Finding Freedom in Forgiveness
“Is there someone you need to forgive?”
More often than not, my answer to this question is: “No, of course not.” I’m not a conflict or drama kind of girl. I get along with everyone and don’t hold grudges. It’s just not in my nature. I’m more carefree and, by my own admission, very forgiving.
How humbling when you realize that something you believed about yourself is not quite as true as you thought. Maybe you kept telling yourself that because you wanted to convince yourself it was true. But God loves us too much to let us stay in denial. He’ll pull out the uncomfortable thing we ignored for so long to show us that we are constantly being transformed in His image (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
It was last year while I was on the World Race that God started pointing out that I buried something deep inside. So far down inside, that I thought it didn’t affect me. So far down, it took the Holy Spirit to pull it to the surface. Now, it kind of surprised me to realize that — yeah, I had some unforgiveness. Not only that, but God was calling me to something greater: reconciliation, or at least the beginnings of it.
So, there I was face to face with this conviction. I didn’t particularly like it, and I tried reasoning that maybe this wasn’t the Lord. Maybe it was some deep-seated guilt or something strange like that. But it surely wasn’t. I knew it in my heart, because it didn’t feel like guilt, shame or anything that the Lord would ever bring to His children. Conviction never brings condemnation, it brings peace and a call to change and action (Romans 8:1; Isaiah 30:18).
I had a year to struggle with this idea of confronting a part of my past that I was sure did not need to be revisited. I was still firm in my belief that it was not my place to make the first move. Without going too far into the tiresome details, this was something that had fallen apart when I was very young, and therefore it was out of my control and beyond my understanding or ability to change. So, at the age of 23, I was convinced that I should wait for this person to approach me. My own personal pride and hurt had me at a standstill. As far as I was concerned, things would be this way until the other person realized they needed to come talk to me. What made this all the more challenging was that it was someone in my family.
But God’s prompting was clear: Go see this person. You go to them.
This call from God completely tore down a pride I didn’t even realize I had. It challenged my belief that I had no unforgiveness in my heart. It called me into a new area of ownership. I was no longer that little girl who couldn’t do anything about it. I was now a young woman, fully capable of making a move and humbling myself to do so.
And you know what I learned that proved far truer than I had ever realized?
Forgiveness and obedience to the Lord really, truly, and undeniably do bring freedom.
How true these words are. And how true it is that being set free brings not only freedom, but healing, restoration, and a new closeness and intimacy with God.
Even after arriving home from the World Race in late November of last year, I avoided this conviction. I was putting it off and waiting for God to answer all these other prayers and requests of mine first. Thank God that He is so patient and compassionate. Because it dawned on me finally as I was spending time in the Word:
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. -James 4:17
It doesn’t get much more blunt than that now does it?
The right thing to do is to forgive because He first forgave us (Colossians 3:13), because God cannot forgive us if we do not forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). Most importantly, He requires it of us (Ephesians 4:32). The Bible is constantly reinforcing this idea. Check out Matthew 18:21-35 for an extended look at the parable Jesus gives on forgiveness. It sums it all up right there. God forgave us infinitely more than we could ever repay, therefore, we basically have no excuse for not forgiving a fellow human.
Not to say it is easy. I guess it depends really, but the Bible makes no exception.
You are not alone if you realize you have to take these steps. God will equip you and give you what you need. What a sweet and beautiful release it was for me. I’m still learning and processing what this means for me moving forward, and trusting that God is faithful when we are obedient, to bless us (Luke 6:36-38).
So, ask yourself, and search your heart with the help of the Holy Spirit: Is there someone you need to forgive?
Trust that sweet Jesus will be with you every step of the way as you take this on. He was for me, and He will for you as well. You will learn you are capable of loving the way He created you to love. You will realize that the burden you were carrying was not meant to be carried, but discarded at the foot of the cross. Most notably, you will learn that there is no thing more beautiful than walking free because you, too, are forgiven.
// image by Matthew Wiebe