“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
I am a soul who likes the concept of forgiveness … until I am a hurting soul who doesn’t.
Left to my own deep woundedness, forgiveness can seem offensive, impossible, and one of the quickest ways to compound the unfairness of being wronged. I cry for fairness. I want blessings for those who follow the rules of life and love. I want correction for those who break them.
Is that too much to ask?
And it’s that exact spot where I like to park, stew, focus on everyone else’s wrongs and rally those who agree with me to join in and further help me justify staying right there.
But that’s like the time in college I stayed in the parking lot of a beautiful vacation spot just to make a point. A small offense happened with my friends on the drive up. When we got to our destination, they all piled out of the car and spent the day making incredible memories together. All the while, I walked around the parking lot with vigilante strides in the sweltering heat, letting my anger intensify with every passing hour.
I relished the idea of teaching my friends a lesson by staging this solo protest.
But, in the end, I was the only one affected by it. I’m the only one who missed out. I’m the one who rode home in silence, knowing no one had been punished by my choices but me.
Please know, I want to acknowledge that much of the pain you and I have been through is way more complicated and devastating than that day at the beach. But in all of my offenses, both big and small, I’ve learned to recognize what I’ve come to see as the soldiers of unforgiveness.
Bitterness masquerades like a high court judge, making me believe I must protect the evidence against all those who hurt me so I can state and restate my airtight case and hear “guilty” proclaimed over them. In reality, though, it’s a punishing sentence of isolation, out to starve my soul of life-giving relationships.
Resentment cloaks itself in a banner marked with the word vindication, making me believe that the only way to get free of my pain is to make sure those who caused it hurt as badly as I do. In reality, though, it’s a trap in disguise, with dagger teeth digging into me, keeping me tortured and unable to move forward.
Delay sneaks in like a theater attendant, offering popcorn and a comfy chair made of my sorrow and sadness, making me believe it’s just fine to stay there, replaying old movies of what happened. And that, by doing so, I’ll one day understand why it all happened. In reality, though, I’m in a torture chamber, with each replay only ratcheting up the pain but never providing the answers I keep thinking will come.
And, lastly, trust issues disguise themselves as private investigators, making me believe they will help me catch everyone out to hurt me and prove no one is truly honest. In reality, trust issues are toxic gas that, instead of keeping away the few who shouldn’t be trusted, choke the life out of everyone who gets close to me.
These are the soldiers of unforgiveness that have waged war against me.
The soldiers of unforgiveness waging war right now against every hurting person.
The ones who will always lead us to isolation, the emotional darkness of broken relationships, spiritual darkness with heaped-on shame, and a darkened outlook where we are unable to see the beauty that awaits just beyond the parking lot.
What if I’d been able to release the offense and move forward that day at the beach? What if we could all do that? I’m not talking about excusing abuse or allowing someone to traumatize us. I’m talking about small offenses that we refuse to address properly.
Colossians 3:13 reminds us, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
This isn’t about diminishing what we’ve been through or making light of the anguish we’ve cried a million tears over. It’s knowing that those who cooperate most fully with forgiveness are those who dance most freely in the beauty of redemption. And what exactly is this beautiful redemption?
It is sweeping our hearts clean of little offenses before they cause us big problems.
And it’s finally finding the freedom to move on.
We don’t have to stay stuck here, friend. Forgiveness is the weapon. Our choices moving forward are the battlefield. Being released from that heavy feeling is the reward. Regaining the possibility of trust and closeness is the sweet victory. And walking confidently with the Lord from hurt to healing is the freedom that awaits.
Lord, help us learn to forgive as You have forgiven us. Freely. Completely. Not to excuse what’s been done to us, but to set us free. You are good. Your ways are good. And that means we can trust that forgiveness is good too. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Romans 12:17, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” (NIV)
Are you worn out from the constant chaos in some of your relationships? Do you find yourself increasingly frustrated by the unpredictable and hurtful things that certain people do but you don’t know how to address it? We don't want you to miss out on our Online Bible Study: Forgiving What You Can't Forget by Lysa TerKeurst. It's time to move on, make peace with painful memories, and create a life that’s beautiful again. The study starts January 19. Sign up today!
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REFLECT AND RESPOND
Do you recognize the work of any of the soldiers of unforgiveness in your own life? How might forgiveness help you fight back against them? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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