Recently, I wrote a blog entitled, Acceptance – A Vital Part of Healing. In this blog, I shared my conviction that in order to truly heal from abuse, we need to accept the fact we have been abused. I believe once we accept this fact we can learn what choices, paths, lessons and opportunities we have now. We can accept that pain is part of life, and we don’t have all the answers. And we can begin to put our trust in God.
Today, I will go one step further. In my book, A Journey to Healing After Emotional Abuse, I say that in order to truly, fully heal from abuse, we need to forgive our abusers. I am not saying this is easy. No, it is HARD! And PAINFUL! And it won’t happen overnight. It may take years. And yet . . . I still believe it is necessary for us, not for them.
Forgiving our abuser is not for his/her sake, but for ours. Until we forgive, we are tied to him/her forever.
And I can’t think of a worse fate than wanting something from my abuser I will never get . . . even if it is to have him admit he abused me. He will never admit that because he truly doesn’t believe it. If I hold onto my anger and unforgiveness waiting for him to apologize to me, I will be waiting forever, while I lose sleep and hold bitterness in my heart. Meanwhile, he is happy and carefree. He may not even know I am unhappy and unforgiving. What does he care?
I recently heard an amazing sermon about forgiveness preached by Pastor Ryan Paulson at South Fellowship Church in Centennial, Colorado. I invite you to watch it. Pastor Ryan is a very entertaining speaker!
The Lord’s Prayer – Releasing the Records – Matthew 6:12
Here are the main points of his sermon, which comes from the Lord’s prayer, (forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors):
- Before we can begin to forgive another, we need to ask God to forgive us the things that we feel we have done wrong.
- Just like the servant in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, (Matthew 18:23-35) who could never pay back the HUGE debt he owed the king, we can never undo all the wrongs we have done over the entire length of our lives.
- Just like the king in the parable, God has decided not to hold our sins against us. Once we ask Jesus to save us, God has forgiven us ALL the sins we’ve ever done in our lives. God is no longer in the bookkeeping business. He has actually FORGOTTEN our list of sins.
- Often the hardest person to forgive is ourselves.
- If we know God is not holding our sins over us, it becomes easier to forgive others.
- Forgiveness is hard because when I screw up, I want grace, but when someone hurts me, I want judgement for them.
- The only thing that keeps me out of God’s grace is refusing his grace.
- We are freely forgiven, so we can freely forgive, because of the gospel.
Beginning at about minute 35, Pastor Ryan asks the important question:
But, what IS forgiveness?
Forgiveness is NOT:
- Overlooking the wrong – pretending it didn’t exist. Genuine forgiveness demands we name the wrong done to us, and say “That was wrong.”
- Forgetting the wrong – You don’t have to forget the wrong.
- Eliminating the consequences for the wrong. You can still long for justice.
- Reconciliation with the wrongdoer. You might be forever estranged from the abuser. Forgiveness only takes one person. Reconciliation takes two people.
- Releasing people from the debt they owe, and absorbing the wrong done to us. (There is no way they could pay you back for those wrongs anyway.)
- Ceasing the cycle of retributive violence and trusting God to bring justice eventually.
- Refusing to give the devil a foothold in our lives. Fighting for joy in our own lives.
- Fighting to see the humanity in the people who have wronged us deeply.
When we refuse to forgive, it is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
3 Secrets to Forgiveness:
- Your greatest resource for forgiving is the gospel. Remember that you have been deeply forgiven, God is not holding any grudge against you. He has forgiven you for everything.
- Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. You can forgive before you feel like it – you may never.
- Forgiveness is not a one-time decision, it’s an active, daily choice. You may have to do this over and over again.
No, forgiving an abuser isn’t easy. It may take years. But knowing you don’t have to forget what s/he’s done, don’t have to pretend the abuse never happened, and don’t have to reconcile with the abuser makes the process much easier, I believe. And, you don’t have to do this in your own strength. That is also part of the gospel (good news). We can depend and lean on Jesus to help us do things we cannot do by ourselves. As it says in Philippians 4:13:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Question: Have you ever tried to forgive someone who has done something unforgivable to you? What was that like?
I pray this has helped you, and God will use it to further your healing. May He bless you all today.