21 Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?"
22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. - Matthew 18:21-22
Big or small, forgiveness begins with a choice. But it often isn’t just a choice in only one moment, it is a continual choice that must be made day after day. We often must make the choice to live out forgiveness every day of our life.
The choice to forgive begins with acknowledging that the lack of forgiveness in our hearts is sin. We must confess and repent of the sin before God if we can move past the hurt. This step is critical. Far too many of us skip this step when we seek God for help in letting go of a deep hurt from our past, and then we’re left wondering why we can’t find healing. Confess the sin of unforgiveness and repent of it before God begins the path to victory.
After confession, name the person and the pain before the Lord. Trust that He hears your prayers and He will answer. He will begin healing your heart in that very moment, but I’ve found I need to return to these first two steps more than once before I find total victory. The bigger the hurt, the more often I have to return. Our fragile and foolish hearts will pick up the offense over and over again, even after we have confessed it and named it, and when we do, we have to start the process all over again.
After we confess and name it before the Lord, it’s important we commit to no longer bringing the incident up - to ourselves or to anyone else. We can no longer dwell on what happened. Our hearts have such a tendency to hold on to hurts - we pull them out often and roll them around, reviewing them from all angles. We go over and over the hurt in our minds, perhaps imagining a different response or rescue, perhaps wondering what we did to deserve the pain, reliving the anguish and the anger all over again. When we review the incident in our minds, we are drawn right back into the darkness of sin. Admittedly, it can be quite challenging to stop the projector of pain, but it’s critical if we want freedom. Learn to capture your thinking - when it pops into your mind, stop it and return to step one - confession. You will never forgive and forget - not the biggest of hurts, but you can forgive and choose not to dwell on that hurt.
We also must commit to not bring up the incident to another person. When we are carrying around a big hurt, we have a tendency to share it with other people as a way to gain allegiance or comfort. We want people on our side, justifying our hurt and making us feel better. We soon find people can only provide us with that comfort temporarily. Not long the conversation is over, we find ourselves still hurting, and often still looking for justice. God is the only one who can bring true healing to our hearts and true justice to the situation. Outside of a testimony about how God is working in your heart, bringing the offense up to other people is sin that needs to be confessed. So, when we find we’ve been caught in this trap, we need to confess and repent of the gossip, then return to step one and confess the unforgiveness.
Committing to not bring it up again includes to the offender - we are not to bring the offense up to the person who hurt us once the incident is over. Once the situation is resolved - whether we have chosen to let it roll off, roll up to God, or confront the other person - once we have followed through, we cannot bring it up again, we cannot use it as a weapon in an argument. One of the most damaging things we can do to an enduring relationship is to continue to bring up the past each time we argue. Bringing it up demonstrates we have not truly forgiven. The choice to forgive means we need treat the person as a forgiven - we cannot be cold, we cannot withhold ourselves emotionally, we must treat them as if they never offended us. And when we fail at this, we need to confess and repent, and return to step one.
It is important to note that forgiveness, trust, and reconciliation are very different things. We can forgive even when the other person does not seek reconciliation, and forgiveness does not mean we have to continue enabling a dangerous behavior or allowing a damaging relationship to continue. There are times when the only course of action is to end all contact with the offender, but even in this, forgiveness is possible.
Sometimes it can feel like we’ve prayed and prayed for God to remove an offense from our hearts so we can forgive and He just hasn’t answered our prayer and healed our pain. It’s not God, it’s us. He takes it at the point we lay it down, we’re the ones who pick it back up. When we do, we must start the process over - confess and lay it down. If we continue in this process, and we seek Him for strength, eventually, our hearts begin to find healing and we will know victory.
I’m so thankful for this time of reflection in my life, especially during this advent season. Dwelling on the greatest gift we have been given - forgiveness.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗
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