Freedom In Forgiveness
by Stephanie Olson, Joy Martin, and Beverly Brown
On Saturday we held Renewed, Restored, Released in Omaha. What a day! Here’s what I realized. Telling the truth is not always easy. Sometimes the truth is painful, and when dealing with a subject like forgiveness, it can hurt.
Why is it that it can seemingly feel good to carry around a basket of offenses and hold on to bitterness and resentment? Sometimes we carry it around a little like Linus carries around his security blanket. We think holding on to that hurt, bitterness, pain, and resentment keeps us warm at night, but in reality it torments us on a daily basis.
It’s not easy to look at the things in our lives we need to release to God. Yet, Jesus wants to give us a supernatural peace. He wants to give us joy instead of mourning.
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For the reasons Stephanie mentioned and more, it’s simply not worth holding on to those feelings. Despite your best efforts to hurt those who hurt you, anger simply doesn’t work that way. I speak from personal experience. After twelve long years of struggling with unforgiveness of my own, here’s what I realized:
My twelve years of pent up anger did nothing to hurt the man whom it was directed toward, but it was killing me. He didn’t care that my heart was broken. How could he—he didn’t even know. The only person I was hurting was me. And that, in turn, was affecting the people I loved. How stupid! I was angry at this man for hurting people I loved, so I held on as tight as I could to bitterness and resentment toward him and in turn hurt people I loved.
And even though the man I forgave didn’t ask for my forgivess and doesn’t know that I forgave him, making that decision changed my life. I just wish I’d come to that realization long ago and saved myself years of self-torment.
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For me it was a day of many emotions. We cried, and we laughed. We met new friends and had fellowship with old friends. We ate good food and drank good coffee. But more importantly, we were challenged. The tag line for this conference was, “there’s freedom in forgiveness.” If you didn’t already know it, forgiving doesn’t come easily! We were challenged to look at those offenses in our lives that have captivated us for so long they have actually become a way of life for us. We heard the stories of two women who both made the tough decision to forgive and how it radically changed their lives for the good. One woman had to forgive sexual molestation by a close family friend, and another had to forgive a family member for extreme emotional abuse. But with willing hearts and God’s help, they were able to do it.
Unforgiveness is like a cancer. It eats at us at every level. It affects us emotionally, physically, relationally, and especially spiritually. What are you holding on to? If you are at a place where you don’t think you can ever forgive, the first step is to pray and ask God to give you the desire to forgive. Then you can begin the journey to healing with His help.