The first thing we should do when struggling to forgive is pray.¹ With God’s help we can do anything.²
We are not fighting against flesh and Blood, but against spiritual forces of evil.³ Both us and the person who wronged us are under demonic influence.³ This means lies, deception, heightened emotions, ungodly influence and a host of other tactics could be involved.⁴ Sometimes we cannot simply forgive and they cannot simply stop hurting us. We need God’s help to deliver us from the enemy’s tricks, and tear down his lies.⁵
Another important key to forgiveness is remembering what the Bible says about our situation.⁶ We need to understand the truth, because God said the truth will set us free.⁷
One of the most important truths is that God sees what was done to us, and he will repay those who wronged us, both in this life, and in the age to come.⁸ Jesus said whatever wrong someone does to us, they do it to him.⁹ This is the nature of love, when someone hurts the one we love, we take it personal, as if they did it to us. So the degree of frustration, heartache, or pain we are feeling, is also felt by God, and he will take the necessary action to make things right.⁸
Another truth relating to forgiveness is, “to them that love God all things work together for good, even, to them that are called according to his purpose.”¹⁰ This means no matter how horrific the wrong done to us is, God is able to make the hurt worth it to us. He doesn’t say he works all things together for his good, but our good, again this is the nature of love. Nothing is so bad he can’t redeem it, or he wouldn’t have allowed it to happen to us in the first place.¹¹
Another important key to forgiveness is to do good to those who wronged us, pray for them, and be patient with them.¹² We are to love our enemies, just as God first loved us, because this pleases God.¹³ The only way to forgive someone is by the power of God, but if we don’t do what God commands, we should not expect him to give us the power to forgive.⁵
When someone wrongs us, we are commanded to turn the other cheek, just as God does with us, in order to give us a second chance.¹⁴ But we are only commanded to do this out of love, meaning if it might help them change.¹⁵ The bible also tells us to be as shrewd as serpents, because we are like sheep among wolves.¹⁶ On the one hand the scripture says the righteous person will not resist you, and on the other hand it says, “when they persecute you in one town flee to the next.”¹⁷ Sometimes Jesus stayed, sometimes he fled, and on one occasion he made a whip and drove his enemies away.¹⁸ In order for us to discern what to do, when someone is wronging us, we need to learn God’s heart, like Jesus.
One of the ways to check if we have forgiven someone, is to pray for God’s mercy to lead them to repent, and see if we feel anger or bitterness as we pray. We are not saying what they did is right, but because we are trusting God to make things right, we can ask him to redeem them from his wrath. It’s not unjust for Jesus to take our punishment or theirs. He suffered enough to satisfy what God would have done to us both. Jesus went from the bliss of heaven to the curse of earth.¹⁹ He learned obedience by what he suffered, to the point of death on a cross.²⁰ The one who breathed all things into existence is a greater payment than what he created.²¹ His death covers the eternal punishment we sinners deserve.²²
The hardest people to forgive can be Christians, because it feels like they can do wrong to us with no further punishment from God. But that is not true, Christians reap what they sow both in this life and the one to come.²³ Unless believers repent they will be disciplined on earth, and although they will likely go to heaven, there is also a judgement day for believers.²⁴ We will receive a reckoning for what we did on earth, and a resulting gain or loss of eternal rewards.²⁵
If there is still bitterness and hatred after we have done everything we can think to do, we might need to repeat these things the following day. Forgiveness is a process, and depending on the wrong done to us it can take a while. But if we want to grow in our relationship with God, we need to work on the anger and bitterness that comes from unforgiveness.²⁶
In summery we can only forgive with God’s help. Prayer, understanding the bible, and doing what is says are all keys to letting go of our anger and bitterness towards those who wronged us. Forgiveness matters, because it is necessary for an intimate relationship with God.
① Ephesians 6:18 ② Philippians 4:13 ③ Ephesians 6:12 / 1 John 5:19 ④ Matthew 16:22–23 ⑤ John 15:5 ⑥ Psalm 119:11 ⑦ John 8:32 ⑧ Proverbs 11:31 / Deuteronomy 32:35 / Psalm 89:14 ⑨ Matthew 25:34–46 ⑩ Romans 8:28 ⑪ Psalm 118:6 / Psalm 139:5 / Jeremiah 1:12 / Psalm 28:7 ⑫ Luke 6:27–28 ⑬ John 15:12 ⑭ Matthew 5:38 ⑮ 1 Corinthians 16:14 / Proverbs 25:21–22 ⑯ Matthew 10:16 ⑰ James 5:6 / Matthew 10:23 ⑱ Luke 13:32 / John 7:1 / John 2:15 ⑲ John 16:28 ⑳ Hebrews 5:8 / Philippians 2:8 ㉑ Colossians 1:16 ㉒ Isaiah 53:5 / John 3:16 ㉓ Galatians 6:7–9 / Proverbs 11:31 ㉔ Romans 14:12 / 1 Corinthians 3:12–15 / Hebrews 12:6 ㉕ Romans 14:12 / 1 Corinthians 3:12–15 ㉖ James 4:8 / Hebrews 12:14 / Isaiah 59:2 / 1 Thessalonians 5:19
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