The pain we go through in life is hard. Especially when it’s pain from a past hurt or mistake. How do we forgive and forget? Well today we’re going to dig in and learn how to walk through the 5 powerful steps to forgiveness.
When we’re in the midst of bitterness, hurt and anger, the pain can be suffocating. Some days we feel as if we’ll never make it out.
Oftentimes, well-meaning friends give us those trite Christian responses. You know what I’m talking about…“Well God forgave you, so why haven’t you forgiven them?”
If only it were that easy!
If there’s anything I’ve learned through my forgiveness journey, it’s that when we walk through it, life becomes so much more than we could ever image!
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Realign YOUR THOUGHTS to walk in forgiveness
When we’re in the middle of the pain, we tend to focus on getting even and everything “they” did to us.
In fact, I’ve spent plenty of time on my knees pleading with God to take care of them. I was certain “they” were the ones who had to change.
In The Power of the Praying Wife, Stormie Omartian writes,
Are you willing to do what’s right or would you rather be right? Are you willing to give life or is it more important to get even?
Although it’s tempting to want to get even, to hurt them as much as they’ve hurt you, deep down I imagine you really want to do what’s right. (Even if it’s grudgingly!)
Taking the high road is hard!
We want to fight back. The enemy whispers in our ear, “Get even! That person doesn’t deserve to be loved. They don’t deserve your forgiveness.”
In order to forgive someone, we have to take the focus off our pain and put it back on our hearts; we must choose to walk in a way that honors God.
In other words, before any kind of healing and reconciliation can happen, we have to realign our thinking and focus on changing our hearts.
In John, Chapter 21, Jesus asks Peter on three occasions, “Peter, do you love me?” Each time, Peter responds with, “Yes Jesus, you know I do.” But after the third time, Peter is a little frustrated by this questioning.
So Peter lashes out, like so many of us do, and asks, “But Jesus, what about him?” And to this, Jesus responds,
“Jesus replied, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” John 21:22 NLT
Friend, this isn’t easy, but the first step to forgiveness is to realign your thinking, and put your focus back on your heart and following Jesus.
Which brings me to step #2.
Ask for God’s Wisdom on Forgiveness
In JumpStart Online Bible Study, we uncover the difference between knowledge and wisdom.
With our efficient little computers right in our back pockets, we have more knowledge now than any other time in our life.
We don’t need more knowledge on forgiveness. We already know we need to forgive. What we need is God’s wisdom to walk through forgiveness.
So go to God and make that ask!
Tell Him you’re ready to free yourself from this pain and no longer want to sit in it. Ask Him to change your heart.
Here’s the thing, my friend.
You may not want to change right now, and that’s okay!
Forgiveness isn’t an easy journey, but you have to keep making the choice until you feel it in your heart.
I have to admit, this is a humbling step.
But when you seek godly wisdom to process everything that happened, He will always show up! (And will, oftentimes, reveal your part in this situation.)
I’ll never forget the moment in my life when God put this in front of me. I was on vacation in our beloved Door County, WI, and was reading The Shack by Williams P. Young.
In it, he wrote something that completely stopped me in my tracks. I mean, it hit me right in the face!
It’s not your job to change someone. It’s your job to love them unconditionally.
Whoa! Powerful, right?
It was in that moment my life began to change. (And quite frankly, I sat down and had a big ‘ol ugly cry!)
Stay Focused on God through Forgiveness
This is tough when you’re hurting, but keeping your focus on God instead of how hurt you are, or the resentment you’re feeling, is a very important step to forgiveness.
It’ll take a lot of practice. In fact, if you have to revert your attention back to God 598 today, then do it!
When you go through the practice of intentionally turning your focus back to God, He will reward you with healing and a deeper relationship with Him.
You see, it was never God’s intention for us to go through life on our own.
In fact, in Jesus Calling, Sarah Young writes (as if Jesus is speaking directly to us),
“Bring Me all your feelings, even the ones you wish you didn’t have…Affirm your trust in Me, regardless of how you feel. If you persist, your feelings will eventually fall in line with your faith.”
And that right there is why we intentionally choose forgiveness over and over again. When we do, our relationship with God will grow and our hearts and feelings will align with His ways for us!
It’s a beautiful transformation, my friend!
Be honest ABOUT YOUR STRUGGLE TO FORGIVE
It’s important for you to be honest with God. After all, he already knows everything about you, so there’s no point in trying to hide it from him.
In fact, it’s perfectly okay to say to Him,
“Lord, you know my heart. You know that I’m holding on to resentment, bitterness, anger and hurt. I don’t want to forgive this person, however, that’s what you’re calling me to do, and I want to live for you. I ask that you change my heart. Help me to see them from your perspective, as my brother or sister in Christ. I ask that you forgive me for holding on to this grudge. Teach me how I can show your love and not let the enemy fill me with his lies. I want to change, I want to forgive, and I know that through you, nothing is impossible.”
It’s amazing how praying this single prayer will begin to open your heart. You’ll feel the bitterness, hurt, and anger begin to slip away.
A few sentences down in the same devotional I mentioned earlier (Jesus Calling), Young writes,
“Do not hide from your fear or pretend it isn’t there…Bring your anxieties out into the Light of My Presence, where we can deal with them together.”
I understand she’s referring to fear in this particular situation, but the same holds true with unforgiveness.
Bring your feelings into God’s Light and allow Him to walk through healing and reconciliation with you!
Look for EXAMPLES of Biblical Forgiveness
Spending time in The Word is incredibly important in your journey to forgiveness. In fact, there are some incredible examples we can learn from it.
For instance, how about Joseph?
I mean, can you imagine all the years of pain he endured because his brothers were jealous of him and sold him into slavery?
But Joseph still forgave them. (Read about Joseph’s story in Genesis 37-50.)
Or how about the biggest forgiveness story of all?
Now that right there is the best example of biblical forgiveness!
In Ephesians 4:31-32, Paul teaches us how important it is to forgive and forget.
(31) Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. (32) Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
The Bible is our user’s manual for everything for life, including how to walk through the steps to forgiveness.
Steps to Forgiveness Recap
The steps to forgiveness aren’t easy. It won’t be a fast process, but it’s one of the most rewarding journeys you’ll ever take.
We serve a God who renews and restores. And even if this relationship can’t be reconciled, you can and will still experience complete healing through God as you walk through these five steps.
Today I challenge you — choose forgiveness! Be persistent about your choice until your feelings fall in line with your faith.
Until next time, my friend…
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Learning how to put our complete trust in God isn’t easy. We say we trust God, but what we really mean is that we trust Him for what we want, when we want it. At Footprints of Inspiration we uncover who you are and why you were created; how to walk in healing through forgiveness; and how to go before the Lord with confidence. Through this journey, you’ll discover that it truly is possible to experience peace, even in the hardest times in your life.
Tammy Rotzoll is the founder and owner of Footprints of Inspiration and podcast host at A Faithful God Podcast (which can be found on your favorite podcast player). She lives in Virginia with her husband and together they’re learning how to navigate their fun, new adventure as empty nesters.
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