This is the second of a 4-post series for launch week of the book Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First by Doug Bender. The topic today deals with relationships and forgiveness. I’m not qualified to give any advice on either, so I’ll just share some experiences and thoughts.
I’ll begin by saying that this was a very difficult post for me to write. I had no trouble with the words…that came easily. No, the difficult part is that by writing this I open up some very deep emotions and make myself transparent. Part of my plan for writing the posts this week was to make them personal and share parts of my story…the good, bad and ugly.
While reading through the devotions in week 7, one in particular caught my attention. It is Day 2: Release. Doug writes:
With deep wounds or unintentional annoyance, with old hurts or fresh cuts, with long struggles or slips of the tongue, whatever the case, whatever the relationship, however terrible the wrong, forgiveness is the answer. It may not be accepted. It may not change the other’s behavior. It may not immediately restore the relationship. But forgiveness is what lets hurts heal, relationships begin recovery, and life move on. Without it, loneliness will be our deepest friend, bitterness our home, and hurt our constant companion.
These words hit me like an anvil in a Road Runner cartoon! You see, I have been friends with loneliness, living in the home of bitterness and hanging around with hurt. Allow me to expand.
My life was turned upside down last year. After nearly 20 years of marriage my now ex-wife told me she wanted a divorce. The courts finalized this in February, and I’ve found myself in loneliness, bitterness and hurt very often since. I won’t go into any details of the divorce mainly because I don’t wish to do any damage to any other person, but also because I don’t want to open up hurts all over again. I’ll just say that this wasn’t my choice or desire.
I’ve heard and read time and time again that we should forgive others. Many time I’ll hear something like this… If God forgave all your sins you should be able to forgive the little things someone has done to you. That’s easy to say but hard to do, especially when you have been deeply hurt. I know Jesus taught us to forgive. In Matthew 6: 14-15 He says,
For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.
I read this and know this, but if I am honest (and I’m being very honest & transparent here) I have not forgiven. In fact, I’ve found myself in a very dangerous place of not wanting to forgive. I’m fully aware that I need to forgive, but it’s hard!
I strive daily to live more and more a life worthy of grace and mercy. Daily I fall short. Forgiveness is a huge pitfall for me right now. It is easy to forgive someone who has hurt you when it is minor. But the major stuff…the things that hurt you deeply…well, not so much. I know I risk judgement and maybe even some ridicule by posting this, but I’m just trying to be real. I just don’t want to forgive because of the deep hurt. I know it is wrong, and I’m struggling with this. Reading the words of Jesus above makes me squirm. I have those verses bookmarked and am trying to read them often as a reminder. Reading what Doug Bender wrote is motivating as well. I have been living with loneliness, bitterness and hurt, and I don’t like it. Forgiveness is the answer, so why can’t I do it???
Why is it so hard to forgive someone you trusted who hurt you more than you thought was possible? Moreover, how can you forgive someone who continues to hurt you?
Those are my questions and struggles. It was difficult for me to write this knowing I would be sharing it in such a public forum, but I knew I had to do it. There is a statement at the end of the week 7, day 2 devotion that says this:
Teach me to forgive as you have forgiven me.
Can I ask a personal favor? Would each of you reading this please pray for me as I struggle in this area? Will you ask God to teach me to forgive as He has forgiven me? I want to let go of the hurt and bitterness. Lord help me!