There is no quality we can exhibit that speaks of God more than forgiveness. It is so rare and difficult that others take note when they see its reality. Anger, bitterness, and gossip often rule our relationships and marriages and decrease our witness to others. Many believers claim to have forgiven but their actions speak louder than their words and suggest otherwise.
Scripture clearly calls us to forgive as God forgives us (Matt. 6:12; Col. 3:12, 13; Eph. 4:30-32), but it’s not quite as easy as following a 1-2-3 outline, is it?
Have you ever struggled to forgive? How is it possible for us to forgive, especially when the offenders continue to be in our lives or we live with the consequences of the offense day after day?
My own experience has taught me how completely impossible it is without God’s work in our hearts and lives. We need his power and his love pouring through us if we are to forgive as he does—completely forgiving those who don’t deserve it.
One hindrance to forgiveness is the misunderstanding that forgiveness suggests that there wasn’t a wrong. Actually the opposite is true. If there is no offense, there is no debt to forgive. Forgiveness is the release of a debt. When we offend, hurt, and sin against others, we owe them something for the injury. When we forgive, we release it, giving them and the situation to God.
But that again isn’t quite as simple as it sounds when I hear teaching on it.
Years ago I was slandered and dealt with a lot of hurt and anger. I was teaching the Bible; I knew that I had to forgive, but it seemed impossible. My mind continually focused on fact that my name had been ruined with other people. I ended up feeling a lot of guilt over my inability to forgive. Perhaps you have felt the same way.
Now I know that rerunning the offense in my mind over and over was a big part of the problem. If that is what you are doing, ask God for help, replace the thoughts with scriptures that express faith and trust in God and his sovereignty (write down some favorites and read them repeatedly), and give him the people and the problem—over and over, day after day, minute by minute if necessary. Keep releasing the debt before God, acknowledging your inability to do it alone. In time the offense will begin to fade, your feelings will begin to change, and you will realize that you have forgiven your offender.
I am not a counselor or a psychologist; such people may provide other practical ways to forgive when it’s a struggle. All I can share is what I learned through my own tough time, from one struggler to another.
I would love to hear your story of struggling to forgive. It may help others move forward.