Written by Angela Viljoen
Forgiveness is hard. Even when you think you’ve forgiven, something can happen, resulting in another flood of emotions. This to me is God’s kindness as He reveals another level of forgiveness that needs to happen. This happened to me recently. It was ironic because I was speaking to my church’s young adult ministry about the discipline of forgiveness and how I highly value this discipline as it keeps our hearts tender. Even when forming my message, I was thinking of how far God had brought me in a certain situation which had resulted in a lot of pain for me.
A few weeks later, I found myself having to do more forgiving in this situation. I thought I had completely forgiven and moved forward. Apparently, I had more to do. It was frustrating to me, but at the same time I saw it as God’s care because He saw my blind spots and areas where I was not fully flourishing because of hidden unforgiveness. I love it when I don’t have to strive to search for things; friendship with the Holy Spirit will always result in Him gently showing me areas where He would like to come in and heal (Psalm 139:23-24).
The Bible says, “So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from it flows the wellspring of life,” (Proverbs 4:23, TPT). We go through the motions of life, trying to keep our heads above water in our various relationships. But with people there is always the potential for something to go wrong, resulting in hurt and pain.
Hurt sets in motion a series of stages. We often have to process shock, anger, pain. A lot of us stop at anger or denial. We would rather ignore and not deal with the issue because it’s too painful. When this happens, unforgiveness sets in and affects the state of our hearts; bitterness can take root hardening the heart and blocking the spring of life.
One way to keep our hearts in the way Proverbs talks about is to practise the discipline of forgiveness…even when it’s painful. As Christ-followers we are asked to forgive others because Jesus forgave us. He cried out to the Father asking Him to forgive us because we do not know what we do. God responded by offering us forgiveness when we give our hearts and lives to Jesus, accepting His sacrifice for our sins. This action is a standard for how we are to live our lives—as imitators of Christ.
Healing is the result of choosing to forgive. God has given us the ability to forgive, it’s a choice we have to make—and when we do, He comes in and does a great healing in our hearts. Forgiveness does not always mean trust. I heard a preacher once say, “We are required to forgive, but aren’t required to trust [the person we have forgiven]…. That takes time, if it is to happen.” We forgive because Jesus asks us too. We forgive because we love. We forgive because we do not want hardness of heart.
When our hearts are hard or dull, we see and hear differently or incompletely. We need to see God in His full beauty, we need to hear His voice, we need to have tender hearts so we are moved to compassion for the one who needs to feel and know God’s love. We need our hearts fully alive so we can dream the dreams of Heaven and help fulfil God’s plan on earth.
If you are having a hard time forgiving someone, simply ask God to help you. He will. Your desire to forgive will move His heart, and He will guide you in this. I encourage you as a young person, learn this discipline. Practise it. Embrace it. It will set you on a path of freedom!