Forgiveness Is A Process
Written By: Deborah Ross
Forgiveness is a PROCESS that begins with a DECISION
James 1:15 tells us that once lust is conceived, it brings forth sin. Then, once sin is finished with you, it brings forth death. Unforgiveness is a conceived sin that is designed by Satan to kill YOU. The unforgiveness you hold in your heart does not hurt the other person; but rather, it slowly destroys “your” entire being, robbing you of “your” life, all the while separating you from the presence of God. First, comes the offense! Next, bitterness. Then, unforgiveness. And finally… torment!!!
Oh, I know firsthand, the pain and suffering caused by that gigantic bitter pill that was shoved down your throat… against your will. You didn’t ask for it; you didn’t even deserve it. You’ve tried to get rid of it. Yet, here you are, going through the motions of life on “automatic pilot.â€ť No joy. No vision. No peace. Just a nagging replay of the offense, going over and over and over again in your head. You want so desperately to be freed from this torment… but how?
First of all, let me tell you that you “are” capable of forgiving. No matter how vile your injury, God has given you the strength, power, and ability to overcome those demonic forces that have hurt you. I remind you that forgiveness is also a process that begins with a decision. Once you have determined in your heart that you must forgive, you’ll need to stick with your resolve until your emotions line up with God’s Word. The ONLY way to do this is through PRAYER… and lots of it!
After my husband defiled our marriage of eighteen years through gambling our finances away, lying, alcoholism, drug addictions, and secretly (so he thought) lusting over pornography, I was angry and frustrated to no end. But, once he crossed the sacred line of our marriage vows (after all that I had already put up with) by committing adultery, it was as if Satan, himself, shoved a nine-foot-tall glass of bitterness down my throat. I was poisoned! Back then, that poison made me think I’d never be the same. I thought I’d never be able to get over the hell that he put me through for so many years. I was mad at him; I was mad at the adulteress; I was mad at an in-law for deceiving me concerning my husband’s whereabouts; and, I was mad at God for allowing this to happen to me!
Luke 17:4“And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”
I knew that the Word of God says you must forgive “seventy times seven,â€ť but I was hoping that I had reached that magic number of four-hundred and ninety so that God would allow me to harbor unforgiveness toward my husband – forever! Desperate for help, I ran to my church and sought counsel from a pastor on staff. I learned so many things from our sessions that helped me to forgive, and I’d like to share some of them with you now.
First of all, when the Bible speaks of “seventy times seven”… it’s not a finite number, such as four-hundred and ninety. When Jesus told Peter that he should forgive “seventy times seven,â€ť He was actually saying, “You must always forgive.” Let’s look at another passage of scripture that confirms this point…
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
Ouch! Did this mean that God would not forgive me of my sins, if I didn’t forgive everyone else of theirs… including my husband?
“But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
You see, I was a born-again, Spirit-filled Christian who had enjoyed the power of the Holy Ghost for many years prior to the offense; and now, I couldn’t bear to think of ever returning to that place of separation from God’s presence. I knew I would have to forgive “everyone” who seemed to have taken part in my demise, but I was completely overwhelmed at the enormity of my dilemma. Everything in my life appeared to be broken, and I couldn’t see any sort of light at the end of my tunnel.
Thankfully, this godly counselor gave me the following pieces of wisdom that saved my mind and made it possible for me to move forward in God’s will of forgiveness. First, he said, you must forgive your husband, as well as everyone else who has offended you throughout this trial. This does not mean that you have to stay married to your husband (according to scripture, divorce is permitted in the case of adultery – but this is not God’s perfect plan); it does not mean that you have to associate with the adulteress or even keep company with your in-law. You “do” however need to stay in fellowship with God.
Then he said, “You need to compartmentalize your offenses so that you can deal with one hurdle at a time; leaving all of the other people and problems in the Lordâ€™s care until you are ready to handle more.” Learning to separate the troubling aspects of my life, to deal with one thing at a time, was a huge piece to the puzzle of my forgiveness journey.
And so, I decided to work on forgiving my husband first. (Of course, I knew I couldn’t stay mad at God. After all, without His blessings I’d never be whole again. He is my breath, my life, my strength and my source. He is my deliverer!) I cried, “God help me!”, as I literally ran to my closet – many times a day – to pray. Screaming, crying, arguing, reminding, begging (yes, even begging) God to help me to forgive. I quoted scripture. I bound up principalities and powers. I bound good things (according to God’s Word) to me, my husband, and my children. I pleaded, “God, take this bitterness from me! Help me to forgive!” Each day, the Lord would take my bitterness from me and I would be strengthened, but the next day… I would have to start the process all over again. It’s not that the Lord didn’t take it; rather, I kept taking it back. The devil would flood my mind with horrendous thoughts and images, sending me into a panic attack as adrenaline surged through every cavity of my soul. This was truly the hardest battle I had ever fought.
It took me about a year to purge the bitterness that consumed my being. I don’t recall the exact moment, or the exact day, but I just know that at some point, I became free. Of course, throughout this year-long prayer vigil, I prayed for my husband (the one who offended me). Thankfully, he became a born-again believer shortly after our marital collapse. And so, I decided that if I had to forgive him, then I wanted the prize for my hard work. I wanted my marriage to be restored… and it was! Hallelujah!
Your situation may not require restoration with your offender. Perhaps you were violated by a stranger, or maybe by an acquaintance. Regardless of “who” hurt you, forgiveness mandates that you pray blessings and not cursings upon your perpetrator. If you find that too hard to do, start by praying for their salvation – that is more than enough. If the person claims to be a Christian, then pray that God will open the eyes of their understanding, so perhaps they’ll feel remorse over hurting you and ask for your forgiveness. If they don’t… it’s OK! Pray for them to not suffer the consequences of the wages of their sin(s) toward you.
I once witnessed someone’s house burning down in the middle of the night shortly after they blind sighted me with hideous rage. Through this instance, the Lord taught me the importance of praying for my enemies. That person, and their entire family, was unsaved and they would have all spent eternity in hell had they died in their house fire that night. Was the fire the wrath of God? That, I don’t know; but, what I do know is that God spoke to my heart about the importance of praying for those who have offended me.
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Forgiveness. How do you forgive?
* Realize that forgiveness is a commandment from God… it’s not a suggestion.
* Purpose in your mind and heart that you will purge “all” bitterness and malice toward your offender.
* Cry out to God DAILY asking Him to take the bitterness from you – UNTIL IT IS ALL GONE!
* Compartmentalize your problems so that you can accomplish one thing at a time, leaving the others in God’s hands until you are ready to deal with them.
* Pray for your offender. Pray blessings and not cursings.
* Read your Bible.
* Praise and worship God in the midst of your pain. (This really confuses the devil.)
* Don’t rehearse your bitterness. Only speak of your testimony in light of what God has done to turn things around, according to His Word – and not according to the desires of your flesh.
* Speak the truth in love. If possible, tell the person that they offended you. Perhaps they’ll repent. If they don’t… you must still forgive, for your sake!
Remember what Jesus said as He hung on the cross…“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This should be your example. This should be your goal. When you choose to forgive, you create fertile ground for God to work a miracle. Who knows? Maybe “your miracle” will be a restored marriage, mended relationship(s), a new job, born-again family members, your offender becomes born-again, financial prosperity, healing in your body, a dream accomplished or ____________ (put your secret heartâ€™s desire here.) With God, all things are possible!
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
“Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”