Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

SOURCE:  Anna McCarthy/American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

Heartache During the Holidays: A Look at Biblical Forgiveness

Many can say that they have “forgiven” a past offense with a family member or friend, yet once confronted with that person at a holiday event or family gathering, all of their past hurt begins to quickly make its way to the surface. And, instantly, it’s as though they are re-living the hurt all over again.

So, what does real biblical forgiveness look like?

Does it mean we are “fine” so long as we don’t have to see the one who hurt us?

Although, in some cases, distance may be needed in order to fully heal, I have seen time and time again where even the smallest of grievances can cripple someone from remaining healthy while in the presence of someone who has hurt them. Deep-rooted bitterness and a lack of ability to function around certain people this time of year may be a sign of unforgiveness.

I’ve come to the conclusion, having personally experienced abuse, that biblical forgiveness is part of God’s perfect plan for healing, even when restoration of the relationship is not possible. God, in his gracious wisdom, biblically designed the format to wholeness, no matter how deep the wound. God never planned for us to only function in certain places or specific situations. He desires our freedom—freedom to be exactly who he made us to be no matter where we are and no matter what has happened to us.

So often, especially within churches, our desire to please God and please others leads us to dismiss any pain or heartache we are experiencing. We must validate and give the heartache we experienced a place of importance. This simple first step quickly exposes any disconnection we are experiencing with God. Because, if we truly believe that God is for us and that he came to heal the broken hearted and bind their wounds, then we would not be ashamed to admit we are wounded. We do not need to hide our brokenness from God in order to please him.

This quickly reveals how much (or how little) we trust God.

Biblical forgiveness cannot begin until trust in who God is, has been restored. In any area where forgiveness is needed, somewhere in the midst of that event, trust was broken. As humans, we quickly engage protective measures to ensure that disappointment and pain does not happen again. This is where, almost simultaneously, distrust in God takes place as well.

Once trust in God’s full desire to heal has been restored, the door can open to trust him with forgiveness. Choosing to fully put God’s Word into practice in forgiveness requires a tremendous amount of faith. Webster’s defines forgiveness as: to cease to feel resentment against, on account of wrong committed. To give up resentment or claim to requital on account of (an offense or wrong).

God states in his word that his plan is to heal and restore us (Isaiah 61:1-3Jeremiah 30:17). In this plan, he includes forgiveness. We must trust him enough to relinquish our rights to what has been wrongly done, in order to walk out his divine healing.

I’ve often been asked the question, “I prayed and told the Lord that I had forgiven them. But, I don’t feel any different. Now what?” Often times, we overlook the portions of Scripture that follow the decision to forgive.

The choice to forgive is one of many steps on the road to biblical healing. The step following the decision to forgive is one that again, requires a tremendous amount of trust in God. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).

These verses defy our nature.

You will not find in anyone who has been hurt a natural desire to want to love that person, which is exactly why we need Jesus. This kind of love doesn’t just happen overnight and it doesn’t just magically appear. This love comes from obedience to a God who you recognize that you desperately need and who you begin to fully trust.

On our own, it’s impossible to love this way. But God didn’t provide commands in Scripture to frustrate us; he gave them out of his mercy to protect and heal us. This supernatural love comes from a choice to obey and trust. And, this kind of love exposes God’s divine healing on a platform louder than any other. But, most importantly, this part of biblical forgiveness ultimately grants freedom; freedom to be exactly who God made you to be, no matter who you are with over the holidays.

Note: This [article] is not intended to encourage those who are being abused to remain in that situation. Safety is of upmost importanceIf you are struggling with forgiveness, seek help from a pastor or Christian counselor.



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