In my quarter–of-a-century lifetime, there have already been numerous times of hurt and anger, and not just by those who I didn’t agree with. It was my family, my friends, and yes, even my pastors and fellow church members, that would twist the knife a little deeper. There have been times that the pain and heartache of someone’s actions made me physically doubled over in pain, or even sick. I would examine my heart, see if I did anything to cause that person to act that way towards me. Sometimes, to add to injury, I would have to ask forgiveness of them, emotionally limping and crippled as if I had been hit by a bus. The worst is when that person doesn’t understand their betrayal or when they just look at you with that look that makes you feel about three feet tall. I would leave them holding my broken heart in my hands, not sure of how to put it back together or if I would ever want to be around that person again.
Sorry to get a little depressed on you. Who I am now looks back on who I was then and just winces, you know? I think what really changed for me was hearing the phrase, “pray for your enemies”. We have all heard something similar I am sure, and that is that scripture where everyone turns the page in the Bible really quickly and we don’t really want to stop to process that statement. But I am still processing that statement every day. Pray for your enemies. Not pray for your enemies to be taught a lesson, or pray for your enemies to be snubbed by someone else.
I know, I know. Even now it’s just not a pleasant feeling. When we think about that hurt, that overwhelming anger, you literally want to grind your teeth or even punch something. I get it, I promise. That’s exactly why I made myself pray for those people. I started simple, praying, “Lord, look out for _____ because you know that they are a bad person.” Well, that’s not quite what God was looking for, based on the scriptures. So I instead would first admit my hurts with that person, what they did, how I feel, and that made it a little easier. But I couldn’t stop there. I had to start praying for them like a mother or sister or brother would. Praying for their safety, for God to bless them, and for them to draw closer to Jesus. At first it took everything I had not to say ugly things about them in prayer, but eventually I started just asking God to bless that person and for them to draw closer to Him.
I know that you may be reading this and think that I couldn’t possibly know what you went through and how it’s not the same. But does it really matter if it’s not? The scripture is pretty clear that forgiveness is a must for us. We were created to be relational beings, not isolated creatures. We can’t shut ourselves off to emotions because we are scared of being hurt. You will get hurt, just like you will hurt others. You probably have been the cause of someone’s hurt before, whether it was intentional or not. And if it was unintentional, would you want that person to harbor ill will towards you? Would you want someone else to be so hurt with what you accidentally did that they can’t even look at you or speak to you?
You might not care, but I did. I didn’t want to feel that tightening around my heart every time I thought of that person or that incident. I was tired of being angry, tired of giving them too much time in my heart and mind. So I prayed for them. For years I prayed for them, and I still do. I committed to forgiveness, praying every single time my selfish ways wanted to rehash what they did to me or when I was confronted with them in public. It has been the hardest commitment of my life, but it has also been one of the most rewarding. I have peace in my heart where there was anger, and joy where there was pain. It is not always an easy commitment, and there are days that I let unforgiveness get the upper hand. But I also eat bad occasionally, too, and sometimes I skip my workout. If we treat forgiveness like a daily routine to clear our hearts and our thoughts, instead of a one-time moment, I think that it will get easier over time.
It does not mean that I am friends with those people. Some of them I haven’t spoken to in years and that’s ok. Some of them I have a great relationship with today. I don’t have to be friends with everyone. I have to forgive others and treat people with respect and the love of Christ. Can you imagine what sin does to the Heart of God? Imagine how hurt you’ve been in your darkest moment and multiply it by over 3 billion. Yep, you’re starting to get the idea. We do things that hurt God every day, and yet He died anyways. He forgives us anyways. He loves us anyways. He blesses us anyways. Now it’s my turn. I am never going to be able to forgive like God can. I am fully human and have fleshly thoughts and wants that hold me back. That does not mean that I am exempt from trying.
That person may never realize they wronged you. They may never ask for your forgiveness. But you don’t need them to. You need to ask yourself for their forgiveness, and commit to forgiving them seven times seventy times.
This series has been such a blessing to me and I hope it has for you too! I have had many emails expressing how much people can relate to the stories being told and many thanking each person sharing! Please feel free to comment below or email me directly with any comment you may have, I love receiving them. If you are interested in telling your story please contact me at [email protected] Feel free to look back at other stories that have been told and to sign up for future stories.