“Oh no you won’t,” he said. I was driving past the child support office muttering to myself, “I’m going to go in there and get them to start collecting all that unpaid medical support.” That’s when God set me straight, “Oh no you won’t.” It wasn’t an audible voice of course. But the thought came into my head and it definitely wasn’t something I would have said to myself so it must have been him.
I didn’t accept the message at first, or for a long while because I was angry and bitter. My anger made my forgiveness journey very slow. I was a sloth … cute yet extremely, painfully slow. But God kept reminding me what he wanted and he gave me clues on how to get there.
I found the biggest clues when I read the book The Shack. The main character in the book is Mack. His daughter Missy was murdered. This caused Mack to question his faith and the existence of God. Even if there was a God, Mack wasn’t sure he wanted anything to do with him since He let this terrible thing happen to his little girl.
One of the things Mack had to learn to be free was, not only could Missy’s murderer be forgiven, he was loved even while he was not sorry and not asking for forgiveness😳 God loved Missy’s murderer just as much as he loved Mack. Mack had to truly accept and understand that in order to let go of his anger and bitterness and enjoy life again.
Wait, what? This was my thought as the reality of the lesson sank in … God loves my ex-husband as much as he loves me??? No way. I mean here I am working my tail off raising two kids, working full-time, going to church and teaching them how to grow into good human beings all by myself and he’s off doing whatever he’s doing and I’m supposed to accept and believe God loves us the same????? Yep.
This did not sit well with me. Since childhood, I’ve always been overly concerned with things being fair. And this was SO not fair!
But I learned right along with Mack. I learned my efforts don’t matter. If I work hard and do what is right (at least most of the time), that doesn’t make me better or more worthy of God’s love. He loves me at my best and my worst. And he loves every single person on this earth in the same unconditional, unmeasurable way. Those who are trying hard and those who aren’t trying at all. Those who are sorry when they screw up and those who aren’t.
I had to get off my high horse to fully embrace this reality. Which was tough because I didn’t even know I was on a high horse😂 But eventually I figured it out. I learned to accept and appreciate the fact that none of our efforts or intentions or hard work matter when it comes to God’s love. He loves us all, period.
The next lesson for me and Mack was that no sin is too big, every sinner is eligible. And if God can forgive the big stuff, we can too.
In the book, Mack came to understand God loved Missy’s murderer, but he struggled to find forgiveness in his own heart.
To help Mack, God put him in the position of being the “judge” and he had to judge each of his children. BUT, Mack was not allowed to forgive all of his children. God insisted Mack must pick one child who would not be forgiven. Surely there was one child who didn’t measure up to the others, one who caused more trouble, one who performed poorly at school. There had to be one child who was not as good as the others. That child would have to suffer. Mack of course could not bring himself to condemn one of his children. He agonized over the decision and came up with a solution. He offered himself up in exchange. Ah ha!!! This is the moment when Mack deeply understood how much God loves us and it doesn’t matter how we measure up compared to others or how badly we screw up.
God doesn’t care about our sin level … whether it’s stealing a Snickers bar from the gas station, wishing a festering skin disease on an obnoxious co-worker, or cheating on your husband.
No mistake is too big or too awful to qualify for forgiveness. God loves and forgives us ALL. And so it must be for us too if we are to live in peace. We must forgive those who hurt us, whether the hurt was a little or a lot.
So, let’s say you’ve decided forgiveness is something you need to work on, how exactly do you go about forgiving that someone who hurt you?
Step 1 – Pray for Yourself
Pray for yourself. Pray specifically for healing. A gaping wound is a pretty big distraction. Ask God to heal your heart so you can be in a place to move forward.
Step 2 – Realize God Loves You Both
Realize the person who hurt you is a precious child of God, just like you are (pssst … this is a BIG key to being able to do the rest of the steps)
Step 3 – Stop Talking about the One who Hurt You
Stop talking about the wrong that was done to you. Of course you can talk with your bestie but don’t go around telling EVERYONE ALL THE TIME how so-and-so mistreated you, hurt you, betrayed you, etc. If you’re always talking about it, you’re always thinking about it and you will not be able to move forward. You will stay stuck in your anger and bitterness.
Step 4 – Start Praying for the One who Hurt You
Pray for the person who hurt you. At first you may only be able to stutter out a few words, “I pray for so-and-so.” You will probably say it in a begrudging tone and that’s OK. God knows you are not exactly happy or feeling nifty about this forgiveness stuff. Over time, you will find your heart softening to so-and-so.
Step 5 – Pray for Blessings upon the One who Hurt You
Pray for blessings and happiness for the person who hurt you. Now we take the praying up a notch. Not only are you praying generally for the other person. You are praying for him/her to be happy, to be abundantly blessed. Yep, another kicker, but you can do it. Your heart will change as you continue to pray.
Step 6 – Be Nice and DO Nice
Be kind and DO nice things for the person who hurt you. AND, do so without any expectation of appreciation. Yet another seemingly impossible task. At this point, I hope you will just trust me. This works. God will see to it.
It can take a long time to work up the courage, faith, and ‘I’m all out of other options’ willingness to take these steps. It is REALLY hard and slow going. But I promise you it works.
Remember, you’re not doing this to help the person who hurt you. And you’re not saying what they did to you was OK.
You’re doing this to help yourself to have a happy life. Anger and unforgiveness and bitterness serve no purpose except to hurt you more than you’ve already been hurt.
The other person does not benefit if you forgive them. Well, actually they might. But that’s not the goal.
The goal is freedom, first from the pain and bitterness you’ve been carrying around. But then there’s another level of freedom, from things that keep you from being your best (like being judgmental and self-righteous). But most of all, you forgive to find peace.
I encourage you to take a step today … take the next step on your journey to forgive that someone who hurt you. And in the blink of a sloth’s eye (or maybe a cheetah’s eye if you are a fast learner), you will have peace in your heart and in your life.