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What do you need most in your life right now? Do you have a greater need to forgive or to be forgiven?
I don’t mean this to be a trick question, but when I recently considered the question, it surprised me. Is my suffering greater than the suffering I’ve caused?
I like the question because it really makes you think, doesn’t it? It’s a good question for self-examination. However you answer the question, some confession and repentance are in order.
Perhaps one way out of this paradox is to consider that I need to be forgiven for holding onto unforgiveness too long. Jesus’s words about forgiveness, after sharing the way we should pray, cover this all too well.
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.Matthew 6:14-15 NLT
What Does it Mean to Forgive?
Forgiveness is both simple and complicated. It’s both easy and hard. Forgiveness starts with opening your mouth and saying the words, “I forgive” or even “I want to forgive, help me forgive.”
For some people that might seem like the hard part, but it’s really the easy part. It only takes a few seconds and it’s done. It doesn’t cost you much. And, there’s quite a lot you gain. Eventually, the release brings peace of mind.
Forgiveness has a dark side. It’s what makes it so hard to begin with. Forgiveness can feel like you are giving up all hope for any kind of return to normal, better, or restoration. In one sense, it’s true. To say “I forgive” and mean it, is to walk away empty-handed.
But did you ever have anything in your hand? Maybe you did and maybe you didn’t. Whatever was there, it isn’t anything you have power over. It’s not yours to command.When you're trying to decide whether you can forgive, how often do you first consider your losses and grief them? If you don't, any attempt to forgive will only be lip service. Click To Tweet
Job understood how to release:
Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said,Job 1:20-22 NLT
“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!”
In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.
When Jesus hung on the cross, He offered forgiveness and His immediate reward was only more pain and death. When the sorrow or fear sinks in after you utter those words, realize it’s normal and necessary. It is a real loss. You are saying goodbye. You are letting go of something that you can never have again. What is done, is done.
Forgiveness has a light side. After you hit bottom, God provides a way out of the empty darkness. Hope is resurrected in whatever new thing God is doing. It won’t be the same as what you lost, but it will be an opportunity to continue on.
Jesus rested three days then God resurrected Him. God wants to resurrect you too.
What claims do you have on others that you need to release? Maybe the claim is against yourself. Maybe the person you need to forgive most is yourself. You need forgiveness as much as everyone else. Don’t withhold this good thing. Release and be resurrected.
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.