Why Is Forgiveness So Hard?
By Michelle Wuesthoff
Friday, September 15, 2017
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Colossians 3:12-14 NASB
It’s been a tough couple of years untangling a mess I partially created but fully owned.
In the end, I lost a whole bunch of relationships, some of which were greater losses than others, but I have grieved and wrestled over every single one of them. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so misunderstood and so deeply hurt.
The passage of time has taken the sting away (mostly), and the countless hours I’ve spent on my face before the Lord have brought about a great deal of healing. I’ve learned not to absorb any blame that doesn’t rightfully belong to me, and I’ve let the healing balm of the Father’s love work its way into my heart to displace the feelings of rejection and abandonment.
Still, there is the ever-present issue before me of forgiveness. Sure, I’ve professed forgiveness—out loud, with a witness—for every wrong committed against me by every person I could think of. I’ve even written some letters and expressed it in person to a few of them.
Yet, I know full well that the forgiveness I’ve extended is hardly a finished work. Why? Because I am still easily provoked to anger and hurt at the mention of their names. Why is this so hard?
I have heard, “forgiveness is not a feeling, it’s a choice,” and “forgiveness releases you from the person and frees each of you to deal with the matter before God.” I’m of the opinion now that this is only partially true.
I think real forgiveness is a whole lot more.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you. The biggest little word in that command is “as.” What makes forgiveness so hard is that we are called to forgive as…like…in the same way as the Father has forgiven us! And His way is pretty radical:
- It’s costly. It’s sacrificial. Mercy in place of justice. Humility in place of self-righteousness. Compassion in place of accusation.
- It’s motivated by love for the purpose of restoration. This is a tough one, but it’s true. There are extreme cases, of course, where this isn’t possible or wise, but far fewer cases than we would like to admit.
- It consistently assumes the posture of forgiveness. ‘Turning the other cheek’ or ‘forgiving our brothers seventy times seven’ means always returning our hearts back to that place of love and forgiveness from which we are supposed to operate.
Forgiveness is hard because it’s really about relationship—ours with God, and ours with others. It isn’t about purchasing our own freedom or cutting the ‘offender’ free.
When we begin to forgive radically, like Jesus forgives, putting on love above all else, that is what offers real freedom. And I can promise you, that is also a forgiveness you can really feel.
Search your heart and ask the Lord today if there is forgiveness work to be done in you:
Oh Father, help me forgive like You do. Flood my heart with Your love and forgiveness so it changes me. Let Your radical forgiveness flow through me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
©2017 by Michelle Wuesthoff. All rights reserved.
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Originally published Friday, 15 September 2017.