March 6, 2020
When Forgiveness Still Hurts
"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 (NIV)
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 apartfrom 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; wecan 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.
Dear Lord, search my heart. Reveal to me any remaining burs of hurt where I have attempted to forgive apart from You. I pray You would cover these hurts in Your healing grace, and through Your strength, empower me to forgive others as wholly and completely as You first forgave me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Philippians 4:13, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (NIV)
Do you ever question who you are? Or wonder what God thinks about you? In those times, we desperately need to remind ourselves what is true. "Truths for When You Question Who You Are"is a free resource to help you trade the lies whispered by the enemy for the Truth of what God's Word says about you. Click here to download now!
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
How have you been approaching forgiveness in your own life? Prayerfully consider the findings of your heart as you come before the Lord today. And join the conversation below in the comments section!