“It seemed that in this world we were piling up hurt upon hurt, and hate upon hate, and then hurt upon hurt again. Forgiveness. We couldn’t forgive. We could only hate when we were hurt. And then the hurt and the hate would start up again-all in a terrible circle.” Shadow Spinner
When it comes to offense, I’ve noticed a few patterns. It loves to rob you of everything valuable. Offense will steal your purpose, money, friends and job. It filters conversations through a lens of negativity that creates a spiraling effect. The more we ruminate on negative and untrue statements about ourselves and others, the further we slip from God’s truth on the matter. And then we fall into bitterness, which leads to a hindered prayer life.
“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Psalm 66:18
Forgiveness and confession are the keys to not letting offense settle in. It can be extremely challenging, especially when you feel validated in the matter. Asking for forgiveness can even be more challenging.
I learned a lesson on forgiveness a few weeks by my six-year-old son.
“Time for bed,” I announced to Brandon.
“Mom! No, 30 more minutes,” he protested.
Oh no, it was going to be a showdown.
“No, Brandon you need to go to bed. I already let you stay up a little later.”
Realizing he was not going to win this battle, he turned around and stomped up the stairs crying. He plopped into bed, however, his attitude of frustration remained. I kissed him good-night and left him in his frustration.
The next morning is what caught me by surprise.
As we were cuddling on the love-seat, he said something that caught me off guard.
“Mom, I am sorry for throwing such a fit last night and having a bad attitude before bed.”
I lifted up his small head of blond hair so I could see what was in his eyes, and said, “It’s OK, buddy. I forgive you.”
It was that simple. Through that simple act of forgiveness, our relationship was restored and peace resonated once more. If only we all were like my six-year old son; quick to be obedient to the prompting of the Holy Spirit before the enemy gets a chance to whisper lies.
Instead, we harbor unforgiveness which turns into bitterness if we are not careful. If ignored, bitterness causes us to bow to its false authority. Then we are numb to God and others, becoming less than all we were created to be.
Jesus did not take forgiveness lightly in His teachings. In the Lord’s Prayer we read, “And forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us” (Matthew 6:12). To the extent that I forgive others, I’m asking God to forgive me. That’s pretty serious. Jesus explained it like this: “Your Heavenly Father will forgive you if you forgive those who sin against you; but if you refuse to forgive them, he will not forgive you” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Several years ago, I had an incident that brought this truth to heart.
I had a very close friend who said some very hurtful words to me and was untruthful at times in our relationship.
She had apologized right away, but the damage had already been done. I was very grieved for several weeks and my spiritual life suffered. It became dull and I felt as if my prayers were hitting a ceiling. I longed for God to justify me and tell me what I was feeling was acceptable.
The sting of the wound remained even though forgiveness had been extended at the time of the offense. The sound of her name brought hurt, like a band-aid being ripped off a wound.
In desperation one day while I was driving, I called out to the Lord, “What’s wrong with me?” Tears running down my face I screamed, “I have already forgiven her what more do you want?”
Through the stillness I heard a the word “comfort.”
“Oh good. Finally, Lord you are bring me comfort.”
But I heard that same small voice whisper, “Comfort her.”
“Lord you are not possibly asking me to comfort her? I am the one who has been wronged. I must not be hearing you right.”
When I got home I quickly turned to my Bible to the verses I knew on forgiveness and there it was…the word comfort.
“You should forgive and comfort him.” (2 Cor. 2:7)
“So (instead of further rebuke, now) you should rather turn and (graciously) forgive and comfort and encourage (her) to keep (her) from being overwhelmed by excessive sorrow and despair (2 Cor. 2:7 AMP).
In that moment, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that she was hurting and struggling and that’s the reason she acted that way. Hurting people hurt other people. She had been dealing with her own bitterness and offense, and her reaction toward me really had nothing to do with me.
When I saw it through the Lord’s eyes, I was more opt to extend comfort and grace.
Holy Spirit, how would you like me to comfort her?
He prompted me to write her a letter filled with encouraging words and scriptures. As I placed that letter into the mailbox I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and joy.
Her response was not what mattered, but knowing I had been obedient to my Lord (2 Cor. 2:9).
“I have done this so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. For we are not ignorant of the schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11).
In the area of forgiveness God has outdone himself through Jesus. His perfect love keeps me undone before Him and others.
Forgiveness has always been a part of God’s divine plan…restoring our relationship with Him and to each other is the heartbeat of who He is.
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