn't be wrong so there must have been something horribly unlovable about me, and when you got right down to it, I really didn't deserve to live.
But the Holy Spirit had other ideas for me.
He gave me one word:
Matthew 6:12 - "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."
Matthew 6:14-15 - "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
Well, I knew there was a lot in my life for which I needed forgiveness, and I yearned for that forgiveness! But could I really have been to blame for everything? After all, it wasn't me who did the rejecting.
So I dug underneath the hurt and pain, and found that what I had really been carrying around with me was anger and resentment. I had been seeking the Lord for five years, and was no closer at that point than I had been at the beginning of my search, and I knew that something had been keeping me from Him. Could that something have been the anger I harbored against those who had abandoned me?
"Forgive them," the Holy Spirit urged me.
"But WHY?!" I demanded. "They're dead, or at least lost to me – what good will forgiving them do now? And they never even acknowledged that they did anything wrong!" See, I remembered reading something in Luke about how the one who did wrong had to repent – found it in Luke 17:3-4 – "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins againstyou, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sinsagainst you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returnsto you, saying, `I repent,' you shall forgive him."
"Forgive them," my Counselor urged again.
Matthew 18:21-22 - Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how oftenshall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seventimes?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times,but up to seventy times seven."
"But WHY?!" I demanded again. "They don't need my forgiveness! They won't even know I've forgiven them!"
"No," the Counselor said, "but you need to do the forgiving. It is for your benefit that Jesus told you to forgive."
And He showed me Matthew 18:34-35 - "And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."
Those torturers, I understood, had been at work in me for most of my life – their names were, of course, Anger, Resentment, Fear, Pain, and Hurt. And I was tired of their power over me!
And again, He led me to Mark 11:25-26 - "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."
Then He took me to Luke 6:37 - "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."
And then He brought it all full-circle to the other version of the Lord'sPrayer in Luke 11:4 – "And forgive us our sins, for we also forgiveeveryone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation,but deliver us from the evil one."
So, one by one, I forgave each person who had ever harmed me, as my Counselor brought them to my remembrance. It wasn't an easy thing to do, believe me -- there'd been a lot of anger buried inside me for a lot of years, and I was quite used to being mad. I had to keep reminding myself, whenever I thought of something hurtful from my past, "No, wait a minute – I forgave them."
And do you know what happened? It was absolutely amazing – all that anger, resentment, pain, fear, hurt – it all began to fade away. I hardly even noticed it going, until I woke one morning and discovered it was pretty much gone.
Then came the REALLY hard part: Admitting the things that truly were my fault, "owning" the sins I did commit that contributed to the loss, rejection and abandonment I faced, and repenting of these wrongs. But I had to do it, so that I could be forgiven.
And, of course, my sins were indeed forgiven - a fact which amazes and exhilerates me every day, and moves me to fall to my knees in gratitude. . .
But had I not forgiven those who hurt me, I would not have been able to see my own sins clearly enough to truly repent.
I know well the unbearable weight of a burden of anger. But I also knowh ow great it feels to go through life without such a burden to carry! Jesus said, "Come unto Me, you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." He gave me rest – through forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not mean being a doormat – rather, it is one very effective way to claim that precious "peace that passes understanding" (Philippians 4:7).
Anyone who has hurt you, anyone who has caused you pain, anyone who has sinned against you – these I urge you, as the Holy Spirit urged me, to forgive. Whether these people are still in your life or not, the damage from their acts still is. And the only way to find healing for that damage is through forgiveness.
Whether your forgiveness restores any relationships or not, it is still necessary for your own good. No broken relationship is going to be restored without forgiveness, but restoration isn't always necessary or even possible (many of the people I had to forgive were already long dead, for instance).
And whether or not the person(s) you need to forgive ever repents is also a secondary consideration in light of your own peace of mind. Their repentence is necessary for THEM, but not for you. The forgiveness is there if they ever want it. . .
. . . just like God's forgiveness has been ours since Jesus bought it with a price and is just waiting for us to claim it.
In His forgiving love,