December 4, 2018 -

Why is Forgiveness Important?

Forgiveness and Release

Do you have something or someone in your past that you have been unable to forgive? Have you said at one point in your life, “I will never be like… or I am never going to let someone in my life like that again.” As we talked about in the trust minute blogs last month, these are vows we make after someone has betrayed our trust. It may be conscious or unconscious.

Before the power of a vow can be broken, you must invoke the power of God in your own heart. You must forgive the person who hurt you. Just as God forgave you for your sins and all the times you let Him down, you must forgive others. Just as God is willing to give you another chance by working His life in you, you must give others, in whom the life of Christ is manifest, the opportunity to show themselves trustworthy to you once again.

Forgiveness is an Everyday Project

Develop a lifestyle of forgiveness. Forgive those who have hurt you leading you to make vows against trust. Forgive also those who have hurt your loved ones, when you have taken offense on behalf of others. This can be the most difficult type of forgiveness. Ask the Holy Spirit’s help through prayer.

Forgiveness can be difficult. There are many books available to help you forgive and restore relationships with those who have hurt you.[i] If you are having trouble in this area, I urge you to read, study your Bible, reach out for counseling help, and ask for God’s help in forgiving others.

God Forgives All of Us

Hanging on the cross, dying as punishment for crimes He had not committed, Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[ii]

Jesus knew that the Jews and Roman soldiers who were crucifying him did not see the “bigger picture.” They thought they were putting to death a blasphemer and a traitor to Caesar, as they had many times before. Clearly, they did not understand who Jesus was and the significance of their act.

Understand Why Others Hurt You

Likewise, many of those who hurt you do not fully understand the ramifications of their acts. They don’t realize that their purposeful or insensitive action will cause you to lose your ability to trust. They do not realize that you are a child of God. They just don’t see the big picture. Forgive them, as Jesus did. The bondage of unforgiving only hurts you.

Jesus told a story in Matthew 18, in which there is a servant of an unnamed man. Here’s the conclusion of the story: “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger, his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”[iii]

Sally’s Story

Sally and Bill were married with two precious daughters. Bill’s job seemed to provide an adequate income and a lovely home in a new subdivision. They went to church and Sunday school class every week. They looked like the typical, upwardly mobile American family.  But beneath the surface, things were not right.

The communication between them lacked intimacy. At home, Bill would sit in front of the TV and “veg.”  Sally was busy with their daughters, dance lessons, Bible study, and girlfriends.

Bill came from a working-class background and could not lose the “poor man’s” mentality. He felt pressured to maintain a successful appearance but never felt as if he measured up to Sally’s expectations. When he got a potentially lucrative job, he could not perform. This was also true in the bedroom, where not much would happen month after month, year after year.

Sally thought something was wrong but blamed herself.  Maybe after having two kids and losing her shape, she was not as desirable anymore. Or maybe she was just not as pleasing to him.

At this point, they came to me for counsel. We began making progress, but as we homed in on some of Bill’s issues, he suddenly switched from open transparency to closed defensiveness. After one particularly intense session, he withdrew from counseling and refused to return.

Over the years, Sally and Bill were hounded with money problems. Creditors started to call, and Sally did not understand it. She would refer them to Bill, but he said he paid them all and she should not worry. One day, while she was watering the houseplants, she heard a knock on the door. She opened it to two men in business suits who asked, “Are you Mrs. Smith?” She said yes.

“We are serving you with a foreclosure notice—you have not paid your mortgage in more than a year.”

Sally was shocked. Disbelieving thoughts raced through her head. He said he took care of it. He said to just give him time and it would all work out. Sally felt betrayed, used and rejected. This was the final straw. She had put up with his irresponsibility and lies and deceit long enough. Her girls were practically grown, and he was hardly a father they could respect. Now he wasn’t even providing for their most basic needs. She called a lawyer and followed through on the promise that she had made to herself for many years, but this time she would follow through. She would divorce him and never have to put up with this kind of nonsense again.

Then the thoughts came. How could I have been such a fool? How could I have trusted him when I knew he was doing pornography and he would never give me the money I needed to run the house? I would borrow from my parents, but I knew something was wrong.

I see many such people in my counseling practice. Some of them never get over this type of anger. They’re caged. They wonder, why did I have to end up paying the price for someone else’s misdeeds?

The Downfall After Broken Trust

They tend to explode, blaming their partner, their boss, their job, but not taking responsibility for their own actions. Or they implode, becoming withdrawn and depressed, rehearsing the past and what they didn’t do or should have done. They “beat themselves up” for their failures of the past. They may seek help, but first they try to handle it themselves. However, it’s hard to be objective about someone so close who has hurt them so deeply. They try to pray, but their prayers seem ineffective. Finally, they realize they need to talk to somebody. But the Liar whispers to them that their failures are so shameful and unforgivable that they must not tell anyone, not even their counselor.

If they don’t seek help, they keep rehearsing the pain of the hurt over and over again. They get stuck, creating mental scenarios of what they think could have or should have done. On a day-to-day level, they keep functioning. Their habits of spiritual discipline go by the wayside, and they function according to the flesh.

They may try to anesthetize their pain through drugs, sex, work, projects, hobbies, relationships. They become obsessive in trying to get away from their pain. Yet they kick themselves repeatedly. In their gut they know one thing, but their mind is telling them something else.

They want to be “good Christians” and not lash out at the other person, yet inside they have “murder” in their heart. This creates tremendous tension because they believe that a good Christian would just forgive and forget and walk away from the hurt and pain.

They blame themselves, yet deep inside they know it wasn’t all their fault. They swing crazily between totally blaming the other person and totally blaming themselves. They’re far from God, but they may not even realize it because they’ve begun substituting something else—an idol so to speak—in His place. They’re lost.

Also, during this time, they tell their story to their friends and get so much conflicting advice that they’re tossed to and fro emotionally. They don’t know whom to believe or what to think. Their hurt gives them a jaundiced eye in telling their story to begin with. They can’t trust their own perceptions or the counsel of their well-meaning friends. They can no longer trust the one who betrayed them. And, feeling as though He has let them down, they can’t trust God.

Dealing with Divorce

After an ugly divorce filled with haggling over details, Sally and her daughters moved in with her parents. She was left financially and emotionally destitute. During the proceedings, Bill had undergone a Dr. Jekyll-to-Mr. Hyde transformation. At first, he played “Mr. Nice Guy” and proposed they settle their differences out of court. But when Sally hired a lawyer to protect an inheritance, Bill one-upped her. His attorney used emotionally manipulative ploys confused the issues and drew out the legal proceedings by showing up late for meetings or canceling at the last minute.

Meanwhile, Bill used his visitation times to poison his daughters’ attitudes toward their mother. He pitted the girls against each other, showing extreme favoritism toward the younger one. Sally dealt with the other’s pain and the feeling of being used. Both girls would return from their weekends with their dad in tears.

Unable to afford professional counseling, Sally sought advice from her friends and tried to trust the only one she could—the Lord. She threw herself into a new job, her Bible and the women who supported her through her ordeal.

The Healing Process

Over the course of a year, Sally gradually returned to a place of peace and safety as she lived out the Truth that she knew. She spent time in a quiet corner of her bedroom each day, praying and reading her Bible. She wrote in her journal a list of all the things that God’s Word said were true about her. She made lists of His promises to her. When He brought to mind the names of people who had hurt her (including Bill), she actively took steps to forgive and reconcile with them to the best of her ability.

Gradually the bitterness and pain in her heart lifted like the morning fog off the lake outside her parents’ summer home. Two years later on the shore of that lake, she married a godly man who embodied all the spiritual attributes Bill had lacked.

Forgiveness is not an option in the kingdom of God. It is the command of our Lord. The word says, forgive others as Jesus has forgiven you. Try it and see if you find the freedom you have been looking for.

[1] Augsburger, David, Caring Enough to Forgive

Stanley, Charles, Forgiveness

[1] Luke 23:34.

[1] Matthew 18:32-35.

















Forgiveness is not an option in the kingdom of God. It is the command of our Lord. The word says, forgive others as Jesus has forgiven you. Try it and see if you find the freedom you have been looking for.


[i] Augsburger, David, Caring Enough to Forgive

Stanley, Charles, Forgiveness

[ii] Luke 23:34.

[iii] Matthew 18:32-35.


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