One of the greatest gifts we can give this Christmas is the beautifully wrapped gift of forgiveness. If we’re willing to do the work of giving this gift, both the giver and receiver can be set free.
In this post, I’m not talking primarily about forgiving people for offenses that come up in our everyday relationships: unkind comments or misunderstandings. It’s important to forgive those things, of course, and it’s very important to restore any broken relationships. Maybe this is the season when you can extend forgiveness to someone and mend a friendship. That would be a wonderful gift for both of you.
But I’m talking about the deep hurts some of us have stored in a box in our heart’s attic, sealed up and marked, “Unforgivable.”
There are things that happen to us that can be considered “unforgivable.” Verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, all fall into this category. Words from important people in our lives that have warped our view of ourselves. Anything that has hurt so deep, we can’t seem to find the strength to forgive because they were just “so wrong.” And you’re right. They were wrong. And sinful. Perhaps even evil.
But we are still called to forgive. Forgiveness is the only way to freedom. If we don’t forgive, we will harbor a hardness of heart. Bitterness will grow up and choke us with its poison. Even if you agree with this concept, I know what you’re thinking … “But how?”
There are 4 ‘A’s that can help us.
1. Acknowledge Forgiveness is a Continual Process. Some people have done so much damage that you have to forgive them over and over. Every time the hurt or offense comes to mind and it still stings, we have to forgive again. And we are in good company. The disciples asked Jesus how many times they should forgive someone and suggested a generous seven times. Jesus said, no, seventy-seven times. In other words, over and over. (Matt. 18:21,22.)
2. Agree to Participate in the Forgiveness Process. The Bible tells us many times we need to forgive and show mercy. Jesus said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” (Matthew 6:14.) Notice He didn’t say “if” they sin against you, He said “when” they sin against you. We need to agree that God’s ways are best and yes, we will set our hearts to forgive.
3. Ask God for Grace. He will give us grace. God always wants to give us grace. When we are taking a step of obedience, He is right there to hold our hand and give us the power to do it. “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you,” (Isaiah 41:13.)
4. Articulate Forgiveness. We will make progress faster along the path of forgiveness if we will speak our forgiveness out loud. Even if it’s a whisper, when that person and that heartbreak pops up to haunt you again, say, “I choose to forgive today. I forgive you because Jesus forgave me. I forgive by the power of the blood of Jesus.”
Trust me. These steps will help. Forgiveness will help heal your heart and it will help set you free. Forgiveness is the one of the greatest Christmas gifts you can give to another and to yourself.
Have a lighter heart this Christmas. Forgive.
Is there someone you need to forgive?
For a song to encourage you in this process, check out Matthew West’s “Forgiveness” on iTunes.