The road to forgiveness is probably one of the most confusing and uncomfortable things we’ll face in life. Number one, because there’s no real marker to let us know when we’ve actually made it. And number two —because it’s just really hard to do. Sometimes people do things to us that seem unforgivable and it’s a whole lot easier to just wallow around in our anger than to allow them the satisfaction of a clear heart. The thing is, forgiveness, like tithing and prayer, was created by God for our benefit. It’s a matter of the heart. Forgiving is a lot like a routine dentist visit. It’s crazy uncomfortable while we’re going through it, but in the grand scheme of things it’s the only thing that can help us maintain good health and prevent serious nasties from festering in our mouths. When we fail to take advantage of our opportunity to forgive, we allow bitterness, resentment, rage, offense, and all types of other nasties to fester in our hearts.
And no, I’m no stranger to it. We’ve all been there before. We get angry, we become paranoid of people’s intentions, and every little thing reminds of us of that thing that we can’t forgive. It’s like we become a slave to that thing, or better yet that person that hurt us. One of my favorite scriptures says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” [Proverbs 4:23 NIV] Once you allow unforgiveness (and all the things that come along with it) into your heart, it’s only a matter time before it seeps out and starts to ruin everything that you love. Relationships, peace in your home, peace of mind, your joy, and your ability to love freely are all casualties at the hands of an unforgiving heart. I know what you’re thinking. But Ashley, I can’t help how I feel. You’re right. I get that. But you can help how deeply you allow that situation to affect you. When you feel those feelings of unforgiveness try to creep up inside you, take a moment and speak aloud into your spirit, “I forgive you.” It’s never too late to forgive and the issue is never too far gone. The pastor of my church back in my hometown gave a piece of advice that has worked WONDERS in my life. When you’re having trouble forgiving someone, pray for them. I mean, really pray for them. Pray for their well-being, their protection, for God to bless them. It sounds crazy but if you do it every day, you’ll see results. The prayers may start out simple and almost meaningless but over time, God will change your heart and you’ll actually mean them. But when will I feel like I’ve forgiven them? Good question. I think that’s part of the problem. We’re always searching for a feeling and as soon as we start looking, those old hateful memories start to resurface.
Forgiveness takes time. When I was learning to drive, my mother told me that one day I would wake up and driving would become so natural to me that I wouldn’t have to think about it. Forgiveness is exactly like that. Continue praying, accept any responsibility in the situation (if possible), and one day that person or thing will no longer be at the center of your thoughts.
I’ll leave you with one more thought. When Christ was being crucified, he prayed for the Roman soldiers saying “Father, forgive them. For they do not know what they are doing.” [Luke 23:34 NIV] If Jesus can forgive the people that brutally tortured and murdered him undeservingly, how much easier should it be for you to forgive Petty Betty for saying that thing behind your back or that family member that offended you? Isn’t it true that you too have been forgiven by the Most High? If ever you’re at a crossroad where you have to choose resentment or forgiveness (and you will be), choose forgiveness.
Are there things in your heart that you’ve been holding onto? Have you overcome a painful situation? What encouraged you to forgive?