Forgiving and forgetting are so simple to say and in concept so simply correct but in life so complex and often times so difficult to carry out. Even the Disciples asked Jesus how many times they had to forgive a person of transgressing against them. Examples of unforgiving and unforgetting abound in our world. From the pages of history, global politics, national headlines to the “war” between the sexes, exes, and those with whom we have some nexus, we all struggle with giving forgiveness when injured and moving forward in wholeness. Forgiveness is the transcendent quality of our faith and is at its core. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son . . . .”
Forgiveness is one of the pillars of good relationships and without it any relationship will be unstable at best. I know of no person or relationship that is perfect, without defect or occasional dysfunction. We all mess up, act unbecomingly and badly. My mirror attests that this is no lie. Therefore, in order for relationships to thrive, forgiving and forgetting, are essential. From the tiniest transgression to the apparent deal breaker God instructs us to forgive. We all have experienced and witness people deteriorate because of long held unforgiveness. Even in the short term, holding such feeling makes us unhappy. I have been at times miserable because I have harbored an unforgiving nature towards my wife or my boss. One of the ironic twists is many times the person not forgiven is oblivious and feels no ill effect and we stew in misery. So how do we forgive and forget?
I believe this is key; the foundation and incentive to forgive lays with God’s treatment of you and me. Using Psalms 103 Pastor Ed excellently presented a glimpse into how extensive God’s love translates into forgiveness. It seems a universal phenomenon that people react magnanimously when they remember they have been treated kindly and graciously; so too with forgiveness. Remembering brings about a change in heart. Deeply remembering the grace and mercy of God brings our hearts to a tender and grateful place. It is from these depths of mercy that the forgiving spirit springs forth.
I have been told, “You don’t know what I have been through. After this, how do I forgive and forget?” You have heard this or said these words yourselves. The spiritual stuff stated above is fine but how does it work in real life? As Christ-followers, first, you must remember this, God forgave you and He asks that we “pay it forward” and forgive. Second, forgiving someone is an act of will and not an emotion. It is an intentional act. Strong emotions will be encountered but this is still a matter of choice. God will honor your choice in obedience to Him. Third, forgetting is very emotional and a huge step in faith; Faith to allow God to heal your broken heart, mind and soul because it is so emotional. I hold this perspective; it is better when considering the forgetting aspect of forgiveness, to view this as getting to the place where the offense has no more power over you. It doesn’t mean we have our memory erased but it does mean when it does come to mind, the sting and agony, are dim.
When you forgive out of obedience and faith, God shows up. Pastor Ed referenced Joseph. If there was a man who had reason to not forgive and forget, it was Joseph. Joseph stated in Genesis 41:51, “God has made me forget all my trouble . . . .” How did God do that for Joseph? Honestly I do not know and I do not know how He will show up in your lives when you choose to forgive. I do know He is a personal and loving God having compassion on His children. Pray and ask. As a child of God, He will respond in ways that are best suited for you. I have seen God use His own Words in the Bible to impact and impress. Sometimes I have seen the contrite and humble approach of the “other person” help but sometimes this never happens and you are left with resolution all on you. I have seen God use the passage of time to heal but more often I have seen Him use the loving-kindness and support of faithful friends and family. I have seen God use the guidance of a counselor or therapist. I have seen God use our own GateWay Church in amazing ways. I have seen a heart attack bring two estranged hearts together. I have seen God use the birth of a child to transform relationships. However He chooses to work, His blessing are new every morning; great is His faithfulness.
Is it time for you to make the choice to forgive someone then patiently allow God to bring healing? If you are having a hard time making a decision, let us at GateWay help.