When Forgiveness Still Hurts
Their screams echoed through the house. A new day, but the same fight, as my girls argued over the coveted toy of the moment. Hurt words were said: “Fine, then you’re not my best friend anymore!” Arms were crossed. Little chests heaved with indignation.
I let out a long, exasperated sigh before rolling out my boiler plate response:
“Girls …” (pregnant pause for dramatics) “… what is going on? Why are we fighting? In our house, we share. In our house, we use kind words. You both need to say sorry to each other, and you both need to forgive one another.”
Without hesitation, the girls uncrossed their arms and apologized.
They hugged, forgave one another and had resumed “best friend” status before the salty tears on their cheeks even had a chance to be wiped away. My work was done! I basked in the mini mom-victory for a moment longer. I had fully expected some negotiations, perhaps even a tantrum from one, but alas, nothing more was needed. It was as simple as that … at least for them.
But to me? If I’m being honest, forgiving didn’t always feel so simple. In fact, in recent weeks, the burs from an old hurt had been festering in my heart and nagging at both my waking and sleeping thoughts.
Hadn’t I sought reconciliation in the matter? Didn’t I accept the apology and offer my words of forgiveness? I had. I was even committed to moving forward in love, and yet … the burs still remained.
Forgiving when it hurts just isn’t easy.
At a loss for answers, I turned to Scripture, hoping to find the missing piece to forgiveness eluding my burdened heart. In Matthew 5, Jesus spoke of the importance of actively seeking out reconciliation with one another (verses 23-24). I had done that.
In Matthew 6, Jesus warned of God’s unwillingness to forgive us if we could not forgive others (verses 14-15). I understood that.
In Matthew 18, Jesus informed Peter that our forgiveness offered should not have a limit (verses 21-22). I could probably manage that.
And in Ephesians 4, Paul reminded the church to be compassionate, forgiving each other as God first forgave us (verse 32). I was trying to do that!
But I was still missing something … and it was not until I recalled these words from Jesus that I was reminded of a truth I had long since forgotten:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
My soul cringed with realization. I had been trying to forgive the hurt apart from God. I had assumed that simply knowing the gospel truths about forgiveness would be enough; and I (falsely) believed that if I wanted to forgive, I just needed to power myself through.
But I couldn’t — not in my own strength — and the festering burs in my heart were proof of that. Therefore to experience the fruit of the Lord’s restorative and enduring peace, I needed to remain in the Lord, relying on His strength to forgive.
We all do.
To forgive others as God first forgave us is a task beyond even our best efforts. In our humanness, we could never manage to forgive as wholly as God has commanded. And yet still He commands it … why? Because God never intended for us to forgive alone! God has had a redemption plan for us from the very beginning, and that plan is rooted in forgiveness. Through the blood of Jesus on the cross, God has forgiven our sins.
By the gift of the Holy Spirit, God has empowered us to forgive others. And friends, when we rely on God’s power to heal our hurts, we can forgive wholly and completely. In His strength, we can forgive those who seem undeserving; we can forgive again; we can forgive that which feels unforgivable; and we can finally trade our festering burs of hurt for the vine of His grace-filled redeeming fruit.
The choice to forgive is ours today. Even when it still hurts.
A Child’s Faith
A little child will lead them. Isaiah 11:6
“And dear God,” my little boy whispered, “I pray that you give Mommy and Daddy another Jaynes baby.”
After four years of praying for God to bless us with a second child, we realized that might not be His plan for our family. However, every night my little boy, Steven, prayed for another “Jaynes baby.” But how do you tell someone to stop praying a prayer?
As I pondered this dilemma, God took care of it for me. Just before his fifth birthday, Steven and I were sitting at his child-sized table eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He looked up at me, and with all the wisdom of the prophets asked, “Mommy, have you ever thought that God might want you to have only one Jaynes baby?”
“Yes, son, I have,” I said. “And if that’s the case, I’m glad He gave me everything I ever wanted in one package when He gave me you.”
“Well, what I think we ought to do is pray until you’re too old to have one. Then we’ll know that was His answer.”
Steven had no idea how old “too old” was. He knew Sarah in the Bible was 90 when she delivered Isaac. But whatever the outcome, Steven wasn’t having a problem with God saying no. My son knew I said no to him many times, and no didn’t mean “I don’t love you.” Rather it meant “I’m your parent, and I know what’s best for you.”
God taught me a great lesson that day. Through Steven’s childlike faith, God gave me an example of the attitude of trust I should have toward my heavenly Father who loves me and knows what’s best for me . . . and sometimes that means accepting when His answer is no.
“I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance…But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” – Revelation 2:2, 4 NASB
Many believers in Ephesus worked hard. They were diligent and vigilant about their faith and alert for false teachers. But in spite of this praise, Jesus revealed that He was disappointed with them. Why?
Because Jesus was concerned about their attitudes, the condition of their hearts, their priorities, and commitments. In particular, He was concerned that they had “left [their] first love.” To Him, that love was far more important than all their actions and accomplishments.
Jesus had stressed the importance of love when He taught that the greatest commandment is loving God with our entire being (Matthew 22:37). The essence of the Gospel is “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16). And “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
What happened to these Ephesians can happen to any of us. The initial love that drew us to Jesus can fade with the passing of time. We become busy. Our schedules can be filled with too much activity, even good activity such as church and Bible studies. We can find ourselves busy doing work for the Lord, but failing to develop our relationship with Him.
Make this a day to focus on your personal relationship with Jesus. That relationship with Him is more important than anything you might do for Him. Spend time with Him. Talk with Him. Give Him first place in your life.
Scripture Reading — John 3:1-15
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” — John 3:3
Nicodemus met Jesus. As a Pharisee (a religious leader), Nicodemus was very good at following rules. He knew what it meant to be a faithful Jew, and he probably acted like a faithful Jew most of the time. When Nicodemus approached Jesus to learn more about him, he might have been expecting Jesus to tell him about some rules or requirements. He might have been wondering, “What do I have to do to be your follower?”
Jesus responded to Nicodemus in an unexpected way. Jesus told him that he must be born again. If we are familiar with these verses in John 3, we might not realize how shocking this idea must have been for Nicodemus. But Nicodemus reminds us how shocking it was when he said, “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus explained that he was talking about a spiritual rebirth, not a physical one. The new spiritual beginning that Jesus offers is so complete, so all-encompassing, that he called it being born again. It’s not enough to follow a few new rules. Jesus offers us something better: a fresh start.
As he did for Nicodemus, Jesus offers you the joy of being born again, the joy of a fresh start at life because of God’s amazing forgiveness and love.