My stomach twisted in the most breathtaking of knots while I washed the last of the dinner dishes. My forearms were covered in suds and my mind was covered in thoughts of the pain a friend had recently caused me. I visibly rolled my eyes and said to myself, “We’ve been through this enough. You’ve forgiven. You’ve confessed this. You’ve got to get over it.“
The funny fact about forgiveness is that it doesn’t feel good. Yes, it sets us free. It frees us to love. It frees us to heal. It frees us to move forward instead of remaining stuck in our own quagmire. It frees us to conquer the impossible, to walk along the dry banks of the Jordan River as Israel did. It frees us for miracles and for virtue.
But when we’re hurting, when someone has wronged us (either maliciously or unintentionally), forgiveness can feel like nothing but raging waters, taunting us with its enormity and scaring us away from heeding the Lord’s call to more. Purging our pride to make room for mercy is uncomfortable. Most of us don’t “feel” very forgiving in the aftermath of heartbreak.
But lucky for us, forgiveness isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice.
When we choose to forgive someone, we are not often instantly inundated with the warm and fuzzies. But we can choose to forgive even when we’re still suffering. Even though I had long since forgiven my friend, the situation still stung. And that’s okay. The Lord gives us time to heal; there is no deadline. The Passion and Death He suffered to forgive us serves as the perfect illustration of forgiving even when it still hurts. What matters is the decision we make in the face of these aching feelings. We can forgive seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:22) When painful memories arise, we can say again and again, “Lord, I forgive them, and I do not wish them ill.“
Sister, is there a circumstance in your life that’s requiring repeated forgiveness? Does it feel impossible? Are you like me, growing frustrated with yourself that this thing is still bugging you? Have you chosen to forgive a great debt because Jesus has forgiven yours?
Today, let’s unite in prayer. Let’s steadily hold the ark of truth for one another as we strive to do what might seem impossible. “Lord, I forgive. Help my unforgiveness.“
Olivia Spears is a middle school religion teacher turned SAHM who is married to her high school best friend. You can find out more about her here.