How do I forgive when I can’t?
"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
Matthew 6:14-15, NIV
Long before I was involved with Ellel Ministries I went through a horrible time of deep betrayal. It had huge consequences in my life and I struggled with the whole issue of forgiveness. I started to say things to God like, “I will do anything you want, just don’t ask me to forgive!”
Each time the issue of forgiveness came up I would see people’s faces in front of me and the barriers were just too big, too strong. I did not feel like forgiving, in fact I felt that I should devise ways of getting even! I wanted revenge. I wanted to hurt them even more than they had hurt me. I started to become quite bitter.
Verses like Matthew 6:14 leapt from the pages of my Bible! ‘For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins your Father will NOT forgive your sins’. I knew somehow I had to do it, but how? Finally I came to God and said, “I know I have to do this but I really can’t” and I heard Him say, “You are absolutely right you can’t”. ‘Apart from Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).
The next Sunday I went to a church which was new to me, and the preacher began his sermon by saying, “This morning I am going to tell you about how to forgive when you can’t”. I knew God was speaking to me. He said “firstly, this is not a transaction between you and the person who has done you wrong, this is a transaction between you and God. Do not see the face of the person. God has said in His word that we must forgive so He will give us the empowerment to do so”.
Part of God’s character is His heart to forgive, so we need to ask God to come supernaturally with His Spirit of forgiveness. Then having received first from Him we can release forgiveness to the person or persons that we need to forgive. We forgive the ‘unforgivable’ because He has first forgiven us. We forgive to be obedient to the Word of God but by so doing we let ourselves out of prison.
Secondly, we are not pardoning them, Only God can pardon. The only place anyone’s sin can be forgiven is by God at the cross. We are releasing them into the freedom of our personal forgiveness. Thirdly, we are not letting them off the hook, but we are taking them off our hook and putting them on God’s hook. We stop judging them and instead we say, ‘Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ Genesis 18:25. We can surely trust Him with this.
God can start to heal the memories. We are unlikely to ever forget what happened, but when we remember it no longer has the power to trigger bitterness and anger. Forgiveness will be the gateway for our own healing.
That Sunday morning I knelt at the altar rail and asked God to come and fill me with His spirit of forgiveness… and He did. I wept buckets as I chose to forgive from deep inside my heart. I poured it all out to the Lord. It took ages but when I was through I had a deep joy well up within me and at last there was closure. I was aware of God smiling and taking hold of my hand to lead me into a new season in my life.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I thank You for dying on the cross for me and for the forgiveness of all of my sins that I have confessed to You. Help me to truly forgive all those who have ever hurt me and to walk continuously in the Spirit of forgiveness, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Today's Writer : Jill Southern-Jones Jill Southern-Jones was a successful business woman before becoming the Director of Ellel Pierrepont, home of the Luke Nine Eleven Training Programme (NETS). People from all over the world come for 5 – 10 months and learn to teach and minister on NETS. Jill’s book on Sex: God’s Truth is an essential guide to the restoration of Godly order in sexual relationships.