Dear Kate: I know the Bible talks a great deal about forgiveness. I know that we have all suffered pain, and that grief is a stranger to no one. But how does one actually forgive a person who has intentionally hurt them? My natural response is to take the matter into my own hands and somehow "fix" it, but I know that is not right. So, how do I turn something that has been so hurtful over to God when there is still so much anger involved?
The simple answer is faith - trusting that God is always in control. And as a result, choosing to accept that He ultimately allowed you to endure this trial and experience this pain, and then taking the step of letting go.
This is, in my opinion, much easier said than done. Life experiences, good and bad, are unique to each individual and have different effects emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I try not to say "I know how you feel" or "I know exactly what you're going through" to others, because although I may have experienced something similar, how we experience these events and their effects on us can be very different.
As for a more in depth response, I'd like you to imagine two friends conversing casually over lunch - Kate, who is an opinionated blogger, and her friend Jo, who has just posed the toughest of questions.
Jo: I'm hurt and angry. How could someone be so cruel? I feel the need to respond. I want them to see how much they've hurt me. How can I not do something to fix this? How can I even begin to forgive?
Kate: I know it's easier said than done, but you have to trust God. You have to believe that He is in control and that He allowed this to happen. It's not your responsibility to make them pay for the error of their ways - the Bible says that vengeance is the Lord's (Romans 12:19). And as for forgiveness, we must remember that we are forgiven and must forgive others because He forgave us (Ephesians 4:32).
Jo: I know what you are saying is true, but how does one actually trust? How do you forgive and just let it all go?
Kate: If you believe the words that are written in the Bible, then you must rest upon them. Lean on them and meditate on them.
It's important that you pray and continually ask God to help you forgive, forget, and let go. Ask that He help you grow your faith. As your faith strengthens, trust and dependence upon God becomes more natural - He will prove Himself to you. As your walk with Christ deepens, you will see ways that He is working and has worked in your life - giving you faith that He is there and He is with you. The funny thing about faith is that you must believe first and then you'll begin to see the results.
Some things are simply a matter of time. Give yourself time to heal, time to forget, and time to strengthen your faith and trust. Continue to serve Him and draw closer to Him - He will take care of you (Isaiah 41:10). As each day passes, you'll look more to Him and less at your hurt and anger with the one who was so cruel.
Just think of yourself as a modern day Joseph - a young lad who was sold into slavery by his own brothers who were jealous of him. Can you imagine his thoughts and feelings as he watched his brothers take money from the Ishmaelites with the sole intent that he would forever be gone from their lives - forced to leave everything and everyone he has ever known?
But the Bible says that the Lord was with Joseph, and Joseph chose to trust that God's will was greater than his own. He was later sold to Potiphar, who recognized that God's hand of blessing was upon him. But then, Potiphar's wife falsely accused Joseph and he was thrown into prison. Choosing once again to trust God was in control, Joseph gained favor with the prisoners and guards. He interpreted dreams for the baker and the butler, and the butler promised to remember Joseph once restored to his service. It took two years for the butler to remember. Once he did, Joseph interpreted the king's dreams and was made overseer over all that the king had. He was practically a royal.
What was only God's perfect will was that in a time of famine for his father and brothers, Joseph had food to spare. His family eventually came to him, not realizing who he was, and asked to buy food. Joseph wept at seeing them and eventually revealed himself to them. He was so happy to be reunited with them. His family even came to live with him in Egypt.
When they reunited, can you imagine the apologies and the tears? His brothers even told him that they would be his servants. Joseph's response is one to keep with you - he told them that what they had meant for evil, God had used for good (Genesis 50:20). Being sold by his brothers into slavery lead to being thrown in prison which lead to becoming lord over all that Pharoah had. God allowed that first step and every step after that. Really, He orchestrated it to be just that way. Joseph obeyed God and continued to serve Him despite the continual betrayals against him - he trusted God, he had faith in God.
To summarize, let's go back to the simple answer: faith - trusting that God is always in control. And as a result, choosing to accept that He ultimately allowed you to endure this trial and experience this pain, and then taking the step of letting go.
As I mentioned earlier, much easier said than done. But remember, with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
I encourage you to read the story of Joseph. There is so much more than what I've mentioned here. The story begins in Genesis 37 and goes on for several chapters - it's well worth the read.
And as a quick side note, "Jo" does not actually represent a friend of mine, but instead is short for Joseph. :)
I hope you find this encouraging - if so, would love it if you'd leave a comment!
As always, thanks for reading.
September 8, 2013
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