Forgiving someone isn’t easy. Believe me, I know from personal experience! But I also know it is possible. With promises found in scriptures like Philippians 4:13 (AMPC), we can do whatever we need to do with God’s power.
Many of you know that my father sexually abused me from the time I was about three years old until I was 18. I left home as soon as I could and carried bitterness and unforgiveness in my heart for years.
But over time, as I studied God’s Word, He began to reveal how harmful it is to live with unforgiveness, and the benefits of forgiveness. I think sometimes people believe forgiveness is more about doing a favor for the person who hurt them, when actually, you are doing yourself a big favor. But the truth is, it’s because as you release the bitterness and anger in your heart, you are able to live with real peace and joy.
You may be thinking, Ok, Joyce, I want to forgive, but it’s so hard. I don’t know if I can do it! Well, I want to encourage you to know that in Christ, you can forgive—no matter what has been done to you. Here are four steps you can take to genuinely forgive:
1. Make a Quality Decision
Forgiveness is about more than saying a prayer, like, “Lord, I forgive so-and-so.” Forgiveness is a serious decision you make. It’s not easy and it will probably be uncomfortable or even painful, but the reward of going through it will be worth any pain you’ve experienced.
2. Depend on God
Fortunately, we can depend on God to gain the strength needed to forgive. This means we live with a prayerful mindset and attitude: “Lord, help me not to be offended today. Keep me from unnecessary anger. If I am mad at someone, show me who it is. Give me the grace to forgive them.” (See Ephesians 4:32.)
If you’re easily offended or there’s a person in your life who just annoys you, not only do you have to decide to forgive and live in peace, but you are going to have to depend on God for the grace to do it and make it a matter of prayer.
3. Understand Your Emotions
The dictionary says that emotion means to "move out" and emotions provoke psychological changes that prepare a person for action. So feelings create a desire to do something. When somebody hurts you and you feel pain, the first thing you may want to do is tell them off. You may want to get them back or you want to get away from them.
You need to know that your feelings will probably need time to catch up with your decision to forgive. Your feelings are not the real you. They’re fickle. You can feel a thousand and one different ways about the same thing. You can love somebody one minute and then you can’t stand them the next. But remember, your will gives you the ability to live beyond your feelings.
4. Pray for Your Enemies
In Matthew 5:44 (AMPC), Jesus instructs us to... Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This has got to be the hardest thing in the whole world to do. But we don’t get out of something just because it’s hard. Whatever God asks us to do, it’s always for our benefit.
Let’s get real practical about this: If you have a coworker who gets the promotion you wanted, the minute you feel jealousy and envy, don’t just pray for them—go buy them a gift. Trust me, it will work, because when you do that, it breaks the power of the devil! (See Romans 12:2)
One time I found out somebody who did business with our ministry was saying unkind things about me. I was mad and wanted to tell the guy off, but God told me to buy him a gift instead and thank him for all his years of service. At first it wasn’t easy. But when I put action behind it, I became filled with so much joy I actually laughed out loud.
The Choice Is Yours
Today, you have the choice to overcome evil with good and find a new level of joy you didn’t know was possible by choosing to forgive. I want to encourage you to do yourself a favor and make the right choice. Forgive.