Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Lent
Peter went up to Jesus and said, “Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?” Jesus answered, “Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.”
What do you do when you cannot forgive someone who has hurt you badly? How do you forgive, especially if you cannot forget? How can you move forward when the hurt makes you stuck in the past?
I’m no expert in forgiveness, but I’ve had my fair share of life’s challenges and heartaches to give me a sobering perspective about forgiveness. You know the saying, “Forgive and forget”? I find that the hardest practice to put in place. How can one forgive when one cannot forget? If you have been hurt badly, it will forever be etched in your mind, ready to be recalled in an instance when something triggers it.
I have struggled with this in the past. At one time, I was too hurt and angry to forgive someone who had hurt me terribly. I had all kinds of terrible thoughts in my head — I wanted to expose this person’s wrongdoings and hoped that this person would suffer ten times more than the hurt that was inflicted upon me. I was so angry. I wanted justice! This person did not deserve to move on in life, in happiness, or satisfaction. This person deserved to be hurt! On and on it went in my head because my heart was in turmoil, and I was seething inside despite looking fine on the outside.
Then God said, “You have to learn to forgive and let this go.” “But why should I?” I asked. “Because God has forgiven you, and many times over,” came the reply.
I still couldn’t understand. My limited understanding couldn’t comprehend how the number of times I had hurt God could even equate to the hurt I was feeling. Then I realized, it wasn’t just about my past transgressions; it was also the way I was acting, the way I was going about with my life trying to put up a façade and live as though I was fine. I was being reckless. I was being nonchalant. Nonchalant with the life that God has given me. I was hurting, but I was also hurting those nearest and dearest to me, and I was hurting God the most. As our gracious and loving Father, it must have hurt Him to see me throwing away life like that, living the way I did, tied up in hurt and resentment. It was like having a Dementor sucking away at your soul, taking away every shred of happiness you’ve ever known and leaving just a shell behind. And God knew that the only way I could heal was to let me come to the full realisation of what this was doing to me and reaching out to Him when I was ready. He knew, as any parent of a hurting child would know, that if He approached me before I was ready, I would only push Him away. I’m sure He wanted to hold me so very tightly and comfort me, but I was keeping Him at arm’s length. He wasn’t helpless, because He knew that one day I would come to Him, but that’s not to say I did not hurt Him with my actions.
Bitterness, anger, resentment – this is not how God would like us to live. These are not Christian traits. It is human for us to feel this way, but let the grieving and anger be short. It is not a sign of weakness if we let it go. In fact, it is a sign of strength, courage, and maturity in our faith, for instead of letting the hurt of the past hold us back, we are boldly going forward in the future that God has set out for us. I have learnt in recent times, that forgetting does not mean that I forget everything that has happened to me. Forgetting means that I choose not to act on it. I choose not to let it affect me and keep me in the past. I choose. And that also means I forgive myself. Because when you forgive someone, sometimes you end up blaming yourself for what has happened, or you get angry with yourself for having to forgive and you need a place to channel your anger. As Jesus has asked us to forgive those who have hurt us seventy-seven times, so too must we forgive ourselves seventy-seven times.
When we forgive and forget, we choose not to let the offender and the hurt have any power over us in any way, including self-guilt. Letting go takes courage, and we can be brave in the Lord, who will strengthen us and help us (Isaiah 41:10).
(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, how fragile are we when we let anger and bitterness rule our lives. Help us overcome the hurt that we bear and learn to let it go. Let our hearts be so full with Your Spirit that anger and resentment have no place in it, and in the fullness of our hearts, let us learn to forgive wholeheartedly and forget.
Thanksgiving: Lord, thank You for comforting us, Your children, during the times when we were down and hurt. Sometimes we forget how much we must have hurt You too, and we thank You for taking us back each time and forgiving us and not acting on our sin. Thank You Lord, for Your healing comfort and saving grace.