When we are hurt, we often feel that “someone should pay.” But Jesus would respond, “I paid.”
~Paraphrased from Anne Peterson, Christianity Today.
I don’t take the journey of forgiveness lightly. It is a treacherous road that I was personally entrusted to walk out myself, as you may have been. That journey taught me that careless advice about how to survive the most indescribable pain following what is often a life shattering experience, will harm more than help. This is sacred ground in need of empathy that comes from personal experience. Thank you Jesus, that You know this most intimately and uphold us in our pain!
In my experience, I needed practical steps to survive; A guide book, so to speak, when my “feelings” failed to catapult me out of the pit of despair. If this resonates with you today I wanted to offer 5 PRACTICAL STEPS, right out of Ephesians 4:31-32, which says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. By putting God’s Word into action you will begin to train yourself to override negative feelings, thoughts and actions. I would like to preface this by saying that not all offenses require remaining in relationship with your offender. Sometimes, it is wise and healthy to have separation. If this is your case, please know that forgiveness is still imperative to your spiritual, emotional and physical health (it just might look different).
- PRAY for the person who hurt you. God WILL change your heart if you are faithful in this area! I am embarrassed to even share what my very first prayer for my offender looked like, but in the hopes that it will help someone, I will. Prayer one…”Lord, I want ___________ to suffer just as much as I am.” Ok, I KNOW this is NOT spiritual by ANY stretch of the imagination, but it was how I felt which God already knew anyway, so why not confess it in prayer? Just uttering that first prayer began to soften my heart until eventually I was able to pray GOOD for the person.
- Be kind- Which translates to “caring for others or meeting a need”. Meeting a need…this, I think we can find a way to do, even in the struggle to forgive. If you are able to reconcile with the person you need to forgive, surely you will see that, no matter how much they hurt you, they still have needs. As much as this goes against the grain of your true feelings, you can make the decision to fulfill a need anyway. Are they hungry? You can prepare them a meal. (Or if you’re me, you spare them your cooking and buy them a meal!) Do they need to hear a kind word? Pray that the Lord would show you what they need to hear. There is something you can do, in obedience to the One who showers you with grace, to meet a need.
- Be compassionate-For me this meant knowing that "hurting people hurt people." PERIOD. I don't believe in justifying poor behavior, but sometimes it just helps to know that hurt was likely the root of the behavior. Trying to understand this will allow your heart to soften enough to be obedient in back in step 1…PRAYER. In my case, I would think about how, in my suffering, I would envision doing vengeful and mean things to the person who hurt me. Through reflecting on my own thought process, I was able to see what terrible behavior we, as humans, are capable of when we are hurting, no matter the source of the pain.
- Fix your eyes on Jesus! Breaking it down the nitty-gritty here, I would have to make a mental image of myself choosing to either 1) “wrestle it out” (trying to be kind here…:/) with the person who hurt me or 2) walk peacefully with Jesus. I would encourage this technique or something that works for you to keep your focus on Jesus. Make it about Him, remind yourself that you have no business sitting in the judgement seat that He alone occupies, and trust that He IS just.
- Just do it…Forgive! The literal translation here is “being gracious,” “to give freely,” or “ to give graciously as a favor” The reason we do this? Because Christ, who was willing to forgive even those who crucified Him, forgives us! I had to make this decision on an intellectual level before ANY feelings were there. By disciplining myself in the practical steps, however, the feelings began to follow. The negative feelings became less and less, until they were finally gone. This is a process that takes time and I encourage you to give yourself a ton of grace while you surrender justice to Jesus and allow yourself to heal. Know that there will be setbacks along the way but with Jesus you WILL gain victory.
In my suffering I clung to Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” You can fill in the blank as to who “You” is in your situation. Maybe it’s a best friend, co-worker, spouse, or maybe it’s Satan. Whoever it is, God can use what happened to you for good…if you will allow Him to.
I pray you are encouraged by these steps that you can put into action and by knowing that if you are struggling with being able to forgive, you are not alone. It IS possible to heal and be completely free from the prison of bitterness and unforgiveness.
If I can pray for you or encourage you in your time of need please feel free to contact me. I would love to offer you support and encouragement!