This season of Lent has me considering forgiveness. It is the time where we remember specifically the most awesome moment of forgiveness we will ever know. Jesus suffered and died so that we would be forgiven. We have so much to learn from this sacrifice. How are we called to forgive, given Jesus’ example?
If you have a resentment in your heart (I would venture that we all do; I know I have a few), it may feel like we have to suffer and sacrifice in order to forgive that person. If we have been holding onto this resentment for a long time, it may feel like death to let go. However, the good news is that the opposite is true. Jesus’ sacrifice turned everything on its head, because He already did the suffering. The truth is that we are suffering by holding onto that wrongdoing and living in resentment only leads to spiritual death. It’s eating away at us, making a larger and larger chasm between us and God. We may think that we are punishing our perpetrator, but really we are only punishing ourselves by leaving a larger and larger space between us and God. Jesus has given us the freedom to ask him to “Take this hurt off of my hook and put it on yours, dear God.” Jesus reminds us that God is all powerful, and he can deal with this transgression against us. It is life-giving to give our resentments and hurt to God.
Does this mean what the person did was ok? No, but it means that we no longer have to be responsible for what someone else did to us. Does it mean that we have to forget what happened? No, we can’t forget. We may wish we could, but in reality the memories remain. Does this mean we are never allowed to get angry over what happened again? No, we cannot control the emotions we feel. They come without bidding, but we don’t have to be a slave to them any longer. We can again ask God, “Please take my anger and deal with this person and these actions, so that I can relinquish this responsibility to you.”
Then Jesus said, “Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)
So – instead of giving up chocolate or caffeine or facebook, what if you gave up anger and bitterness? Ok, so how do I do this? Can I just say “I forgive you?” Maybe, forgiveness is a process and a journey. It moves forward, backward and side to side. Face to face amends may be part of your process. However, talking to a friend, pastor, counselor or recovery group may be a good start as you start this journey. Take heart and remember you are not alone!
Tiffany Shores joined the Barnabas Center in August 2012 as a resident counselor. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology from George Mason University and her Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from Marymount University in Arlington, VA. Tiffany’s experience ranges from grief and depression to marital concerns and relational brokenness. She is passionate about helping people become free from whatever is holding them back and follow where God leads them. Tiffany is married to Skott and they have two boys who keep her busy and teach her new things every day.