Choosing Forgiveness

By MeLissa LeFleur

Two days after Christmas, a person I have never met impacted my life in a real way. He took something very dear away from me. Without knowing it, he impacted my life forever.

In the following days, I realized that the wound inside wasn't becoming an ounce lighter. In fact, the hurt became heavier each moment. I knew that if I continued to hold on to the burden, it would become increasingly heavier, until it was all consuming.

Then I had a realization: If my happiness is determined by what happens to me or how people treat me, I will always be a victim. Is that what I really want?

I had a choice to make. Would I forgive him or would I let his prideful choices rule my future? The choice didn't come easily. The choice was painful.

I chose forgiveness.
Father, I choose to forgive. I release the offender and let this offense go. I relinquish the right to hold on to this offense. I accept that You allowed these wounds in order to strengthen draw me deeper into your loving hand. Even though I don't understand, I choose to trust You.
The term forgiveness comes from the Greek word aphiemi, which means "to let go, to give up, to keep no longer." It means to wipe a slate clean or to cancel a debt. To some, forgiveness seems like weakness. Instead, forgiveness is an act of the will. Forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. Forgiveness is a deliberate act of love, mercy, and grace. Forgiveness is a decision to not hold something against another person, despite what they have done to you.

In the Bible, forgiveness isn't presented as a process or a 10-step check-list. It isn't an emotion we conjure up inside of us or a work to obtain. Biblical forgiveness is an act of the will. It is act of faith. God's forgiveness of us isn't a "not-until-I'm-good-and-ready" emotion. It isn't a work in progress. Instead God's forgiveness is openly available and freely given.

I've learned much about forgiveness from two of my spiritual heroes:

Corrie TenBoom recalls a time when she came face to face with a Nazi guard who had imprisoned her. She says that her blood froze when he asked her, "Will you forgive me?" She wrestled in her heart and just 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." She forgave that man, the man who had committed such atrocities toward her. "I forgive you, brother!" she cried. "With all my heart!" She describes the encounter, "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." (From Guideposts.)

Gracia Burnham and her husband were abducted by Filipino terrorists and lived in captivity and abuse for over a year. If you know her story, you know she walked out of that jungle without her husband Martin who was killed during their rescue:
"I found that as long as I blamed the Abu Sayyaf [the group holding them hostage], my heart remained in turmoil. I blamed the terrorists; I blamed the Philippine military for their ineptness; I blamed the American government for not waving some magic wand to free us; I even blamed God because...well, He's in control of everything, isn't He?

"I began to realize that my resentment wasn't serving any useful purpose...Anger in the face of trauma is understandable. But that doesn't make it productive...The alternative, of course, was to forgive, even without the benefit of an apology from the offender. I could choose to forgive, all by myself.

"But then a new day would dawn," she admits, "and a new injustice would erupt. I would be faced with a fresh need to forgive. This was a conscious decision I would have to make and remake as time went by. In fact, it became a pattern. And therein lay a path back to self-control and composure.

"I did not pray, 'God, help me forgive.' To do so would have been to dodge my own responsibility…The task was squarely mine, although once I chose to obey, God certainly gave me the strength to do so."
(Gracia Burnham, To Fly Again: Surviving the Tailspins of Life)
Forgiveness is more than a way to find personal freedom or somehow attempt to ease the pain we feel or even a way to reconcile with others. The ultimate goal of forgiveness is to bring glory to God. When we forgive others, it puts God's forgiving power on display for the world to see. While it's healing for us, it is honoring to God and is a powerful example of how God forgave us.

You may have been the punching bag of an abusive husband. You may have been abused by your parents or raped by a horrible person. I encourage you to face how badly you have been hurt. You may have been hurt in ways I can't even comprehend. I urge you to get the help you need and then make the decision to forgive. It will set a good example for the future. You will be wronged again. You will be hurt again. You will be offended again. Learn now how to respond. There is no offense that is too great. So, do it. Choose to forgive. If you wait until you feel like it, it will never happen.

John 16:33 says, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."
The outcome of our lives is not determined by what happens to us but by how we respond to what happens to us…When we as God's children realize that His grace is sufficient for every situation, that by the power of His indwelling Spirit we have the ability to respond with grace and forgiveness to those who have sinned against us — at that point we are no longer victims. We are free to rise above whatever may have been done to us, to grow through it, and to become instruments of grace, reconciliation, and redemption in the lives of other hurting people and even in the lives of our offenders. - Nancy DeMoss
Forgiveness isn't free. It is hard and painful. The cost is immense. Just remember, providing for our forgiveness was hard and painful for Jesus too.

Image Credit: Caro; "forgive me"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | God-Father  | Hardships  | Personal-Life  | Personal-Relationships
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Published on 4-15-2014