I wish I could say that awful things don’t happen in life.
I remember vividly when my husband left me. I told a friend, “It just doesn’t seem fair. I am hurting and he is living it up. He got off scot-free.”
My friend’s reply was thought-provoking. There really are reasons to forgive even when we are hurting.
Why it is hard for human beings to forgive
In the present moment when you have just been hurt, it’s hard to imagine extending forgiveness. We definitely need the help of the Holy Spirit. However, forgiveness is a process that is impacted by lies that our culture tends to believe.
There are a lot of misconceptions wrapped up in the act of forgiveness. For me personally, forgiveness appeared to be condoning bad behaviors. That was a lie.
We need to let God take care of punishing or pardoning. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you are setting the offender free or excusing their actions. You are not condoning an abusive relationship or other hurtful actions. God sees and in His time will deal with the other person. This is one of the reasons to forgive.
A second misconception centers around toxic marriage relationships. The abused person often believes that forgiveness means going back into that dangerous situation.
Please don’t believe this lie. You can extend the forgiveness of God and not go back to an abusive marriage.
“Some people ‘imagine forgiveness involves saying, ‘I forgive you’ and includes a hug, pat on the back, or a blessing. That may be true sometimes, but not all the time. Forgiveness doesn’t have to involve the other person and it is not for their benefit.” (1)
Another misconception is that we must feel forgiveness in order to actually do it.
“People who wait until they ‘feel’ like forgiving are in for a long ordeal. Forgiveness is a decision born out of a heart and mind dependent upon God, His word, His ways, and His will.” (2)
The lack of forgiveness is deadly
“If you don’t practice forgiveness, you might be the one who pays most dearly. By embracing forgiveness, you can embrace peace, hope, gratitude, and joy.” (3)
There are many reasons to forgive when we are hurting. The Mayo Clinic documents what can happen with the lack of forgiveness. It mirrors completely what I have observed.
Unforgiveness impacts all of your other relationships. It creates many negative emotions. Bitterness, anger, and the inability to enjoy the here and now are some of the consequences. You can become anxious, depressed, and sometimes suspicious of others.
I have seen unforgiveness totally destroy a marriage. Standing on the outside looking in, I don’t think the unforgiving person even realized how toxic their growing bitterness was from an offense that occurred years prior.
Yes, what happened was totally unjustified, calculated, and caused real pain. But the toxic bitterness was destroying what should have been one of the most rewarding relationships in life.
“When we cling to our anger because it feels justified, we can’t heal … keep the focus on yourself. Focus on what you can do to make your life better.” (4)
This Chinese proverb is thought-provoking. If you are going to pursue revenge, you better dig two graves.
In the long run, the lack of forgiveness will destroy you.
The importance of forgiveness
“Getting another person to change his or her actions, behavior or words isn’t the point of forgiveness.” (5)
There are many inspirational quotes about the reasons to forgive. I especially like this one. “Forgiveness is setting a prisoner free and realizing the prisoner is you“. (Lewis B. Smedes)
Did you know that unforgiveness is a miserable prison? Your thoughts hold you captive as you ruminate past hurts over and over. So one of the reasons to forgive is our own freedom.
Another reason to forgive is that it helps the healing process begin. The process of forgiveness produces inner peace which in turn improves your physical health, emotional health, and mental health.
What about “forgive and forget?” You might be thinking, “I can’t forget. I try, but what happened is still there.”
While God forgets our sins when He has forgiven them, our human minds can not erase the experiences that are burned into our brains. There will be situations, music, and places that will trigger our memories.
“When we find ourselves focusing on a past offense, we can learn to say, ‘Thank you, God, for this reminder of how important forgiveness is.” (5)
Personal growth comes from the powerful tool of forgiving. It makes us a better person. All of our relationships will benefit from this simple act.
What does the Bible say about forgiveness?
There are many reasons to forgive when we are hurting.
“Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. I will repay.” (ESV)
When I told my friend that it didn’t seem fair that my departed husband got off scot-free, this was his reply. “What makes you think your spouse got off scot-free? Since you are not living with him now, you don’t see the day-to-day conflicts and problems that will be his for not following God’s teachings. Your spouse will experience consequences. Let God be God.”
Forgiveness is giving up our right to get even. (6) It is giving our feelings of revenge to God.
“Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” (NLT)
I like this comparison to plants. When I weed my garden, I often find wild grasses there that are hard to get rid of. The roots penetrate underground in all directions.
Once the roots are well established, the grass tries to choke out the good plants. That is not what I want in a garden. Likewise, I don’t want the roots of bitterness to choke out all of my good relationships.
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (ESV)
I love this culmination in the life story of Joseph. He went through really horrific circumstances, being almost killed, then instead being sold into slavery.
Life continued to go downhill as he was falsely accused of rape and spent quite a few years in prison. While he had no way of knowing how long his imprisonment would last, he trusted God.
These circumstances had him in the right place at the right time to be used mightily by God. We can have the same opportunity in our hurt.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV)
God is preparing a ministry for us if we trust that He is going to bring about good from our situation. This is one of the many great reasons to forgive.
This thought is mirrored in other parts of scripture where it says that the ashes of our lives will be turned into beauty (Isaiah 61:1-3).
Forgiveness is a key attitude for this to happen.
“For He knows how weak we are: He remembers that we are dust.” (NLT)
God understands our frailties. He knows how easy it is for us to fall and to hurt others. He extends to us forgiveness when we confess our sins to Him. (1 John 1:9)
The person who hurt us is also dust. Likewise, God will extend forgiveness to them if they respond correctly.
One of the Scriptural reasons to forgive is that we all are human.
7 reasons to forgive when you are hurting
From God’s standpoint, there are many reasons to forgive. But there are also at least 7 reasons to forgive from a human standpoint.
- Improved relationships
- Emotional well-being, including less anxiety, depression, stress, and hostility, with improved self-esteem. (6)
- Improved physical health, including lower blood pressure, stronger immune system, and improved heart health (7)
- Hope for the future
- Joy in the present
- Peace of mind and peace with God
- Purpose in life as God creates something good out of our pain and hurt.
How to pray when you are feeling hurt
“Heavenly Father, I am hurting. It doesn’t feel good. I don’t feel like forgiving. I don’t understand how you can make something good from what has happened, but I trust you. I know that forgiving is a decision, not a feeling.
Please help me to remember that I too have been forgiven. through the blood of Jesus Christ. I make mistakes too. Help me remember that the person who hurt me might not even know you.
I pray that you will help me find your purpose in this pain. While I am waiting, help me not waiver in my decision to forgive.”
You can download this prayer here. It is free. No email is required.
The power to forgive others comes from a relationship with Jesus.
If you don’t know Jesus, you probably have questions. The people at Chat About Jesus have answers. You can text, call, or chat with them online any time of the day or night.
A Gift For You
God gives us the opportunity to share what we have learned when we choose to forgive. This is one of the reasons to forgive.
To remind you of this, I want to give you this coloring page that can also be used as a scripture card. Simply click on the image to download. NO EMAIL IS REQUIRED.
You may also like to read:
- (1, 4) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindful-anger/201605/how-do-you-forgive-even-when-it-feels-impossible-part-2
- (2) https://news.ag.org/en/Features/When-You-Don-t-Feel-Like-Forgiving
- (3, 6, 7) https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692
- (5) https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/forgiveness-and-restoration/