Scroll Top

Weekly Devotionals

The Gift of Forgiveness

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. – Micah 7:18-19 (NIV)

Recently, forgiveness has been on my mind. Humanity’s universal need for it, and our world’s growing and problematic shortage of it.

One friend shared with me the story of how, inspired by a book, before sending their child off to college she and her husband asked their child, “What hurts in the past do Mom and Dad need to ask your forgiveness for?” This difficult but simple question triggered wonderful healing and growth in their family.

Another friend recently almost lost her mother, who recovered unexpectedly from a coma. She shared that this had given her with a new perspective for all of her relationships, and new intention to let go of unimportant things and say the important things.

For myself, I remember when someone persisted in holding a grudge against me after I made a mistake and had earnestly sought their forgiveness. It was a helpless and hopeless feeling, since – no matter how hard I wished it – I couldn’t time travel and change what had happened. I learned that forgiving another is a beautiful gift that can be costly to the giver, but is of priceless value to the recipient.

This led me to consider how the heart of God’s good news to us in Christ is also forgiveness. In an act of total grace and mercy, He forgave us “when we were enemies,” or in other words, before we even cared about what we did or wanted His forgiveness. To forgive is not just beautiful, it is truly imitating the desires of God’s own heart.

We often carry around the memories of past hurts and injustices. These weigh down on our hearts and lives, when what the Lord wants is for us to live a life that is free, abundant, and open to joy. We simply can’t do that hanging onto unforgiveness towards others. We say things like, “I’ll forgive but I won’t forget,” which probably means that we aren’t really forgiving either.

It’s usually not that we are unreasonable. As Christians, we ascribe to the teaching about forgiveness. But let’s face it, many have done things to truly deserve our blame and anger. The pain is real, and letting go of that is really really hard in many cases. It’s so much easier to speak about forgiving than to carry it out truly, deeply in our hearts.

As I’ve thought on forgiveness and how difficult it can be for me to fully let go, here are three understandings I’ve found to be helpful. First, forgiveness is not usually instant or a feeling. It’s a decision we make with a gradual growth process like a seed planted. Just like a seed, it takes time and deliberate attention.

Second, forgiveness is like a new thought habit that requires intentional focus and repetition. When I have the old kind of thought toward someone I’ve forgiven, I try to offer the thought immediately in prayer – like spitting it out – and ask help.

Third, forgiveness is not human, but a divine work of grace, much like salvation and sanctification. It’s up to us to bring to God our need to forgive someone, and up to the Holy Spirit to truly realize it. We need to wait and depend on the Lord for it. This is not meant to be a way to excuse unforgiving feelings when they tempt us, but rather in those moments a reminder to encourage us to persist in hopefulness until at some point our heart is thoroughly changed.

If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it really can be. However, there is no doubt that it’s worth it, too. Forgiving others is not just important to our Lord, it’s God’s will for us in Christ, and it’s a core part of His kingdom restored on earth as it is in heaven. Whether it’s asking or releasing someone, who might God be bringing up with you for forgiveness today? Don’t delay.