“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)
Do you ever find yourself defining life by “before” and “after” the deep hurt?
The horrific season. The conversation that stunned us. The shocking day of discovery. The divorce. The wrongful death so unfathomable we still can’t believe they are gone. The breakup. The day our friend walked away. The hateful conversation. The remark that now seems to be branded on our soul. The day everything changed.
That marked moment in time. Life before. Life now. Is it even possible to move on from something like this? Is it even possible to create a life that’s beautiful again?
I deeply understand this kind of defining devastation in such a personal way.
I also know different seasons of life, anniversaries, and even social media can magnify all of the pain. We miss the people who are no longer a part of our lives. Memories that were once sweet now only serve to widen the chasm between what was and what is.
Like you, I wish I didn’t have such an intimate understanding of those feelings. But I do.
When your heart has been shattered and reshaped into something that doesn’t quite feel normal inside your own chest yet, a word like “forgiveness” feels a bit unrealistic to mention.
But, friend, can I whisper something I’m learning?
Forgiveness is possible, but it won’t always feel possible.
It’s a double-edged word, isn’t it?
Forgiveness is hard to give. It’s amazing to get. But when we receive it so freely from the Lord and yet refuse to give it to others, something heavy starts to form in our souls.
It’s the weight of forgiveness that wasn’t allowed to pass through. And for me, that’s mainly because I’ve misunderstood something so incredibly profound about forgiveness.
Forgiveness isn’t something hard we have the option to do or not do. Forgiveness is something hard-won that we have the opportunity to participate in.
Our part in forgiveness isn’t to muscle through desperately with gritted teeth and clenched fists. It isn’t sobbing through the resistance of all our justifications to stay angry and hurt and horrified by all the other person did. This is what I once thought forgiveness was, and after already being hurt, I couldn’t imagine having yet another painful process to work through.
But when I wrongly think forgiveness rises and falls on all my efforts, conjured maturity, bossed-around resistance, and gentle feelings that feel real one moment and fake the next, I’ll never be able to authentically give the kind of forgiveness Jesus has given me.
My ability to forgive others rises and falls on leaning into what Jesus has already done, which allows His grace for me to flow freely through me (Ephesians 4:7).
Forgiveness isn’t an act of my determination. Forgiveness is only made possible by my cooperation.
Cooperation is what I’ve been missing. Cooperation with what Jesus has already done makes verses like Ephesians 4:32 possible: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Forgiving one another just as Christ forgave you. God knew we couldn’t do it on our own. So He made a way not dependent on our strength. A forgiving way. A way to grab on to Jesus’ outstretched arms, bloody from crucifixion and dripping with redemption. He forgives what we could never be good enough to make right. He makes a way for us simply to cooperate with His work of forgiveness … for us to receive and for us to give.
What if this is actually the kindest, most unexpected gift you can give to yourself today?
That person or those people — they’ve caused enough pain for you, for me and for those around us. There’s been enough damage done. And you don’t have to be held hostage by the pain. You get to decide how you’ll move forward. If you’re knee-deep in pain and resonate with the feelings of resistance I have felt, let me assure you: Forgiveness is possible. And it is good.
So I just want you to sit here for a moment today and consider the possibility around this double-edged word "forgiveness." Not because your pain doesn’t matter. Not because what they did was right. Not because it fixes everything. But because your heart is much too beautiful a place for unhealed pain. Your soul is much too deserving of freedom to stay stuck here.
God, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, so we don’t have to do life alone. Thank You for caring about my pain and meeting me in this place. Show me how I can cooperate with forgiveness today, even when it’s hard. Help me continue to take steps in this healing journey with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
OUR FAVORITE THINGS
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (NIV).
What would it look like for you to receive God’s forgiveness today so that you can extend it to someone else in your life?
We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.
© 2023 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
P.O. Box 3189
Matthews, NC 28106