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About the Writer:

Beth cares deeply for the Lord and those around her. She looks for ways to help and support her readers by sharing her honest convictions and personal life lessons. With a creative and energetic writing style, Beth translates memorable word pictures and helpful principles into language we can all relate to.


Forgiveness Can Amaze Me

By Beth Caster

I don’t know about you, but I spent years developing an automatic reaction to getting hurt: defense. Defenses vary for each person. My defense when people hurt me manifested itself in grudges. Serious, year-spanning grudges. Of course I didn’t think I was holding grudges. I was simply walling myself off from people who had proven themselves dangerous to my heart. It was true that those people had hurt me, some of them deliberately. My feelings spanned from resentment at the pain they had caused to a desire that they each get what I thought they deserved. But more than all that, I felt hatred toward those who had hurt me. Deep, frighteningly vivid hatred. And when you feel hateful toward someone, forgiving that person seems literally impossible.

Of course, as a Christian, I was horrified by my hateful feelings. God is very clear in His Word that if anyone hates another, then the love of God cannot abide in Him, nor can his life be blessed. Though that knowledge terrified me, I gradually began to feel justified in my unforgiveness. I rationalized that the vicious things done against me were too painful to pardon now; I would wait a few years until I remembered the offenses less clearly, when maybe it hurt less. That time never came. To make a long story short, all areas of my life began to suffer as a result of withholding forgiveness in my heart. I was carrying around a huge weight full of anger and pain, feeling every bit as worthless as I had been to the ones who hurt me. I was allowing their offenses to continually assault my heart, making it more and more difficult to forgive as I endured continual torment. Then one day, I reached my breaking point.

I was in the middle of an emotional meltdown when something became clear to me: I simply could not go on living this way. I desperately wanted a deeper relationship with Jesus, and I was never going to have it with a boulder between us. And it occurred to me that I was never going to “feel” like forgiving. Never. My pain was never going to seem inconsequential; it would always matter to me and it would always matter to God. Although I felt miles from where I needed to be, I had actually arrived at the perfect place for beginning to forgive. I was in a spot where it hurt the most, ran the deepest, and seemed most impossible. There was no doubt that I needed Jesus if I was ever going to forgive. So I took the first step and made a decision. But first, I made a list.

I sat down with a pen and paper and tried to recall everyone who had ever hurt me. I wrote down the names of only the people who I felt anger against.

There were thirty-three names on that list.

The next day, I added two more.

The depth (and length!) of my bitterness was sobering to see in black and white. I knew I had a problem, but I had never realized that I was withholding forgiveness from so many people. The list read like a catalogue of my worst nightmares. Everyone I had hoped never to see again was organized neatly in columns. Just scanning the list filled me with dread, as if acknowledging each name would somehow summon each person into my room. In a way, that’s exactly what it did. I had to face every one of the people who had scarred my heart. Then I did the only thing I could do; I asked the Holy Spirit for His help.

There is no way that we are equipped on our own to attempt the kind of heart-cleansing necessary to forgive. We need the Holy Spirit. I asked Him to equip me to do something that I simply could not do alone. Then with God’s help, I did what Joyce Meyer suggested in an article I had read. I went down the list and prayed for each person on it. I didn’t pray for God to fix this one and save that one. Instead, I asked Him to bless and prosper each person. The first time I did this, it hurt. I reached one woman’s name, and I was assaulted with a new memory that I had blocked out. But that was okay. I didn’t need to feel warm and fuzzy, I just needed to hold fast to my decision to forgive. It’s okay to hurt. Pain is part of being human. God would heal my wounds in time, but not if I didn’t first humble myself and forgive in spite of them. Now that I think of it, I wonder if forgiveness isn’t most pleasing to God when we decide even in the midst of our pain to love those who wounded us.

The second time I prayed for the Lord’s blessings on each person, an amazing thing happened. I began to see this list of people whom I had hated in a whole new light. My pain took the background to a new realization that all of these people were precious to God. I had written them off, even deemed them throw-aways who didn’t deserve to share Heaven with me. But these were people who had grown in the Lord’s sight from precious little babies into adults who had each suffered through a different story and different pain. Yes, I was forgiving people who had hurtme, but they were also people who had each been hurt. Believe me, these thoughts were not my own. I was shocked. Was I actually feeling compassion toward people who had only shown me cruelty? Was I feeling love for my enemies? The Holy Spirit had done exactly as I asked; He had equipped me to do the impossible.

Now, I wouldn’t want to give anyone the idea that forgiveness isn’t a process, nor is it admission that you weren’t wrongfully wounded. I have days when the enemy brings a memory to me, and times when I feel that maybe forgiving such “awful” people might have been a mistake. But those are just fleeting feelings. They don’t change the truth of my heart. I have forgiven. I have forgiven my college roommate for causing me to leave school. Yes, it hurt. But I want her to have a good, blessed future. I have forgiven the people who rejected me, those who abandoned me, and even myself. I have forgiven each person on that list, whether I always feel like it or not. And every day, I make the decision to, with God’s help, hold fast to forgiveness. This might be the most important part of forgiving.

You cannot forgive someone if you meditate on his or her past offenses, mentally or verbally. One of my favorite pastimes following my divorce was repeating past offenses to anyone (or anything!) that would listen. Going to someone for help with pain is fine. Reiterating for the hundredth time how your ex committed adultery is not. I admit that this is the main area I’m currently struggling in. I had blocked many painful things out of my mind, so it is often tempting to talk when a new memory emerges. I now realize that this is extremely counterproductive to forgiving, as talking about how someone hurt you only yields new feelings of hurt or anger. Joyce Meyer often says that forgiving people is not denying that they have wounded you. It is simply releasing those things to God and canceling that person’s debt. This is the least we can do, considering that Jesus Christ so generously cancelled all of our debt to Him for eternity.

Copyright © November 10, 2005 – Beth Caster. All rights reserved.


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