As I have written in the past, I was in an abusive marriage for 23 years. I knew I had to eventually forgive my ex-husband for ruining our marriage and damaging me and my children, but for a long while it was very difficult.
The crux of my book, A Rag Doll’s Heart, is to declare Christ’s healing for broken hearts and crushed spirits and that includes the act of forgivness. Unfortunately, it seems we all have had our hearts broken; even Jesus. Have you ever thought of that before; that Jesus’ heart was broken too?
The last thing Rag Doll allowed Christ to deal with in the book, is her anger and unforgiveness and she does it rather reluctantly. These are probably the things we all hold onto the most. We have been dreadfully wounded and we don’t want to forgive the perpetrator, instead we rather them pay for our suffering. We hold onto to anger, allowing it to develop into hatred, while building walls of lies so high that we cannot escape.
Christ understands your turmoil, for he was severely wounded as well. His heart was shattered by evil; broken like yours. Christ came to earth to unveil God’s tender heart toward mankind, but did everyone embrace his devotion? Sadly, they did not. Jesus was criticized, judged, abandoned, betrayed, humiliated, shamed, and eventually murdered by those he knew. At one point he cried over the people of Jerusalem because they ruthlessly cast aside the grace he brought from his Father. He agonized in the garden, being willing to die a brutal death, but wondering if it could possibly be taken away. Jesus experienced excruciating pain, torment, and shame for us and because of that he can sympathize with you and your heartache.
However, in his affliction, Jesus forgave those that denied him and even put him to death. And he longs to help you forgive those who have harmed you.
Forgiving people who have hurt us deeply through any kind of abuse or abandonment is extremely difficult and is a process not to be rushed. We need God’s grace to forgive along with prayer and even fasting. It is something we do in partnership with Christ. We cannot do it in our own strength; so don’t think you have to muster up feelings to want to forgive. Allow some time and have the Holy Spirit guide you through it; he is not angry with you or demanding that you forgive immediately. He knows that you can feel unsafe with forgiving and that is why he will provide you with the willingness, and grace to do so. As Jesus, said in the garden, “Not my will by yours!”
I would caution you though not to prolong the act of forgiving either. Ignoring the need to forgive can damage you emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It does not profit you in any way to hold onto unforgiveness; it instead plunders your heart.
Plunder means: to obtain illegally, occupying a place that is not its own.
That is what unforgiveness does, occupies your heart illegally. It does not belong there for it is not full of the love of Christ. Its purpose is to rob you of all the valuable things God has to offer, while consuming your heart with hopelessness and rage. If you allow unforgiveness to inhabit your soul than it will evict the peace and joy God designed for you to have.
If you are having trouble forgiving, think on God’s perpetual mercy toward you. Once you repent God forgives you of your sins and remembers them no more (Hebrews 8:12). He does not feel anger or shame toward you either. He loves you completely and wholly without bitterness and he is asking you, with his help, to forgive those who have wronged you.
Spend some time in prayer this week and if you are ready, give Christ your anger and unforgiveness. Express exactly what is on your heart…all your anxiety and outrage. Release it all to Jesus over and over again if need be. Tell him everything on your heart and then allow the Holy Spirit to minister to you. It would be wise to seek forgiveness from God from your own sins too, at this time. Don’t rush anything, but stay in his presence as you continue to relinquish. Put on some worship songs if you’d like and begin to adore and exalt our mighty and merciful God. Allow the tears to flow while rejecting any guilt or stubbornness and yield to the sooth, calmness of the Holy Spirit.
If you are struggling in forgiving because of a grievous sin against you, I would suggest seeking counsel from a professional or a pastor to help you through this process. Whatever you do, don’t ignore it; the pain will never diminish, but only intensify. I pray you will begin to trust that Jesus is powerful enough and willing to help you through your reluctancy to forgive.