I felt the weight of my morning schedule as it derailed.
Dashing into the Bible study room, I scrambled to find an open seat. I hate being late, especially when I’m the new person, so with a frazzled heart and some deep breaths, I privately celebrated my punctual arrival. Sometimes simply showing up calls for a declaration of success and it was definitely that kind of morning. I’d withdrawn lately and with loneliness settling in, I was finally ready to dig in and connect in community.
Scanning the room, I hoped to find someone I knew, but suddenly my stomach sank. My breath quickened. My hands shook. I can get along with nearly anyone, but there is one person in my lifetime of “peopling” that I wouldn’t choose to see ever again . . . and there she sat. The visceral reaction that occurred in my body and mind shocked me.
I wanted to scream, “Lord, are you kidding me? Of all the people in the whole wide world and it had to be her? In my new Bible study?”
Sensations catapulted me back many years to when this woman maligned my reputation without really knowing me. I’d spent a challenging, extended season clinging to God’s Word, begging He would renew my mind as I detangled emotions over that traumatic situation. I had cultivated a spirit of forgiveness, but all those feelings I’d ushered aside came swirling back.
That night, an internal dialogue played over and over again as I lay awake in bed. The details of how she unjustly wronged me. The apology never extended. The raw wounds once scabbed and scarred over now pricked back open. I fought to take those burdensome thoughts captive, but I couldn’t quiet my mind. I tossed and turned all night. Finally, as the sun broke, I pondered Peter’s question on forgiveness.
“Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times?”
I bonded with Peter over his frustration. I mean enough is enough. Surely there must be a limit. Peter offered a number he assumed was overly generous. To forgive seven times — the number of perfection amongst the Hebrews. In fact, the Jewish rule mandated one only had to forgive another person three times before moving on. It was the law, so Peter intended to go above and beyond the cultural norm in forgiving his enemy, but Jesus pushed those limits. He turned everything upside down when He commanded us to not only forgive “seventy times seven,” but to love our enemies and lay down our lives for each other as He did.
Candidly, I wasn’t quite ready for this. Did Christ understand the sacrifice? The steep ask of our vulnerable heart? He did. More than anyone, Jesus is keenly aware of the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual implications when we allow seeds of bitterness and resentment to fester. I thought of my sleepless night. If I was already exhibiting ramifications from one evening, how much deeper the impact might it be if I didn’t uproot any lingering unforgiveness or bitterness?
This process didn’t happen overnight. Every week I saw her, and often toddler tendencies resulted in my internal kicking and screaming of, “This isn’t fair!” But I brought my disappointment, frustration, and heartache to the Lord. My varied emotions didn’t catch Him by surprise. I trust that He ordered my path to intersect with hers for His ultimate purpose. While I often wondered what that might be, I begged Him to transform me along the way more into His image.
At times it feels impossible, but when we step forward in love toward those who have wronged us, it is undeniably of God. And while we aren’t usually put in situations where we literally have to give up our lives for another, we are called to surrender. Surrender our frustrations, our pride, our need to be right, our bitterness, our justifications and excuses for why we shouldn’t have to because of all they’ve done to us. We are commanded to lay aside all that for others, for her, for the ones most difficult to forgive. It’s where we allow the Holy Spirit to tutor us on loving amidst undeniably painful situations. This is how the world knows that we are different. It’s how the world will know we are His disciples.
I don’t remember much about that Bible study, but I kept going back when I wanted to run. I never did receive an apology, and honestly, I don’t really like her, and that’s okay. The Lord did major heart surgery on me because it expanded with love for her that I never expected. It’s still a minuscule seed of love, but it’s love, and that’s a start.
Are you struggling with unforgiveness? You’re not alone. Sometimes it’s just so hard. I’d be honored to link arms with you in the comments.
Ruth Mills says
When wrapped up in my defenses of personal insults & grudges I’m nudged by the Spirit to consider the insults I inflicted/inflict on Jesus yet He has forgiven me. He fully understands & as you so elegantly put it “He did major heart surgery & expanded it with love”. 70×70 seems like nothing compared to the love & forgiveness He offers so why do we struggle to offer it. Praise Him for His gift & example of how it’s done! Blessings! Thanks for sharing & encouraging me this AM.
Yes, Ruth. Praise Him for the beautiful reminder of how Jesus fully understands and forgives us.
I appreciate this especially when you say that you really don’t like her and that’s ok. I have been on the receiving end of some very hurtful things these last years. I finally had to let it go. I am not sure if I really have forgiven or just realized it is not worth getting upset about anymore. When I think about the circumstances it does make me sad but I don’t want to carry that weight in my heart. Forgiveness is very hard to do. I think for me it is more like acceptance. I have not received apologies either nor have the situations been discussed or acknowledged. No one has ever asked why I was so distant for a while. In some way, this letting go has brought me closer to Jesus.
I’m so sorry to hear about the hurt you’ve received. I understand the pain you’re going through, but I rejoice to hear that you’ve allowed the letting go to bring you closer to Jesus.
You are loved.
I so needed this today! This is exactly what I’m dealing with right now and it’s so very hard! What a timely post. Thank you!
I’m so glad it met you right when you needed it, Melissa. Have a fabulous Friday.
Areum Lee says
I like your comment, “and honestly, I don’t really like her, and that’s okay.” I feel like that about some people too.
A Bible teacher once asked us, “why do you think God asks us to forgive?” Its not for our enemies, its for us. Because he knew the seeds of bitterness and resentment would settle in.
How many times Lord? Over and over again.
Yes, forgiveness is so often for us. It’s so easy to allow the bitterness to settle.
I really needed to hear these words today! Thank you for sharing! I loved your comment “and honestly, I don’t really like her, and that’s okay”. I am going though a season of betrayal and I feel that same why about 2 people.
Tara – a season of betrayal is such a painful process and my heart aches knowing you’re walking through this now. Praying for your heart as He walks with you in your healing.
d from Canada says
Thank you for your honesty Jennifer.
Through your story, you are helping me work on my places of unforgiveness & allow God to do my “major heart surgery”.
I’m honored that these words played a small part in helping you walk through your story. Praying for you as you allow Him to do the heart surgery. You are seen and known in this.
Thanks for this today!
I am always asking God I know we are supposed to love everyone but some people are so hard to love.
Perhaps a mustard seed is a good way to start.
Yes, Linda. A mustard seed is an excellent start. I’m joining you. xoxo
Just these past few months I have been struggling with forgiveness as wave after wave of sorrow hits me. My son just went to heaven after fighting stage 4 brain cancer for 11 months. My ex-husband of about 30 years has displayed a hard heart towards not only me, but our son and his fiance as well. I keep praying for God to fill my heart with mercy and compassion and love each day. I keep praying for God to bless my ex with everything God has for him and everything he needs. It still brings tears to my eyes to remember the hard heartedness even as my breathed his last breath. How do I forgive that? It is so cruel. But then I think of the suffering our Lord Jesus endured at our hands and still he stands before us with open arms and loves us. How can I not forgive? So I continue to pray repentance for my negative thoughts and blessings of mercy and compassion and love in my heart.
Oh Linda – my heart is overcome with grief as I think of what you’ve gone through this last year. THere’s nothing more difficult than losing a child and I’m so sorry your momma heart has to walk through that while at the same time attempting to pray for your ex and his hard heartedness.
To read your comment above, I can see you actively demonstrating how you’re allowing the Holy Spirit to work through you during this painful time.
The women here at incourage are praying for your family. Thank you for sharing a bit of your story.
I do still struggle with unforgiveness with someone at times. It’s lessened over the years, but every now and then I find the old feelings creeping back in my life. I have to asked God to help me with it again and I force myself to be kind and wish this person well even when I don’t feel kind. I pray someday my heart can feel what my mind is telling me I have to do, because honestly, I know it’s hurting me more by not being able to let it go.
Christine – we all empathize with those feelings of unforgiveness resurfacing. It’s offering up those feelings again and again as they creep back up and actively praying our heart and mind align. We can do that together.
Thank you for the reminder that Jesus commands us to forgive and love our enemies. I honestly think I allowed bitterness to settle in because at any sight of injustice just angers me to the core. Thank you for reminding us that Jesus can handle all our thoughts and emotions and the best place to put out hurts is in His hands.
I feel this to my very core. I’ve been dealing with this for several years now with a family member that I must endure on a regular basis. The feelings are raw, the wounds stay open, and I plead for that same heart surgery by God. It’s so incredibly difficult.
I struggle several times a day with unforgiveness in my heart, both towards others, and myself. I know that He is calling me to do it. But I have also had many a sleepless night…churning over and over in my mind the wrongs that have been done. Even years after the fact. It is exhausting and I feel powerless to stop it.
BC from BC says
Thank you for his reminder. I live in a relationship for many years that has been verbally and spiritually abusive. He is a Christian and should know better, however I believe he is more insecure than I am, and I have forgiven him over and over again. He rewounds me over and over again. I pray every day for God’s guidance and direction. I believe he tries to be a better man but gets easily sidetracked by satan’s lies. I pray for God’s protection as I learn to trust and hope in only my Savior and learn to grow more confident in Christ.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Jen we have to forgive as it says in God word. As Jesus forgave us for all the wrong we done. I had to forgive my Dad for all the wrong he done. As it was right in God’s eyes. Plus God told me to pray for my unsaved Dad. If I not forgiven my Dad for his wrong. Today I wouldn’t be able to feel as much Love for him and do his home help for him six days a week. Especially now he 82. As I would think of all the wrong he done. God said to me Dawn your just a bad in my eyes with all your wrong but not in the same way. To the world yours would be nothing compared to what your Dad did. But in my eyes it just as bad I forgive you. So you have to forgive your Dad like I forgave you no matter how many times you have too. Still love him. Yes you will never forget what he did. But you get it will not annoy you are hurt you as you have forgiven your Dad as that the right thing to do. Like I never forget what you did wrong all your life as you will always sin. I will always keep on forgiving you and loving you. So you have to do the same and pray for your Dad and his Salvation and live your life for me in front of him. So as one day in my perfect timing he will see your love for me shinning out of you and want what you have that is to know you as his saviour your Dad. Then your prayers will be answered and he will be saved before he leave earth. As I know that is the best present you want from your Dad before he leaves earth.So as when your time up on earth one day too. You will see your Dad in Glory. I believe that. I glad I have forgiven my Dad. I am now able to fo his home help for him six days a week. If not forgiven him I not be able to do it. I do it for the Love of Lord now and the Love of My Dad and I say Anem to that. Thank you Jen for todays reading I Love it. Keeping you all incourage in my prayers Dawn Ferguson-Little xxxx
I too struggle with forgiveness of a family member. I said I didn’t think I would ever be able to forgive. Hence, a good friend reminded me that God wouldn’t forgive me. Ouch. I prayed for forgiveness and have been able to move on. Forgiveness can be a hard thing but I think of Jesus dying on the cross to forgive me. Thank you Jesus.
Beth Williams says
Forgiveness can be so hard. If we are going to be Christ like then we have to constantly forgive others as He forgives us. Doing that shows the world that there is something special about us. I see it this way Christ forgave Peter for his 3-time denial. He showed Him grace & mercy. Allowed Peter into Heaven. He understands our frail hearts & minds. So I will continue to forgive everyone-even if I don’t like them!