“I want to forgive, but I just can’t.”
“After what he did to me, I’ll never forgive him!”
“I’ve forgiven and forgiven, but I don’t think it took. I don’t feel any different.”
Forgiveness is an absolute key to healing.
We simply can’t heal if we don’t forgive.
But what is forgiveness and how do we do it?
First, let’s clear up what forgiveness isn’t. It isn’t saying that what the other person did was OK. It doesn’t relieve them from responsibility. It doesn’t mean we have to reconcile or be in relationship. If a person is not trustworthy, there is no requirement that I need to trust him or have anything to do with him.
But I Still Need to Forgive…
So what is it then? Forgiveness is simply releasing the person and all he or she did to God. It is letting go of any vengeance I feel entitled to and leaving it to God to bring judgment (Romans 12:9). It is deciding that I am not the judge and jury.
Here’s the Key
When I forgive, I imagine simply handing the person and the offense over to God and saying, “You are the judge. I have no further claims on this person or their offense. They’re your problem now. They don’t me a thing, but they owe You and I’ll leave it to you to collect.”
It helps me to imagine a debt. A real debt owed. Something tangible that I can feel and pick up and hand to Jesus. He becomes the collection agency. I hand the debt to Him and walk away. It’s no longer my debt. I am not owed anything. I receive grace, peace, or something else of value in return from Jesus and now it’s up to Him to collect the debt from the person who owed me. He may do so immediately, or it may take a lifetime, but what is that to me? I no longer own the debt.
And then, I have to let go.
The problem with all of us is that we keep taking the debt back from Jesus. We keep believing the debtor still owes us. Still needs to make it right. My friend, that may or may not happen in your lifetime. In some cases, the one who harmed you is dead. They can’t make it right with you. But Jesus will deal with them. In His love and grace, which is always better than mine. So I need to leave the debt with Jesus and move on toward my own healing.
If the offense has been significant, I may have to release the person over and over until the feelings come. But I forgive by faith, not by feelings. So the forgiveness is effective when I first seriously give the debt to Jesus. Don’t be confused by your feelings. Just take the debt and hand it back to Jesus. In faith that he really has it and will deal with it.
I promise you that if you do this diligently—every time the pain comes up—you will eventually feel the release. It may take years, but it will come. But that is the release. The forgiveness happened when you gave the debt to Jesus.
My friend, forgiveness is not an option; it’s a commandment (Colossians 3:13). And it’s required if we hope to receive forgiveness from God and others (Matthew 6:14). So swallow your pride and forgive anyone who has harmed you. You’ll be amazed how freeing it can be!