Saturday, August 14, 2010

Freedom in Forgiveness

I have come to understand that when you forgive someone, no matter who is at fault, you set yourself free. What I mean by that is when you decide to let go of anger and bitterness you feel towards another person, you're not just letting them off the hook, you are freeing yourself from physical and spiritual harm. It's a fact that holding a grudge can cause many different types of health issues like high blood pressure, depression, and it can even weaken your immune system making you susceptible to certain illnesses. Spiritually, unforgiveness can hinder you from receiving from God. In Matthew 6:15 Jesus says, "But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Just to be clear, this is not talking about salvation, as that is yours when you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. This is saying forgiveness is a part of serving God, and that we all need God's forgiveness since we are not perfect; therefore, we also need to forgive others as God forgives us when we fall short. I'm not saying that it's easy, but it is something that God wants us to do. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. I believe that can be hard for people to understand because when you're angry with someone and really hurt, the last thing you feel like doing is forgiving them because it seems like they are just getting away with what they have done. You want them to pay for what they have done, but keep in mind that when you decide to forgive, you're not saying that the person who hurt you is not at fault. What you're saying is that even though they did what they did, you are going to make a choice to forgive them and the rest is up to God.

I heard an amazing message on this subject not too long ago by R.T. Kendall. I listened to his message about how forgiveness is not a sign of weakness. It is actually you letting go and freeing yourself from the bondage of anger and torment over an issue that happened, and can't be changed. I know this freedom because I experienced it. Some years ago, I was hurt so badly by someone that I considered a friend. The betrayal and anger that I felt consumed most of my days and even at night when I would try to sleep. I just couldn't believe someone would lie and take advantage of me the way this person did. The anger I was feeling was interfering in different areas of my life. I didn't want it, yet I wasn't sure how to get rid of these feelings. I kept thinking how wrong this was, and that she shouldn't be allowed to get away with this. I began to pray about it and I didn't quite expect to get the answer that I got from God, which was to call this person and tell her that I just want to make peace and let go of whatever it was that went wrong between us. I was thinking, God you have to be kidding me! I thought He was going to tell me how He wants me to "in a Godly way" get back at her! I should have know better, because that's not God at all. We can get so wrapped up in our emotions, can't we? God doesn't need my help when dealing with someone else, and I have to admit as I was looking to God for help with this, He also showed me areas where I could have done things a little differently with this particular situation. Even so, I still didn't think I should be the one to have to call, so I waited a couple of weeks just in case there was a chance that God would change His mind. Well within those weeks, I would think about the issue pretty often. I would feel that anger stirring up inside, and right away the Holy Spirit reminded me that if I wanted freedom from this, I had to call her. I finally got the hint that God is smarter than me, and I knew I needed to be obedient. I also realized that God doesn't ever ask you to do anything that you are not capable of. It would not make sense for Jesus to have given the command to forgive if it was beyond our capabilities. I believe another reason God wants us to forgive is because He wants us to be in line with His Word, and to receive fully from Him. God delights in blessing His children, and He looks for those who are obedient. I wanted to be obedient so I called my friend and told her that what happened between us all those months ago, I am letting go of. I told her it doesn't matter who is to blame, I just want us to forget it and put it behind us. I could tell she was somewhat shocked as she didn't really say too much, except that she agreed with what I was saying. Surprisingly, I really didn't think about what her response was going to be to me. At the time, it just felt really good to say what I had to say, because no matter what her response would have been, I already made my decision to forgive. God, who is always faithful to His Word, freed me that day. To this very day, I have yet to get angry when I think about that issue, which I hardly ever think about. I have no problem praying for her, or even when I run into her from time to time, I can talk to her with a clear conscience because there are no bitter feelings that I am harboring. From that day, I even stopped talking about how bad she hurt me to my husband. I just completely gave this to God and trusted Him. There was money involved in this particular situation, and I didn't get a dime of it back, but I didn't care. My peace of mind was worth 100 times the money that she owed me. Did it mean that I didn't feel the hurt? No. Did I think that she wasn't wrong anymore? Absolutely not. But it wasn't about that, it was about me moving on and taking a step of faith. This is why it's important to realize that forgiveness is not based on feelings. It can be done no matter what you have been through. I of course realize that I don't know what your hurts have been like. I do know many people that have been hurt by others in ways that I can't even compare with, and I can tell you that when they chose to forgive, they did it while they still felt the pain. The good news is that when they make the decision to forgive, the torment from anger and bitterness started to fade, and true healing began. I know they, like myself, am happy today that we chose God's way. It's always worth it to obey God.

If you read this and someone immediately came to your mind that you need to forgive, do it! What have you got to lose? The answer is nothing. In fact you have everything to gain - complete freedom, peace of mind, and a closer relationship with God. Sure sounds worth it to me!

Have a great day everyone, and remember to walk in love and speak in peace.