The Process- Forgiveness Series Part 4
As I had mentioned in Part 3, there is no "partial forgiveness". But some people need to process forgiveness in their minds and hearts differently than others. It's harder for some to come to grips with releasing their anger, because anger is all they've known for so long. They are almost incomplete without it. They are comfortable with keeping the delicate parts of their hearts hardened, to avoid more hurts. So, there is often a process that some must move through before they can come to the point of forgiveness. Just as there is a process for moving through grief, there is also a process toward forgiveness.
The first obstacle is to get over the confusion. In the initial moments, you may feel blindsided to the point of shock and confusion. Sometimes, the process even involves denial. This diminishes the nature of the impact. Then you may take a detour labeled as a familiar term today, which is "distancing". Now, some distancing is good and healthy. It's good to get your thoughts in order by taking it to God in prayer by yourself. This lets anger cool down and brings you back to the other person in a calmer sense of mind, allowing for a civil conversation. But if it prolongs, then it becomes unhealthy. This is a danger zone for any relationship, but if you are married, it can be detrimental. In a marriage, one of both will become too comfortable without each other. They will prefer to be separate, rather than the one unit that they had dedicated in the sight of God, and what God had intended for them. After all, you took your vows as "for better or for worse" till death do you part.
Consequently, suppressed and repressed anger will find a way to express itself. If you are a wise person, you will attempt to discover the cause of the anger and search for reasons why you are still holding it resident in your heart. Then you will seek ways to remove it and move on to get your life back.
Next comes the forgiveness stage. This stage often begins with a persons confessing sinful anger to the Lord and asking God to cleanse them of all resentment, bitterness and hostility. You will need to make the decision to pardon your offender and free them. If not, you yourself are sentencing them in your own mind. You put yourself in the judges position. That is a more dangerous place to be than where your offender is currently standing. Be careful not to be the judge.
Unforgiveness stops the flow of love in a person's heart. Love towards God, self, and others. It also hinders our capacity to receive love from the Lord and others. Forgiveness enables us to walk in step with God and experience the fullness of our relationship with Him.
One of the many gracious traits of God, is that He understands your weakness and frailty. Forgiving and forgetting is very difficult to do. God has given us memories to help us not repeat our mistakes. But God did not give us memories so we can readily recall the mistakes of others. It is not our place to repeatedly remind people of their mistakes. If God did that to you constantly, how would you react?
Do you find yourself saying to your offender;
"I remember the last time you..."
"I'll never forget your..."
"You hurt your family by....."
"I can't believe you actually....."
"You did this...."
Before long, voices are raised, blood pressures rise and anger turns into full blown rage. If one is constantly backed into a corner for their wrong doings, they will eventually lash out.
There are times when forgiving a person once is not enough. In Matthew 18, Peter asked Jesus, "How often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?" (vs 21). Jesus replied, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven" (Matt 18:22). God wants us to forgive over and over. If we are constantly reminded of the offense again and again, then we must forgive each and every time we remember it. We must be quick to say, "I forgive. Father help me to forgive completely."
As you've read the four part Forgiveness Series, has someone come to mind whom you need to forgive? Name that person out loud to God. If you are not ready to forgive, ask God to show you what is holding you back, then respond to His prompting. He will never lead you wrong and He will never forsake you. Trust Him.