…but the righteous man shall live by faith — Romans 1:17b9 NASB
Many Christians struggle in their faith walk with popular gospel topics like healing and finances. I think I have put more faith effort in forgiveness and trust than in anything else.
I get in the way of “getting” forgiveness. My emotions storm and rage like a hurricane when I am told the one thing — the ONE thing — God wants from me right now is forgiveness of others. Others who, in my opinion, deserve no forgiveness, no grace, no peace.
It’s a good thing He is God and I am not.
Do not conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and prove what God’s will is. — Romans 12:2 (my paraphrase)
Mud-Wrestling with God
Many years ago, I was in a Christian group counseling for women who were sexual abuse survivors. We worked through 12 weeks of understanding that God wants us to forgive the offender(s) in our lives. We were very proper ladies of a variety of ages. The group required that we focus on God’s Word rather than our experiences, so we didn’t share much of our stories with one another. As a matter of fact, we didn’t share much emotion, either. There was dignified sharing of interpretation of Scripture. There were tears as we prayed for the power to forgive completely, as Christ has forgiven us. We prayed for one another, touching on understanding the pain within each, asking for healing.
A very clean, very orderly, very Christian approach to be certain.
In the final class, we participated in an exercise where each individual was asked to envision ourselves standing before God. He asks us to name the fate of the offender who is also standing before Him. Every one of those dear ladies was able to respond that heaven could hold both hearts — every one, but me, that is. I told God, and the rest of my class, in that moment, in that exercise, that that person belonged in hell.
You can imagine the gasps!
For me, coming to forgiveness has not been a tidy process. I have wrestled with God in the mud of my humanity. I have dug deep and shined the light of God’s Word repeatedly within. It was not, is not, a one-and-done event. The wounds within me were bone-deep and festering. More than once, I have spewed my opinion to God, and every time, He has remained faithful.
You can’t knock him off His throne. You and I cannot say or do anything which surprises or shocks or changes Him.
My stomping my foot and shaking my fists at heaven didn’t change His love for me.
The Long Haul
This God of ours — He is committed.
He is in it for the long run.
He decided before the beginning of creation to give us His all.
You will not change Him by being completely honest with Him — and yourself.
Sometimes the only way through a mess is through.
Slog your way through your own heart with God guiding you to the festering spots. Feel the feelings. Look at the situation. Get real with yourself and with God.
And then, one thing at a time, hand them to Him.
Hollow out that sore spot and give it all to Him.
Don’t count how many times it takes. Don’t measure your pain against anyone else’s.
Redemption is Not About Theology
Fact of the matter is, there is One who has taken all of the pain, rage, hurt, abandonment and fear, and carried it to the cross for us. He allowed Himself to be swallowed up in the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain of our humanity to buy us our freedom.
He purchased a way out of the pain of shame, PTSD, depression, low self-esteem, trauma, and psychosis when He died on that cross, just as he purchased our eternity and our healing.
And the coolest thing about that One who took all of that to the cross? He said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” He sticks by our side through the entire process of cleansing.
Forgiveness has been a layer-by-layer process for me. I have more than once thought I was free from negative thoughts and emotions about the traumas in my life, only to have a reminder surface yet again. Each time, there has been improvement, and each time, I have had to make a choice to forgive — even forgiving myself for being so stubborn.
My friend, Nan, likened the process of forgiveness, and of grief, to a cylindrical spiral — aka a slinky. We begin on one edge, and roller-coaster down, then up again, then down again as we work our way through. Riding high, and all is well, slipping down, hitting that spot where we decide to climb again to the high edge.
Please note that it takes a decision to hang on and continue the process.
This is the renewing of our minds. It is the nature of mankind to be rageful, revengeful, and condemning of those who have so cruelly hurt us. But as we understand the depths of who we are, and the wrongs we have done others, we understand those who have offended us. We begin to really understand the purchase-price for our freedom. And as we gain that understanding, we “get it” that all have sinned and missed the glory of God. That sin is sin is sin. One is just as weighty as another when it comes to eternity. If Jesus didn’t pay for us, we wouldn’t get to heaven.
We don’t have to wait for heaven to be free of agonizing pain. We don’t have to be on the other side of this life to be unburdened from the weight of rage. It is a good day to feel the freedom of a clean heart. Then we can sing that the joy of the Lord is our strength in truth.
I understand that without Christ, I am nothing.
I understand that my sin is just as great as those who have offended me.
I understand He bought my life, and theirs.
I am no man’s judge.
I stand judged — and redeemed.
From that understanding springs a depth of compassion which is not mine, but Christ’s. I am often given the opportunity to share kindness with those who haven’t experienced human kindness in a long time. God has been good to me, and I share that goodness as best I am able. That is why I can be open with you right now about my shortcomings. And why I can give God the glory that He meets every need.
My journey of forgiveness truly began with the prayer, “Lord, I am not able. Please teach me to be willing. Please lead me to Your understanding. I am open to receive Your guidance.”
It was often a minute by minute choice of, “I choose to forgive. I choose peace. I choose healing.”
I pray these words help you choose your path and help you to forgive.
The Master of Forgiveness, our good and loving Father God, has provided us with direction and comfort in His Word. Here is an excellent teaching on this.