When we are hurt or offended by someone, they owe us a relational debt. Jesus teaches us to pray saying “forgive us our debts as we forgive those who are our debtors.” We use debt in our common usage today only when we talk about money owed. But it is the word God uses in scripture. Forgiveness is you choosing to tear up another person’s IOU or debt that they owe to you, even though your heart has been hurt.
- Forgiveness isn’t forgetting
We know that we do not forget when someone has hurt us. God commands us to forgive each other as we ourselves have been forgiven in Jesus Christ. (Eph 4:32) He doesn’t say anything about us forgetting. The act of forgiveness means I choose to clear the debt the other person owes to me. God Himself does not forget, He knows all things at all times (omniscience). What scripture says is, “I will remember your sins no more…”(Heb 8:12) He makes a choice of His Sovereign will not to remember our sins, never throwing our past back in our face. He invites me to choose not to remember once I have forgiven someone. That takes an act of my will. I will need to take the hurtful memory captive in my mind each time it resurfaces (which it will) and then to remind myself I have forgiven this already, not giving myself permission to bring it up again.
- Forgiveness isn’t reconciling
Reconciliation means to bring together or to reunite. Reconciliation is based on a level of trust. Forgiveness is a choice to cancel the debt owed, but forgiveness does not restore trust. The relationship has been changed because of the offense given. Sometimes it is in small ways where trust is easily rebuilt. But there will be times when the process to rebuild trust will be painful and will take time, if it is even possible at all.
- Forgiveness isn’t condoning
This concept is commonly misunderstood. Forgiving someone does not mean that what they did was right, that it really didn’t matter that much, or that they don’t owe you a debt. Forgiving them does NOT change the fact that they remain accountable before God for their sins, and His promise is He will pay them back. (Rom 12:19)
- Forgiveness isn’t primarily about the person who hurt you
It is actually far more about you! This is why forgiveness can be given even after the offender is no longer living, or is still living but inaccessible. Holding an offense can harm us emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
May you rejoice in the forgiveness God has offered you, and be strengthened in forgiving others.
By Cindy Van Wingerden, PhD, RN
Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor
Have you seen the commercial about the Calgon bubble bath soap? I’m telling my age now, but there was a TV commercial in the 70’s for bubble bath soap. The ad began with a beautifully put-together woman crying out, “The traffic! The boss! The baby! The dog! CALGON, TAKE ME AWAY!” The commercial then went on to explain the benefits of Calgon bath soap as the once stressed woman sat in her bubble bath all smiles (fully covered of course). At the end, they left you with the tagline, “Calgon. Lose yourself in luxury!”
How nice would it be to forget our stresses and problems, and just luxuriate in the peace and quiet of a bubble bath? Oh, my…that sounds fantastic! How about you?
Let’s face it, most of us just don’t have the time or the “luxury” of resting, much less taking a bubble bath. We go to work, care for the kids, home and dog, try to spend time with our spouse and our friends, go to church-soccer-karate-gymnastics and, IF we are lucky, plan an hour or so at the gym or coffee shop just for ourselves. We have forgotten how to rest. Do we even know how?
I’m not talking about the kind of “rest” where you just sit and veg out in front of the TV while eating bonbons and knitting your millionth scarf. I’m not even talking about the “rest” you do when you spend time reading a book or meet your friend for lunch. I am talking about the kind of rest where you simply do nothing, watch nothing; where you quiet yourself, and you stop striving to accomplish and do. You just be.
The rest I am talking about allows your mind to reflect and think about God. Did you know that God created us for this type of rest? In Psalm 46, we are told to “Be still and know that I am God.” Be… still… Not so easy to do is it? Some things demand our attention; there are responsibilities we must meet, and if we do not take care of them, who will?
Psalm 131:1-3 states, “My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Israel put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.”
The Psalmist has acknowledged that there are many things he could concern himself with but that in doing so, it would be prideful. This verse begins with the idea of pride. It gives us a sense of pride to think that people count on us or that we are the only one who can take care of an issue or do a project correctly. This thinking suggests that we are in control.
I wonder how many of us are so caught up in our prideful thoughts that we lose sleep at night or are unable to wind down and quiet our hearts and minds for even 15 minutes to read the Bible, much less pray and sit still before God. While there can be many factors involved in not being able to sleep, is it possible that pride could be a significant reason for why so many find it hard to sleep?
I challenge you this week to set aside 15 to 30 minutes just to quiet your mind and calm your body. Ask God to help you relax and rest. Get comfy, close your eyes, and release all of your concerns and responsibilities to Him. Jesus loves us and cares for us, and we can trust Him with our concerns and our responsibilities. After all, He went to the cross and defeated death so that we could rest in Him.
By Karen Grotler