In my ministry to people who hurt so badly I have found that every one of us probably has someone that we should forgive but have not. There are many reasons that this situation exists.
As I minister in all sorts of churches around the country and via the internet to Christians all over the world I see some of the same things all across Christendom. One is the shallow treatment that most of us have received in churches regarding offenses that come into our lives and about what forgiveness is all about.
I personally have never heard anything preached about the gift that God has given us in the whole idea of forgiveness. I have heard many sermons about forgiveness. I’ve heard it preached that we should forgive. I’ve heard it preached that if we do not forgive we will not be forgiven but I’ve never heard it taught that forgiveness is a gift from God Himself. I’ve rarely heard it taught what forgiveness is and, likewise, have rarely seen it taught how to forgive.
Simply put, the church doesn’t seem to be doing a great job of equipping its people with this most crucial gift. Instead, we are told to “get over it” and “forgive and forget”.
My experience is that there is a world of hurt out there and the world’s advice to “get over it” simply doesn’t work even if that advice comes from a well-meaning Christian. We don’t “forget” it. We might push it down and climb up on top of it but, like gunpowder does when you pack it tightly, it will explode when it is eventually ignited.
I listen to many people and as they tell me their story I hear what they say about the things that family members, teachers, ministers and priests, strangers and others have done to them. Bearing in mind that often our perception may be skewed by time, memory, the pain in our souls, etc., the fact is that rejection, neglect and abuse does happen. It’s a mean world and the primary effect of the Fall of man has been that people do things to other people to get what they think they need.
Listening to what people have experienced and think they have experienced and their interpretations of these I can see why these affect us so negatively. If any of it is anywhere near true, and I believe people at least believe it is, then it’s no wonder people are hurt.
I believe that many of us are walking and talking time bombs due to how we have handled the offenses that have come into our lives. So, in the course of good Biblical burden bearing whoever is doing the ministry will see what has happened and will suggest that perhaps some deep forgiveness is in order.
When that is suggested it’s not uncommon for the person to whom you are ministering to respond by saying that they don’t want to forgive them. Their logic might be that the offenders do not deserve their forgiveness. They will often say something like they can’t forgive them. Then as you stay with them on the idea they might say that they won’t forgive.
I believe that train of logic is logical but I think it’s Biblically wrong and that it’s a trap. I understand why they say this but I think it keeps the offended in the place the rejection, abuse, neglect and bad example has put them.
I’ll use a sobering image the Lord gave me to explain my logic. As we go through this please consider your own life and the offenses that have been brought into it. I suggest this because as you read this you might find that there is some forgiving that you might do!
If every offense against you was a fishing hook on a thread that the offenders threw at you and landed in the side of your physical body you could have easily broken the thread and have been free. But the attack satan launches against us through people started when you were very young and you either weren’t aware that what was happening was bad, or you were too little and weak to break the thread or you were not paying attention.
So, the threads kept coming. Over the years they become the thickness of string and then maybe small ropes. You can see how after a while a person could be controlled and steered by anyone grabbing those ropes and pulling from side to side.
I think that is a picture of how people, circumstances, “fate”, etc controls people who are depressed or anxious or fearful, etc. The lingering effects of past rejection, abuse and neglect are used against us to control our present and our future. The image I was given is not complete though.
Imagine that near the hook end of the threads each one has a small Polaroid snapshot of the offense happening or the negative effect or cost you always considered was associated with that offense. So, if a parent told you that you were worthless – there’s a picture of it there.
And every time someone tugs on threads even remotely associated with that kind of meanness and/or manipulation you feel the pain again and it controls or influences you. Accordingly, you naturally look down at the source of the pain, the hook….the place it is attached to you….and there is the picture.
As you look at the picture it reminds you of what happened and it renews the memory in your mind. It keeps it fresh in your mind. The whole thing is designed by satan to keep you a slave to what happened to you.
Is any of this ringing true to you? It’s how it seems with what happened to me in my life and it rings true with many of the people to whom I have ministered. Does this seem like what your experience has been? I believe all the people to whom we minister have experienced something like this as well.
I believe that one thing that satan hates the most is forgiveness because in forgiveness the one forgiving does not say that “what happened is okay or that it is water under the bridge, so let’s forget it.” In fact, forgiveness is NOT forgetting because you cannot force yourself to forget it. If you attempt to make yourself forget you will have to think about the event over and over again which renews the memory of it and the remembering of it self-perpetuates.
The process of forgiveness has to do with admitting in detail what happened, who did it, how it felt, what it cost and how one reacted to it. Since the offenses affected (and effect) the entire soul (mind, will and emotions) real forgiveness has to involve the whole soul if the entire soul is to be freed, healed and restored.
Real forgiveness, then, is not letting the offender off your hook; rather, it is letting yourself off the hook they put into you.
Forgiveness for Christians, those who literally belong to Jesus, is giving the offenders to Jesus who is powerful enough to really deal with them either now or after they die, whichever seems best to Him. We give the persons who offended us, what they did and how it hurt us to the Lord for Him to do with as He sees fit.
Concerning what Jesus would like to do to address what this has done to hurt us, what He “sees fit to do” is aptly defined in a verse that I believe to be His purpose statement for coming to the earth in the first place:
"The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD." (Luke 4:18-19)
We are the poor. We are the brokenhearted. We are the captives. We are the blind. We are the oppressed. We need His healing touch.
People say they don’t want to forgive those who have hurt them deeply, that they don’t deserve the forgiveness, that they can’t forgive them and sometimes that they won’t. I believe the first two.
I know people don’t want to forgive their offenders and that they really do not deserve the forgiveness. No one wants to forgive anyone else and no one deserves the forgiveness of the one that they offended. However we people deserve to be free from the effects of what has been done to us and only we have the right and the ability and the power to invite Jesus to free us from the damage brought into our lives.
Forgiveness is one of the biggest tools the Lord has given us to cause this to happen.
People say that they can’t forgive their oppressors. I believe they think that to be true with all their heart and that with all their heart they are wrong. I believe that if God told us to forgive….we can. The matter is as simple as that.
Some people say that they won’t forgive the people who have hurt them. I believe that only time will tell if that one is true. God has given us the right to hold onto the caustic bitterness that, if we hold onto our offenses, is now eating away at our souls. God has given us the right to do with as we will the hooks that are buried in our souls and the threads that are connected to them.
Now we get to decide what we want to do with what has happened to us. We get to decide, depending on what we do with what I’m sharing here about forgiveness and healing, if we will effectively join the people who have hurt us as offenders against our souls or if we will rise up as ones who cooperate with Jesus to liberate, to bring sight, to heal our own souls from the damage done to it.
I believe that all Christians can do this and that, if we want to, forgiveness will begin with us renouncing those two curses we have often voiced: “I can’t forgive” and “I will not forgive.” I know that I’m ready to help with that and the rest of the process and so are people like me all through the body of Christ.
When one chooses to do this he, in effect, cuts the threads connecting them to their offenders so that no one can yank those lines and knowingly or unknowingly control him in the future. The person can stop there if he wants but he will still have the hooks in his soul with the pictures attached. These will still plague him as he rubs into people and circumstances in life.
The next step will be the restorative step: to ask the Lord to clip the barb off the hooks and remove them and destroy them and the pictures that are stored in the person’s subconscious mind.
In other words, we do not cause ourselves to forget – we give Jesus the right to heal our memories. Some will fade and some will stay vivid but will lose their ability to control us. I believe that those second ones are what He uses to help us to minister to others who have those problems. This is how he fulfills this scripture through us:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Please read this over and over if necessary. Pray about it and decide what you want to do with the rest of your life. I believe we are all a gift from God and have lots of potential. It’s never too late! Your life is still new. Let’s not waste that.