When I was in 3rd or 4th grade and my Sunday School teacher talked about forgiving your enemies, I tried really hard to think of someone, anyone, who was my enemy. I had this image in my head of forgiveness as being a monumental act of granting pardon for a horrific crime, like Joseph forgiving his brothers for selling him into slavery – And I certainly didn’t feel I had any issues that fell into that category. Any hurts I had received I kept well hidden from the world, thinking they weren’t significant.
Nothing to Forgive?
This “stuff it and forget it” philosophy followed me into my adult life. Yes, I felt misunderstood and unappreciated by my leaders, but I just needed to be more patient and submissive. Yes, my roommate was manipulative and controlling and cruel, but I must have done something to upset her. Forgive? Me? I don’t need to forgive anyone. Forgiveness is for people with serious problems.
But when at the end of four years of teaching English in East Asia I had to return to the U.S. from physical exhaustion and spiritual burnout, I was faced with the reality that I did have a problem. After all those years of stuffing my pain, the unforgiveness, bitterness, and resentment had been building to the point of explosion. A man bumped into me on the street and I almost screamed at him. A friend commented that a dish I had prepared needed more salt and I burst into tears.
Forgiveness Frees Us
I was finally able to understand the importance of forgiveness. Whether the hurt was small or large, intentional or unintentional, if I was affected by it, it’s significant. And if I was hurt, I need to forgive. As I acknowledged the emotional wounds and chose to forgive, I was able to release all the pent-up pain and be filled with the joy and peace of the Father! I have never felt such freedom!
Are you stuffing your hurts instead of acknowledging them? Is your heart being filled with bitterness because of unresolved issues from the past? When you get “bumped” by people or situations that irritate you, what spills out? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your pain isn’t important, or your hurts aren’t significant. Jesus cares about your pain. He wants you to be released. He will give you the grace to forgive. You can have freedom in Him!