As we journey through life, we encounter hurt and disappointment. What do we do with this? Some of us give it right back, wanting to get even. Others withdraw or build walls to protect themselves. Some ignore it, hoping it will go away. Others replay it over and over in their minds, seeking to understand and learn from it. Some cover it with humor or activity to minimize the pain. Some bury it deep inside and try to forget it ever happened.
These responses may enable us to feel better temporarily, but none resolve the hurt. Sooner or later unresolved hurt becomes baggage that restricts us from experiencing far more life.
How can we unpack the hurt in a healthy way and move forward unencumbered?
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.“ (Colossians 3:13, NIV)
Forgive. As the Lord forgave you. What does God’s forgiveness look like?
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12, NIV)
“Then he adds, ‘I will no longer hold their sins and their disobedience against them.’ When sins are forgiven, there is no longer any need to sacrifice for sins.” (Hebrews 10:17-18, GW)
“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18-19, NASB)
God’s forgiveness removes our sin from us; we are no longer defined by that sin. God does not hold our sins against us; He doesn’t ask us to keep making up for them. After dealing with our sins, God gladly treats us with mercy and compassion; our relationship is restored. This is the forgiveness He empowers us extend to others as well.
- Forgiving is a choice to obey God. Since God instructs us to forgive others, He empowers us to do so. This is hard, but it is worthwhile. Lack of forgiveness keeps us hooked to the hurtful situation; obeying God brings peace and joy. God wants us to have far more life!
- Forgiveness comes from the heart. Saying the words “I forgive” without engaging our heart is not effective. Forgiveness requires us to admit — to ourself and to God — what negative emotions and false beliefs the person’s action or inaction triggered in our heart. We must resolve the belief about ourself that is causing the pain by replacing it with God’s perspective. Did the hurtful incident communicate we were unloved, unimportant, not good enough, or something similar? We must reject those messages and let our heart dwell on what God, our perfect, all-knowing Father, says about us.
- Forgiveness is between us and God, not us and another person. God is our primary source of forgiveness because only He can heal our wounded hearts. Forgiveness is releasing our hurt to God and letting Him administer justice and punishment against those who hurt us. We may reconcile with the offender, but first we must privately forgive them before God.
- Forgiveness is letting go. It is choosing to not retaliate or seek revenge. It does not mean we automatically trust the person or let them resume their old place in our life; that may not be safe or wise. But even when strict boundaries are necessary, forgiveness allows us to let go.
- Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequence of another person’s sin. In reality, we always live with the consequences of others’s sin. But forgiving frees us from anger and bitterness that suppress far more life.
- Forgiveness is letting God. It is trusting God to provide all we need for far more life, even things that others’ sin has taken away. It is also trusting God to mete out justice in His perfect timing, whether that is in this lifetime or at Jesus’ return.
- Forgiving is not forgetting. It does not erase the incident from our memory as if it never happened. Our life may be profoundly changed, but Christ can heal our wounds so the memory is not painful.
Sometimes when people sin against us it doesn’t even hurt. This happens when we can see their actions for what they are: reflections of their pain that have nothing to do with us. One day I was cut off in traffic and my first response was to pray for the safety of the other driver. I was surprised because that was not my normal response! As I pondered the difference in my heart I realized I hadn’t take their actions personally. They clearly acted on whatever pressure or stress or negative emotions they were experiencing, which had nothing to do with my driving. Since I knew their decision wasn’t about me, their wrongful actions against me didn’t prompt a painful emotional response. Forgiveness was easy.
This isn’t always the case. Often others actions feel like personal attacks. In reality, they are revealing areas where we aren’t seeing ourselves as God does. Forgiveness gives us the opportunity to trade our misperceptions for God’s perfect perspective. As forgiving becomes our lifestyle, we are hurt and offended less often. We clearly see that people sin against us because of their own hurts. We feel compassion for them rather than pain. And living with less hurt and more compassion is far more life.
How do you react when others hurt you?
Is the baggage of past hurts weighing you down?
Which bullet points describing forgiveness are hard to believe? Tell God.
Talk to God about your hurts, admitting how you feel and what they tempt you to believe about yourself. Drink in His truth about you.
Ask Him to heal your damaged emotions.
Thank Him for the gift of forgiveness and emotional healing.
Enjoy far less pain and far more life.
Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso