“After all he has done to me, how can I ever forgive him?”
That’s a good question, one I hear often. Yes, he has hurt you badly. Yes, he has stolen so much from you. You are heartbroken at the loss — of self-worth, faith, and dreams of what might have been. So much loss. So much that is gone. Maybe even your children’s love. Yes, that’s what abusers do.
Like our enemy the devil, abusers come to steal and kill and destroy (John 10.10). First they steal our hearts and our hopes. They may rob our bank accounts and our love accounts. They kill our dreams and our identity in Christ. Our belief in goodness and happily ever after — poisoned. They destroy our ability to think for ourselves. They destroy our motivation to make healthy choices in life. They destroy our dreams.
Can we ever get our precious life back? Can we ever believe again? Must we live in fear and bitterness for the rest of our lives? Must we carry grudges like heavy chains around our neck? Will we ever be able to look up without shame all over our faces? Is there any possible way to escape from the anger that consumes us day after day?
Jesus spoke about forgiveness. When the disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, Jesus was glad to help them with that. And then He said these words, “Father forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” And then He went on to explain that a little more: “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:12-15)
Why did Jesus say that? Why is forgiveness such a big deal? It sounds kind of like a commandment, doesn’t it?
God gave us forgiveness as a gift. Yes, He is quick to forgive us of our sins when we come to Him and humbly admit that we have sinned against Him. The charges against us have been paid for by our Savior Jesus on the cross. We only need to accept that gift of forgiveness, and we are free from the penalty of sin, and it is a grave penalty, indeed.
But there is another reason why forgiveness is a gift. When we forgive others of the many sins they commit against us, then we are free from the bitterness, the anger, the wrath, the need to get even whatever it takes. That bitterness can consume us and weigh us down just as much as the pain and suffering that was inflicted against us. We forgive others, because God has forgiven us. Forgiveness leads to peace. It sounds so simple. It sounds so easy, right?
It is not easy. But it is the only way to be free. It may take some time to forgive, to let someone “off the hook”, but it is the right thing to do. For our own good. For our own health. For our own healing and recovery. That’s why Jesus puts so much emphasis on it. He loves us and wants all of God’s best for us.
But remember this: forgiving is not the same as forgetting. We may never forget the incident, the pain or the injustice.
Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. You may never be reconciled to your abuser, depending on his ownership of the crimes he committed against you. He may never admit responsibility of his abusive actions. He may never come to a point of repentance where he is broken-hearted for the pain he caused you and the family. He may never ever turn around and be a godly man.
Praise God that we don’t have to carry the weight of unforgiveness. Praise God that we can be free from bitterness and anger and hard hearts.
If you would like to talk more about forgiveness, please email Chaplain Natalie.