The Struggle to Forgive Is Real
Love. Trust. Betrayal . . . It’s the kind of thing movies are made of. And sadly, it’s what we can expect in real life, too. We can’t get around pain and injustice in this fallen world, but we can determine how we will respond to it.
If I asked you to think of someone you have a difficult time getting along with or who has hurt you deeply, my guess is that a name or two would instantly come to mind. Do you find yourself struggling with animosity in your heart toward this person? Do your actions toward them reflect a heart controlled by bitterness?
Recently a gal named Corinna left a comment about this struggle with forgiveness:
Right now I’m in a big battle with forgiving a few people who have hurt me. This has been a struggle for years. It’s really hard for me to accept God’s love for me (and the love of others) and to have a close relationship with Him. . . . When you said that we cannot truly love God if we don’t fully trust Him, that hit right home with me. I don’t really know what love is, and I definitely would like to know how to trust God.
Corinna’s not alone, is she? Struggling to forgive is a battle we all fight at times. The struggle is real. But the bottom line you may be missing is that the struggle is not just between you and them, the offended and the offender; it’s between you and God.
I don’t know your story or what you’re going through, but I do know this much: You’ve been hurt. (We all have.) Perhaps because of this pain, you question God’s love for you. God did not rescue you from that painful situation or protect you from harm, so now you’re not sure what to do with the mess you find yourself in or how to forgive those who caused it. Maybe you’re not sure whether God really loves you or if He’s worth trusting.
Let’s stop replaying the tapes. Only by understanding who God is and what He has done for us can we overcome our doubts about His love and find the courage to forgive those who have wronged us.
None Like Him
God is everlasting and unchanging, the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. So no matter what sin you committed yesterday, He will always be faithful and just to forgive those sins when you confess them (1 John 1:9). And no matter how others have sinned against you, it will never change the fact that God is still good and still loving.
God is also sovereign and powerful. You may be in a situation where you feel as if God has overlooked you or forgotten you, but the truth is He sees and knows all, and He will never, ever leave you or forget you (Deut. 31:6). It is impossible for anything to shut off God’s love for you. Nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).
He Goes First
Perhaps your struggle to accept God’s love is because of the wrestling in your heart over your own sin. You did something “really” bad, and you fear God’s anger. You’re not convinced He could ever forgive you. Maybe you view God as a man with a short fuse, willing to love only so far and then it’s all over for you.
Let God’s Word put your fears to rest. Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does [God] remove our transgressions from us.” But you don’t know what I’ve done. Is this really possible for me? I’m glad you asked. Without the sacrifice Jesus willingly made on the cross, you would forever be held accountable for your sins with no hope of ever being pardoned. God’s justice simply cannot allow sin to go unpunished.
But because God is rich in mercy and because His love for you is beyond your comprehension, when He looked upon you in your spiritually dead state, He chose to raise you to life in Christ—to save you by His grace (Eph. 2:4–5). Because of the sacrifice Jesus willingly made on the cross, you are forever considered free from sin with no chance of ever being enslaved again. God’s justice simply cannot allow the sin Jesus took upon Himself to still be held against you.
Follow His Steps
In the life of Jesus we see forgiveness modeled beautifully and perfectly.
Jesus instructs His disciples in what it means to forgive (Matthew 18:21–35, 6:9–13).
He extends forgiveness to the lost even before healing them of their physical ailments (Mark 2:4–12; Luke 7:40–50).
He leaves us a stunning example by forgiving the very ones who mock Him and beat Him and put Him to death (Luke 23:33–35).
Who has ever been more misunderstood than Jesus? Who has ever been more unjustly treated than Jesus? Who has ever had more than enough reason to refuse to love His enemies? And yet what did He do . . . He died for His enemies, forgave His enemies, and gladly welcomed His enemies into the Father’s presence.
I love these words penned in the nineteenth century by hymn writer Philip Bliss describing that glorious moment in history when Christ set us free:
“Man of sorrows!” what a name for the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood,
Sealed my pardon with His blood; Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Guilty, vile, and helpless we, spotless Lamb of God was He;
Full atonement! Can it be? Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Lifted up was He to die, “It is finished,” was His cry;
Now in heaven exalted high, Hallelujah, what a Savior!
When He comes, our glorious King, all His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew this song we’ll sing, Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Like in the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are to extend the love God to our others by following in the steps of Jesus. We are called to forgive “as the Lord has forgiven you” (Col. 3:13). In those moments when you find this calling difficult, turn to the God who first modeled forgiveness; consider what He has done for you.
By Leanna Shepard
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