Has anyone ever hurt you? Not physically. But emotionally. I’m not talking about saying something that hurt your feelings. I’m talking about that deep down hurt that tears your insides apart. Where you feel like your life will never be the same. Where you wonder how you will ever be able to look at that person again. I’ve been hurt like that.
And even though you feel like you’ll never be able to move on, you do. Somehow the world keeps turning. Somehow you get up each morning. Somehow life goes on. Somehow the pain eases. But does forgiveness come?
Through one of the situations that I was hurt, I moved on so to speak. But I was bitter. I was angry. I could not think about this person without in the back of my mind thinking about what they did to me. To anyone looking in, it probably looked like we got along fine. But if they could see my heart, they’d know there was a problem. My heart was full of unforgiveness. (Which apparently isn’t a word, but I don’t know a better word for it, so I’m using it.)
One day I remember talking to my husband about the fact that I knew I needed to forgive this person, but I wasn’t sure how to. He suggested I pray about it. So that’s what I did. I started praying that God would help me forgive this person, that God would change my heart. I prayed and prayed and prayed and nothing changed in my heart. So I prayed some more. Then one day while I was praying I heard in the stillness of my heart, “Talk to ____.” I knew without a doubt that God was telling me that I needed to talk to this person. So I started praying for the opportunity to talk to them and for the words to say when that time came.
Well the time came. And I heard that voice saying, “Talk to ____” and well, I really didn’t want to right then. So I began having an internal debate with God about how it really wasn’t a good time, and what was I going to say, and I didn’t really want to bring up something from awhile ago, and all the reasons why I shouldn’t talk to this person. But still without a doubt I knew God was telling me to talk to this person. And I know it’s really no use arguing… because after all when Jonah didn’t want to talk to the people God wanted him to talk to, he got swallowed up by a giant fish. Not that I thought God was going to go to those extremes with me, but I knew he meant business when he tells you to talk to someone. So kicking and dragging my feet I went to that person and began the conversation.
“Can we talk?” Followed by me explaining how that person had hurt me. It was hard to be honest and lay it all out. But that’s what I did. And when I was finished with my “speech” I looked at the person expectantly. Because of course, I was expecting them to tell me how sorry they were that they hurt me. How wrong they were. How they wished they could change it. How right I was to be hurting.
But the person didn’t. Instead they went on to justify all of their actions. They weren’t sorry at all. And I walked away in shell-shock. I then had a few words with God. Because not only did I have unforgiveness in my heart about their prior actions, but now I was mad that they weren’t sorry. “God, why on earth would you have me talk to this person? This is way worse!”
And then I hear that voice again, “Forgive ___.” Umm, what???? Didn’t you hear them God? They aren’t sorry. Why should I forgive them? “Forgive ____.” Why? How? “Forgive ____.”
And so right there, slumped down on the couch, through tears in my eyes, I prayed something like, “God, what they did really hurt me, and it hurts even more that they don’t feel sorry about it. But I’m tired of being angry. I’m tired of being bitter. You’ve told me to forgive them. So help me to forgive them, just as you’ve forgiven me all the times I’ve hurt you, ignored you, betrayed you, disobeyed you. Help me, God.”
And that’s when the peace hit. It’s one of those can’t quite explain it, you probably wouldn’t believe it unless it happened to you things. But all that weight of bitterness, anger, hurt was lifted off of me. Instead I felt such a love for this person. That it could only be divine. I knew that what the person did was wrong. I knew it wasn’t OK. But forgiveness truly came – even if they didn’t ask for it.
And so I went back to this person and said something like, “I know you don’t think what you did was wrong. But it really hurt me, and I was angry and hurt and bitter. But I need you to know that I’m not anymore. I’ve forgiven you. I’m sorry it took me so long to do it.” And to be honest, I don’t remember what that person said or did at that moment. All I remember was that feeling of being able to look at them and not see what they did to me, but to look at them with only love. But to be really, really honest, every once in a while, those feelings of bitterness will try to make their way back to the surface, but then I pray, thanking God for enabling me to forgive them and the bitterness fades away again.
I share this with you today, because you too may have been hurt. And you too, may not have been able to forgive. I don’t know your situation. But I do know that through forgiveness we find peace and joy.
Praying for peace and joy and forgiveness if you need it for you today.