This post is very personal and took courage to write. I pray you are encouraged and that you find peace in your own seeking.
Luke 23:24 – Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
When I first accepted Christ, this verse spoke volumes to me.
And it still does. But at first, I couldn’t understand how, or even why, Jesus would ask for forgiveness for such horrible, hateful people. To be honest, it troubled me. At that time my life felt like it was filled with nothing but pain.
Sure, great things were happening to me. Like coming to know Jesus, dating my husband, going into my twenties, etc.. But there were things from my past, people who had hurt me, that I didn’t want to forgive. Because I just didn’t think they deserved my forgiveness.
Here’s where it gets personal. I am/was a victim of childhood sexual abuse. I also am/was a child of divorce with a father who was in and out of my life as he pleased.
And I let these things define me. But I was dying to be free from the grip of my past. It wasn’t until I realized that Jesus was not just seeking forgiveness for those seeking His crucifixion, but also for me, that I finally felt free.
Romans 3:23 – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
If I was no better than those who crucified my Lord, who was I to hold on to the very thing that was causing me pain and suffering? The sin of my past was shouting for my own crucifixion. And it was time to seek forgiveness.
1. Forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight.
Even as I began my journey of seeking forgiveness, I still felt like sorrow was swallowing me and I just couldn’t be free of it. But as I continued to press into Jesus, He answered my prayers!
Luke 18 (NIV) – The Parable of the Persistent Widow
18 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought.3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
2. To extend forgiveness, you have to first receive it.
We all fall short of the glory of God. We are all sinners. And when we come to this conclusion, we seek forgiveness from God for our own sins. To accept His forgiveness is like a cleansing, wash-over-me feeling that is hard to explain. But it is something that has to be known. Without knowing true forgiveness, it becomes just a word without meaning.
3. True forgiveness equals true freedom.
I’m not talking about American freedom. But the freedom to walk in new life; rebirth. When a baby is born, they experience everything from a new beginning. And I can’t explain it any other way than to tell you that I felt new. I felt new when I finally accepted that I am forgiven, and when I finally extended forgiveness to those in my past.
4. You are forgiving the sinner, not the sin.
I remember the moment I forgave my abuser. I was in church. It was Mother’s Day. And I remember walking up for prayer after the service. I was so afraid of opening up to someone new about what happened to me, but I felt God pointing me in a particular woman’s direction. I told her that I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse and that I wanted to forgive my abuser but I didn’t know how. I thought she might think I was crazy! Instead, she put her hands on my shoulders and prayed for exactly what I asked. I began sobbing and shaking uncontrollably as she prayed for me. But then this feeling of peace came over me. And it was like Jesus was there, holding me near, and comforting me better than the arms of my own mother ever have.
I don’t know about you, but the feeling of mama’s arms wrapped around me when I needed them was the best feeling in the entire world growing up.
This woman who prayed for me then opened up to me about how she too was a victim. And she said to me, “You are forgiving the sinner, not the sin. What he did was wrong and nothing will ever change that.” And she was right. But forgiving the broken man behind the sin was also right.
5. You can’t do it without constant prayer to our Heavenly Father.
Even as Jesus was on the cross, dying for those who hung Him there, He still prayed to the Father to forgive them. He didn’t shout to the crowd, “I forgive you.” He prayed to the Father. I pray that you would seek forgiveness through Him just as Jesus did for you.
1 Peter 5:7 – Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
Don’t let your past grip you any longer. God doesn’t want this for you. He cares for you.
Leave me a comment to add any tips that might help encourage others in their own journey of forgiving.
Are you struggling with forgiving someone from your past? I would love to pray for and with you through this journey.