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Why Should I
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Why should I, the one in pain
Forgive instead of hate;
The ones who stole my innocence
When justice is so late?
And why should I extend to them
To be released from what is their
Don’t You see the damage done
And don’t You even care?
How can You ask of me this thing?
Forget the pain I bear?
How can You ask me something that
I’ve not the strength to do?
Forgive the guilty of their sin
Give vengeance back to You?
And so the argument went on
Between His heart and mine;
Until by grace, I understood
Forgiveness in my mind.
It wasn’t for the guilty; No
The benefit was mine;
That through forgiving every one
Then I could finally find.
The peace my heart was longing for
And hope that would endure;
Release from bondages and chains
Forgiveness was my cure.
No longer bound internally
By men’s ungodly deeds;
And only by the grace of God
Today I live as free.
Inside every victim of abuse, there is an unspoken need to release the healing power of forgiveness within their heart. Without the ability to forgive, the need is demonstrated through the attitudes, and emotions that guide your life. The purpose of forgiveness has been greatly misunderstood and has left victims of abuse in dire, spiritual need; unable to fully heal or find release from their suffering.
I know; I can hear each one of you yelling at me. “How dare you! How dare you ask me to forgive! Forgive him, forgive them? You must be out of your mind! You don’t know what he did to me; you don’t know how it has affected my life! He doesn’t deserve my forgiveness! Forgive? Not in this lifetime!”
I know. I completely understand. I said the exact same things. Hearing a sermon on forgiveness always did something to me. My insides became a boiling pot of hot, putrid, rage. I couldn’t believe God would have the audacity to ask me if I would forgive them. Me…forgive? Uh, hey God, in case it somehow slipped Your mind, let me remind you, I’m the victim here. Hel-l-l-lo? Me; shouldn’t they be asking me for my forgiveness!!! Imagine; the nerve of God. Wasn’t He all knowing? Didn’t He see what had been done? Didn’t He understand how deep the devastation and wounds went? So how could He ask me to do such a thing? Forgive? Ha! In God’s dreams!
I argued with God on the subject of my ability to forgive (not an activity I would recommend) or should I say my inability to forgive, for many years. In my mind, my abusers didn’t deserve one ounce of my forgiveness, much less God ordained forgiveness. My mind could not comprehend the purpose or the need. Why did I have to forgive them when I was the one who suffered? It didn’t make sense to me until I stopped arguing, and began cooperating with God’s Spirit.
I do understand the misconceptions you might have extending forgiveness to someone who has caused you great harm. So, let’s explore what the purpose is behind the need to forgive. What does it mean, and what does forgiveness have to do with you?
In order to fully understand what forgiveness is, we first need to understand what it is not.
I would like for you to take a few minutes and think about what forgiveness means to you on a personal level. What comes to mind? How do you define forgiveness? Once you’ve thought of your definitions, compare them to what is written in the next few paragraphs.
Forgiveness is not a feeling. It is not a “get out of jail free” card. It is not a blanket pardon for the guilty. It is not a cancellation of responsibility from the guilty party. It does not erase a wrong done. It is not used to release the guilt from the offender. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the one who hurt you, but has everything to do with you being hurt. Forgiveness is not a covering of protection for the offender.
Did any of that sound familiar? Did I cover any of your definitions?
Now, let’s take a look at what forgiveness is.
Forgiveness is a choice. It is an act of your will that eventually may or may not produce the feeling. Forgiveness is the release of internal emotions held in the heart toward the guilty party. It is the believer’s ability to relinquish the right of repayment and give vengeance back into the hands of God, where it belongs. It is the free will choice to sacrifice the right to expect payment for the debt owed against you. Forgiveness is for your benefit and yours alone. It is the key that unlocks the door to your heart, so God can bring healing to your wounds.
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, the definition of “Forgiveness” is as follows.
1 a: to give up resentment of or claim to requital for…
b: to grant relief from payment of …
2: to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)
The act of forgiveness is granted through the one who has taken offense. Did you notice the definition spoke only of the offended person’s actions? Now, I don’t want you to tune me out at this crucial moment. This could actually be considered a breakthrough moment.
Somewhere along the line, we have mistakenly come to the conclusion that when a Christian extends forgiveness, the offense is no longer an issue. We’ve come to believe that forgiveness lets the bad guy off the hook. That is simply not true. Forgiveness will never, ever, ever absolve the offender of his or her bad choices or dissolve the debt they owe against you. Those will remain the chasm that stands between them, and the heart of God, until they make their own choice to seek forgiveness for their sin. What forgiveness will do, however, is release the offended from the wound inflicted, and release the Spirit of God to heal that wound.
I spent many years being angry because I felt my abusers had “gotten away” with what they had done to me. They walked free while I struggled to survive. They lived a full life, while mine was in the toilet. Justice was nowhere to be found and because I couldn’t see justice, my anger was justified, and in my anger, I would sin.
When I chose to forgive the men who had devastated my life with sexual abuse, I did it completely out of obedience to God. There wasn’t a feeling of warmth in my heart, as a matter of fact, I still felt wounded. But, in spite of the feelings I had, I kept saying I forgive them. Through my obedience, I had given God the opportunity to begin my healing. I believe wholeheartedly, had I chose to deny a place in my heart for forgiveness, my internal condition would have worsened and eventually, the relationship I had with God would have been completely destroyed.
As difficult as it was, offering forgiveness to someone who doesn’t deserve it, gave me a different view of my own need for forgiveness from God. None of us actually deserve to be forgiven. There is nothing about our lives that indicate we deserve any special favors from a Holy God, but in spite of our sinful nature, despite our lack of perfection, God already extended forgiveness through His Son’s crucifixion, so undeserving people could have the one thing they need the most; forgiveness of sin and a relationship with our Creator. The ability to retain a forgiving spirit within ourselves is ultimately to be God-like.
I’ve often thought saying “I forgive” was so easy because I didn’t have to see my abusers. Would it make a difference if I had to face them? If I was subjected to their presence, would I have a different attitude? Would I be so willing to obey God and forgive? Last year I was given the opportunity to understand how deep my conviction of forgiveness went. For the most part, it has been over 30 years since I’ve seen the ones who caused the most damage to my heart. But there is one person I do see on a regular basis. Last year, he came and apologized to me, and when that opportunity was given, I already knew what I would say to him. “I forgave you a long time ago.” I didn’t have a rush of love filling my heart; just the knowledge that forgiveness had been my choice. He didn’t need to apologize to me. Even if he had chosen to keep his apology to himself, I don’t think it would have made much of a difference in my heart. His apology had already been settled between God and me, the actual words were just icing on the cake.
“But you don’t know what was done to me!” You’re right, I don’t, but I know what was done to me, and I know how many years I suffered because I refused to forgive. I’ve said the same thing as you have. But, in retrospect, my inability to release forgiveness did not cause my abusers any harm. I was the one who cried myself to sleep; not them. I was the one consumed by what had been done, and I was the one who couldn’t find peace. My abusers didn’t worry about me, and I’m sure, if God has allowed them to, they have forgotten all about me. They made it past those horrible nights, and I was the only one stuck in the past; I was the only one who couldn’t move forward.
Choosing to forgive does not negate the past facts, just as my choice to forgive did not cancel out the fact that I was raped and molested. It hasn’t erased the memory of abuse from my mind either. What forgiveness has done is set me free from the emotions that ruled my life. I am no longer enslaved to the trauma of my childhood. No longer do my abusers have power over me. I can go to bed at night, and not be tormented. My choice to forgive destroyed the wall of separation between God and me, and allowed His Spirit access into the parts of my heart that needed to be healed. The emotions that plagued me have been, and are being, removed from my heart. I am free to draw close to God and the closer I can get, the freer I become.
The whole point of forgiveness is you, and the intention of forgiveness is letting the control rest in God. Forgiveness relinquishes the control and frees us from the “perceived” responsibility. It acknowledges the fact that God is the One ultimately responsible, and because He loves us, He has our best interest in mind.
Unforgiveness demands payment. Forgiveness releases payment to God. Unforgiveness leaves our heart in turmoil. Forgiveness releases us in peace. Forgiveness is our ultimate freedom from the past. Forgiveness trusts the character of God and believes that He is who He said He is.
We release the offender, not because he or she deserves our forgiveness, but so God can work in us. We become clean. We are restored. Through the choice to forgive, we exercise humility and when we humble our flesh, God can and will do remarkable things.
By an act of your will, can you choose to be obedient to the heart of God? Even if all you can say is, “God, I need You to do it for me.” God will honor that prayer. And in the process of forgiveness, freedom is found.
“Whispers From My Heart” By: Cheryl Thompson
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