“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” Corrie ten Boom
Sometimes forgiveness comes easy: after a sincere apology or when an offense is small or unintentional. But anyone who has ever had to extend forgiveness for a serious or repeated offense knows that it takes prayer, time, and God’s grace. Sometimes, extending true forgiveness “from the heart” as God requires, is a challenge to our soul.
For the Christian, living in the grace and forgiveness purchased by Christ, extending forgiveness to others should be our desire. But where does the journey to true forgiveness start? It starts with an honest heart towards God:
You deserve honesty from the heart; yes, utter sincerity and truthfulness. Oh, give me this wisdom. Psalm 51:6
We are often encouraged, even instructed by others, to forgive quickly. Bible passages are quoted by well-meaning counselors or by the offender in an effort to deflect from their own sinful behavior. But what can be wrong with quickly forgiving an offense? If we are not careful, we will dismiss or deny our feelings and allow underlying unforgiveness to fester in our hearts; unforgiveness can show up as bitterness, misplaced anger, and trouble in relationships. It is far better to acknowledge our hurt and even the temptation to withhold forgiveness, to God, asking for His grace and help to walk in forgiveness. This can be accomplished without feeling forgiving towards the offender.
When we walk in forgiveness the path will look like this:
- A choice: praying for one who caused us pain, doing good towards them instead of evil, and speaking well of them to others. It is truly our will that brings us to the door of forgiving, then our heart catches up over time.
- A journey, not a moment: it takes time for our emotions towards an offender to change and we must trust God to help us in this process, resisting insincere forgiveness as a quick solution.
Forgiveness can be difficult to give, and also to receive for ourselves. But God offers us complete forgiveness and unconditional love. When we receive fully from Him, we can begin the journey of learning to extend that same forgiveness towards others. Will you receive His forgiveness, and His help in forgiving others?
What steps can you take today in the journey of forgiveness? Can we pray for you in this matter of the heart?
Living Bible, biblegateway.com