Forgiveness is something God wants of His people (Ephesians 4:32). Grudge-bearing is antithetical to the Christian life. It is illogical for those who have been redeemed. Charles Spurgeon said, “If God has richly blessed us, notwithstanding all our faults and failures, surely we should learn to forgive many injuries done to ourselves.” The problem with pardoning others is that it is often hard to do. I’ve had experiences wherein I seemed to have no ability to let go of the pain of resentment. Through such struggles, I’ve learned three tips that help.
If we would do some soul searching, we would discover that much of the bitterness we harbor towards others has its root in pride. I remember an occasion in which I was greatly hurt by the slanderous words of another. I called a good friend and vented my frustration. I remember lamenting, “I am so upset, and the worst part is that I don’t even understand why this bothers me so much!” My friend replied, “I’ll tell you why you are offended, if you won’t get mad at me.” When I told him I was willing to listen, he said, “It’s your pride. You are upset that someone has tried to make you look bad.” He was right. My own ego kept me from letting go. If you want to be free from frustration, chase after humility. The Bible says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:8).
A Godward perspective
is also a great help in overcoming animosity. When God is big, people and their peculiarities are small. On the other hand, when we put too much stock in people, God seems tiny. I think about Joesph in this regard. His own brothers sold him into slavery and staged his death in a sinister fashion. Because of their malice, he missed out on a healthy upbringing, he was separated from his father, he lived in destitute conditions, and he endured years in prison. In time, however, God worked and restored his fortune. He became the second most powerful man in the world. A fateful reunion with his cold hearted brothers gave him a chance for revenge, but he refused. How could he turn a seeming blind eye to injustice? What compelled him to forgive? The answer can be found in his view of God. He knew that a Sovereign King was in control of all things (Genesis 50:19-20). When you have a big view of the Lord, the things others do to you, whether big or small, pale in comparison to His grandeur and glory. A trust in Him will drown out fear and resentment.
A Spiritual Work
Sometimes, forgiveness is impossible apart from a special spiritual work in our hearts. The pain of abuse, neglect, or manipulation can often be so intense that we need the Holy Spirit to mend our souls. Remember that you have a spiritual nature through which you can relate to God (Genesis 1:26-27 and John 4:24). As a believer, the Holy Spirit of God resides within that part of your being (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). If you are struggling with forgiveness, pray and ask the Lord to heal your wounds. Keep seeking a spiritual breakthrough (Matthew 7:7-8). The love of God (Romans 5:5) and the virtue of God (Galatians 5:22) can be yours through a spiritual renewal of your soul. Some things don’t happen apart from a spiritual work, and such is often the case with forgiveness.
Dr. Patrick Latham