The Joy of Forgiveness, by Misty Prock

Walking in Forgiveness

For Christians, forgiveness – choosing to give up resentment toward someone for an offense, releasing any expectation for payment or retaliation – is a lifestyle that’s mandated.  (See Matthew 6:14-15.)  In fact, walking in forgiveness is one of the ways we can demonstrate Christ’s love:  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).”

My family recently walked through a season of forgiveness.  Although it was a difficult time, it’s now clear to me that this act of trust and obedience was the catalyst for replacing intense grief and sadness with supernatural joy, hope, and peace. 

Understanding Forgiveness

Sometimes, walking in forgiveness begins with an understanding of what forgiveness is NOT.

  • Forgiveness is not condoning someone’s behavior.  Instead, to forgive is to stop expecting compensation for a legitimate hurt or loss we have suffered.

  • Forgiveness is not a feeling.  It’s a choice.  We do not wait to forgive until we “feel like it.”  Rather, we choose to forgive – sometimes daily – and feel the choice later, as we continue to walk it out in faith.

  • Forgiveness does not require reconciliation.  Reconciliation is not always possible, and could cause further harm.  The decision whether to reconcile should not affect the decision to forgive.

  • Forgiveness is not an admission or demonstration of weakness.  On the contrary, forgiveness takes a tremendous amount of courage and strength, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • Forgiveness is not a one-time event.  It’s a process.  Forgiveness is a healing process that takes time and determination.  The enemy will always challenge our decision to forgive and tempt us to pick our resentment back up.

So, what is forgiveness?  It’s an acknowledgment that the power of the Holy Spirit is GREATER than the power of the offense.  It’s a realization that we want His hope more than we want to hold onto bitterness and resentment.  It’s a decision to trust God more than our circumstances and to allow Him to heal our wounds.

Healing Our Wounds

Romans 15:13  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Even in the natural, we take the necessary measures to care for our wounds, avoiding anything that could further irritate or cause infection.  We clean them, apply medicines to them, and dress them, often seeking help from a physician.  Spiritually speaking, I believe that adequately caring for our emotional wounds requires the same. 

Cleansing – Wash your wounds with the Word of God to prevent infecting your spirit with bitterness and resentment.

Is it possible to forgive and forget?  Certainly, our brains do not have the capacity to simply erase a memory.  However, the decision to forgive, coupled with the renewing of our minds through the Word of God, helps us to refocus.  Philippians 4:8, for example, encourages us to dwell on those things that are excellent and praiseworthy.  So, it’s not that you forget, but that you choose what to remember.  We can spend less time and energy rehearsing unpleasant memories of the offense by remembering God’s mercy, grace, love and promises.

Medicating – Apply the soothing balm of the Holy Spirit, our comforter.

There is no comfort like the Father’s!  By taking time to soak in the healing, transformative power of His presence, we can trade hopelessness for hope, sorrow for gladness, and fear for peace!  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor 1:3-4).”

Dressing – Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3).

I don’t know a better remedy for the spirit of heaviness than praise and worship.  “Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? . . . Bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell . . . I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.  Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalms 43: 2-5).”

Seek the advice of the Great Physician, and follow His instructions.

1 Peter 5:7 says to cast our anxiety (cares, worries, troubles) on Him, because he cares for us.  Every detail of our lives is important to God!  His desire is for us to walk in freedom – indeed, he paid for it!  When we allow God to be our Great Physician, he miraculously and generously provides the healing we so desperately need. 

Finding Joy

No matter how great the offense, deep the wound, or intense the grief, God can heal and restore, giving you beauty for ashes, joy for your mourning, and praise instead of despair (Isaiah 61:3)!  Choose to forgive, and trade your heavy heart for a heart of joy!