“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV) bold and italics mine
I know resentment and forgiveness don’t mix. If anything, resentment leads to bitterness. And guess what? Bitterness loves to mess up our hearts. I don't know about you, but it does very strange things to me.
God did not hardwire me to walk around carrying heavy grudges or unbearable burdens. Eventually, they will take a toll on my life. Others around me will suffer the consequences of my ungracious heart.
What if forgiving feels like an impossibility? How can we know we’ve forgiven someone completely and fully?
Remember the grace that comes with our forgiveness. We have to remember how much God has forgiven us. If we don’t feel forgiven, we won’t want to forgive others. The more forgiven we feel by God, the more grace we’ll extend toward others.
Resist thoughts of revenge. Romans 12:19 says, “Never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it” (LB). Life seems so unfair, but one day God’s going to make everything right. He’s going to eliminate all the wrongs.
Seek to do good. How can you tell when you’ve forgiven somebody? When you can look at the other person’s hurt and you pray for God's blessing on them (Matt. 5:44). 1 Thessalonians 5:15 also says, “See that no one repays another with evil for evil.” If you allow the love of God to penetrate your life, you will seek to do good towards those who hurt you. Only the love of God can help you do this.
Focus on reconciliation. God focused on reconciliation the moment sin entered the world. We should do the same. "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18).
Repeat forgiveness as long as necessary. Peter came to Jesus and asked, “‘…Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’” (Matthew 18:21-22 NLT) How long do we have to keep forgiving? As long as it takes—until the pain stops and the desire to get revenge goes away.
Forgiveness doesn't mean the absence of anger at sin. We shouldn’t feel good about evil and sin. It hurts, it wants to destroy and it wants to break our spirit and hearts. However, with God’s love and through Christ, all thing are possible. God can produce repentance and faith in the heart of anyone (Luke 1:37, Gen. 18:14).
If you find yourself holding on to a hurt, remember God’s love and grace. Shift your mind away from the pain and focus on what forgiveness means. If you believe in your heart that God has done all of this for you and in you, you can and will extend grace to others who hurt you. You will forgive.
What hurt do you need to let go of? What good can you do for someone in your life who has wronged you? How can you extend grace to them today?
A portion of this blog post originally appeared in the Sacred Story Ministries blog.