When I first travelled along the path of forgiving someone who had deeply hurt me, I was greatly helped by Joseph's story in Genesis. And there I believe he had already forgiven his brothers before they ever asked for forgiveness, even though they had sold him into slavery.
When they came to him after their father's death, finally asking for forgiveness, he wept as he said, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good." He knew that God was in control, and he had trusted God, and forgiven his brothers. If he had not forgiven them I don't think he would have kissed them, wept over them and invited them to come and live with him while he provided for them.
Jesus also, on the cross, called out, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." Those people who had given him up to be crucified had not said sorry, yet he asked God to forgive them.
I have just been reading a powerful book by Doris Van Stone on the hurt and healing of sexual abuse, called 'No Place To Cry'. Thankfully I have never been through that, but I meet more and more people who have, which is why I originally bought this book - so I could lend it out, and maybe be better able to help people through reading it.
She has been through some horrendous things, and bears out what I believe about forgiveness: "We must be willing to release the bitterness we hold against those who have wronged us, whether they ask for it or not. Forgiveness is necessary for our own well-being; it is not something we do solely for the benefit of the offender"
I also think that since bitterness is not something that God wants us to keep in our hearts, we need to forgive in order to change our thoughts so that they honour God, not just for our own benefit.
She has some great advice on how to forgive:
- If forgiveness seems to be impossible, let us remember that God helps us to do the impossible
- We must see the offender as human
- We can forgive without surrendering our desire for justice
- Forgiveness is not an emotion but an act of the will
- Forgiveness is not a one-time act but a process
I think we can also benefit from looking at Joseph, how trusting that God had a plan helped him to forgive his brothers. Also how Jesus wanted God to forgive the people who had put him on the cross because they didn't know what they were doing. Often compassion for people, and attempting to understand where they are coming from, can help us to forgive.
Please note, I am not in any affiliate program and will not benefit in the slightest from you buying that book! I just love books and want to recommend those that will help others.
Linking up with Women Living Well