What Forgiveness Looks Like

Photo Credits heartstonejourney.com

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2 Corinthians 2:5-8 NIV

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.

There is a danger in becoming close with others.  Sometime, someplace, somewhere, they will have the potential of hurting you, and you them.  A wall quickly rises, attempting to sever us from the pain inflicted by others, but the sickening feeling in our gut tells us that we are affected, nonetheless.  If we are honest, we have all tasted the bitter fruit of betrayal or hurt wrought upon us by someone else.  Why does it hurt so badly?  Often the betrayer was someone close enough to make the sting all the more piercing.  You trusted them and they slandered or used you.  You forgive, but then you are criticized for not allowing that person the same place in your lives.  This is the struggle of forgiveness.

God has forgiven us, and so we must forgive one another.  Forgiveness on the outset does not look so hard – you choose to apply grace when it is not deserved.  Sounds like what God did for us.  The trick is trying to determine when or if you can let someone back into your life.  When is it safe?  Is safety the goal?  Is it selfish or self-preserving?  Ironically, we can hold others captive by not letting them in for fear of further pain, but we ourselves are bound.  Further, we find that we are just as guilty and needful of grace.

If we apply the separation strategy, soon we are isolated and living in fear, not wanting to risk further injury through relationships.  No one will ever meet the standard of not letting you down, so where is the line drawn in determining whether a separation strategy is beneficial?  If we apply the other extreme of overlooking and then plunging headlong into more of the same hurt, that is not a solution, either.  A middle ground of boundaries can be useful, but only if we establish healthy, God-honoring boundaries laced in grace.

Common sense tells us that some relationships really must end.  Sometimes people can be toxic to us, or vice versa, but sometimes we can use that as an excuse to avoid discomfort, too.  The real heart issue, then, is trusting God.  If we are avoiding potential pain and vulnerability because we either do not think we can bear it or we think that God might not enable us to walk through it, we are allowing fear to cripple us.  This fear can keep us from wonderful relationships all because we base it on a couple of people who harmed us in the past and we are vigilant from allowing similar pain from ever happening again.

Pride might play a role, too.  We do not want to be manipulated or fooled again.  So we keep anyone at a distance who contains similar traits as the one who harmed us before.  Yet if we take the time to consider why people hurt others, we might be surprised that they themselves are hurt and crying out.

I confess I would rather live without the drama of raw emotions, tangible to ourselves and those around us, but then, that would not really be living, either.  Forgiveness is the choice to go on living, even when you walk with a limp.  It is electing to not allow the stain of former hurt to ruin the garment of your life and perhaps not worry so much about yourself getting hurt, anyway. It is putting on love and covering sin.  It is mercy in action, a perpetual decision to focus on the positive aspects of those around you and no longer hold their shortcomings against them.  It is laying down the fears of what they could do and labels that excuse the protection mode.  Forgiveness does not mean you allow others to abuse you, but it does mean laying down the hurt we keep picking up and loving imperfect people . . . since we are in that number, too.

Fear and Illusive Safety

Proverbs 16:17

“The highway of the upright is to turn from evil; the one who guards his way safeguards his life.”

Proverbs 3:24
“When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.”

Proverbs 18:10
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe.”

Job 5:22
“You shall laugh at destruction and famine, And you shall not be afraid of the beasts of the earth.”

Psalms 112:7
“He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”

Psalms 91:9,10
“Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;”

Isaiah 43:1,2
“…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.”

In an uncertain world, it is amazing anyone of us feels safe.  Just yesterday I heard of a friend who was making funnel cakes in a tent when all of a sudden a tree fell out of nowhere upon him and he was hospitalized.  Crazy.  It was not even raining outside.  Evil villains slaughter innocent children and blame their radical so-called faith for their actions, people loot stores and threaten violence because of a perceived injustice; yes friends, fear is still a tool used by the enemy daily, seeking to rob us of security.  Even if it is not crazed people terrorizing the general public, earthquakes, hurricanes, natural disasters and accidents happen daily.  So what is a Christian to do?  Be afraid?  Maybe.  Give in to fear?  Never.

Fear of flying can keep you from venturing through the sky, fear of water can keep you from exploring the sea, fear of criminals can keep you in at night, fear of well almost anything can steal your joy and make you feel unsafe.  But isn’t it so wonderful that as Christians we do not need to fear ANYTHING except for only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).  You may say, “bad things happen to Christians, too”.  Yes, the rain falls on the good and the bad, but perfect love casts out fear.

What is this perfect love?  Amazing grace to uphold you when the fire is hot and the waters are deep.  Strength beyond what you ever thought you were capable of when you felt weak.  The will to endure when trials are long and arduous.  And more . . . much more.  Until you have walked through the pain and sting of real fear and threats, one cannot contemplate how very real the presence of God is in those moments.  His promise to be with us during those moments is the singular most significant difference we have when compared with unbelievers walking through the same trials.

My hope is that in this very difficult time with so much tumult throughout the world, that whoever reads this blog will find comfort in the midst.  He is our refuge, our dwelling place, our strong tower.  We are safe when we run to Him.  Shadrach and his pals saw God’s amazing intervention and deliverance from the fire; Daniel did, too, in the lion’s Den.  The Israelites saw God part the Red Sea then swallow up their enemies.  God can do that for you, too.  But even if He in His perfect sovereignty does not choose to deliver you FROM the fear or hardship, He very well might deliver you THROUGH it.

Fear not – rely on God and His mighty arm today!  He is able to strengthen us and will accomplish His purposes all for His glory and our good.  What an amazing God.

Lord, help us to trust in You and that You will not give us more than we can bear, but will grant us strength to bear through it.  You are good, Lord, and we want to shine genuine faith to a world that suffers alongside us.  Thank you for being our refuge and very real ever-present help in times of trouble.