This is easily one of the most challenging things for me. Sometimes the offense is small. Other times… not so much.
My parents stayed married until I was 23, but the marriage I saw was not a healthy one. My dad would look for satisfaction in affairs which severed his connection with my mom and me.
I was disgusted and angry with my dad’s behavior. The anger held gave me a sense of power, maybe even control of the situation. I used it as a defense mechanism, so that I wouldn’t experience the deep sadness and pain that was there. Over time, that anger and bitterness calloused my heart. It had trapped me inside the walls that I had built.
Through a long journey, years later, I came to realize that my dad was also God’s son, was stuck in his own sin, and if Christ had paid the debt for my sin, He had also paid for his. Who was I to hold onto anger and bitterness if Christ had already forgiven him?
Through my journey, I learned about several truths. They transformed the way I approached forgiveness. Letting go of the lies I had believed, released me. Learning how much I had been forgiven also helped me tremendously. I was not only able to forgive my dad, but by God’s grace, we were able to pursue reconciliation.
5 Truths of Forgiveness:
Truth # 1 – Forgiveness is a choice, not an emotion.
Matthew 15:18-19a says, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person..” I did not want unforgiveness holding me back or leading me to something that I would one day regret. Once I made the choice to forgive, my emotions started to line up with that decision.
Truth #2 – Forgiveness is not waiting for an apology.
Some people will go to their grave without asking for forgiveness. But, holding onto bitterness and anger will prevent you from moving forward. Ephesians 4:31 says “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger…” God is calling us to action – to forgiveness regardless of whether the other person asks for it so that others will get a glimpse of His goodness.
Truth #3 – Forgiveness is not ceasing to feel pain.
Sometimes a well meaning Christian will say “If it still hurts, then you haven’t forgiven.” Wrong. Just because it hurts doesn’t mean you have failed to forgive. Christ can empathize with our pain, because He has been there. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”
Truth #4 – Forgiveness is NOT a one time event.
This is something you will be doing for the rest of your life. This world is full of pain. There will be constant opportunity for extending forgiveness. Matthew 18:21-22 reminds us of this, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!
Truth # 5 – Forgiveness is realizing what Christ has done for you (and in turn showing that to others).
Friends, we have been forgiven much! Jesus died on the cross for every single sin you have already committed, might currently be committing, and will commit in the future. Psalm 103:10-12 is a sweet reminder because it says that “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
Extending forgiveness is a really hard thing to do, but Jesus commands us to do it. He has forgiven us way more by dying on the cross for all of our sins than we will ever have to extend forgiveness to others.
Because of what I have learned through Christ, today, my dad and I have a decent relationship. We share things with each other over text and occasionally, Facetime. Praise God for the healing He continues to do in our lives.