How does one find the ability to forgive horrific acts of hate or evil? How does one forgive slanderous gossip or betrayal from a friend?
To forgive the most brutal attacks against me, God instilled in me a heart of compassion. True forgiveness requires compassion toward the other. This is truly a gift from God, to have a compassionate heart! Otherwise, how can our hearts break as His does?
Look at Jesus’ prayer from the Cross…
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 (NIV)
He did not just pray for forgiveness but He also looked at the condition of their heart. They did not know what they were doing; they were living in darkness and brokenness; deceived by evil. Therefore, they could not possibly understand Jesus Christ was the Light of the World!
“And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it].” John 1:5 (AMP)
“When He saw the throngs, He was moved with pity and sympathy for them, because they were bewildered (harassed and distressed and dejected and helpless), like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36 (AMP)
I’ve had to forgive many and I’ve had to forgive over and over again. My mother’s second husband severely abused me; sexually, physically, and emotionally. It was not until my early adult years that I recall me and my little sister praying for God to strike him dead. When this was not happening, I just did not understand why God was not coming to our defense.
As years went on, we heard of horrible tragedies taking place upon him including accidents, attacks, and injuries that surely would leave the normal person dead. There were feelings of vindication as I truly believed he was enduring God’s wrath. My belief was that God was keeping him alive to endure these punishments and sufferings.
Moving forward, I learned he became restricted to a wheelchair and unable to walk or speak. He also was not surrounded by his children or grandchildren. He really had no life. However, he’d also found Jesus. This is when the Holy Spirit began working out forgiveness in my heart.
Why was my step-father the way he was? Yes, there was pure evil dominating his life, but I reflected on the story my mom shared with me about him as a young man. When she met him, he was recovering from a motorcycle accident that nearly took his life. The impact damaged his brain, leaving him to live with epilepsy and a steel plate surgically placed on his temple. He also became addicted to barbiturates during these years he was married to my mother. These things make one unable to function normally; this is an enormous understatement if one takes the time to study the addiction to this drug alone. It is extremely damaging, neurologically.
Discovering I had compassion in my heart toward this man was only given by the supernatural power of God. It was not my doing. Though I do grieve over the pain and destruction he caused me and the rest of our family, I’ve forgiven him.
Though I’ve forgiven, he is not in my life. The Lord has revealed to me that I will see him in Heaven one day. This is a reality. I know I had to forgive him because Jesus died for the forgiveness of his sins as He did for mine.
Once I reached this place of forgiveness it felt like I had crashed through an iron door, venturing into a new existence in my relationship with Jesus!
“I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Isaiah 45:2-3
Today, as others reach out to cause me harm and destroy me, I can discern their spiritual condition, extend compassion, and pray for them. Boundaries help too! My heart hurts for them because they do not yet know our beautiful Jesus. If only they did! Even those who profess to know Him can and will hurt us. If we can reach deep into our heart and allow the God of compassion to lead us, we will see and feel their brokenness and our compassionate heart will break for them.
We may even discern a specific wound or brokenness in their life which enables us to pray in a way we never thought we could for them. Forgiveness means letting go of our own desire to seek vindication or justice. We release ourselves from the role of the judge and jury in that person’s life. For it is God who will judge. God’s plan for the other person’s life is only known to Him.
Take, for example, his parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-27). Jewish people in Jesus’ day hated Samaritans and justified their prejudice with religious arguments. Those who told ethnic jokes about their despised “neighbors” must have been horrified to hear Jesus making a Samaritan the hero of this story. Blinded by our own agendas, we fail to see that God’s justice is not just for his chosen people; God wants justice and righteousness for all.
According to the prophet Isaiah, when God shows compassion and justice, he is simply being himself:
“And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]!” Isaiah 30:18 (AMP)
“But no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall show to be in the wrong. This [peace, righteousness, security, triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the Lord [those in whom the ideal Servant of the Lord is reproduced]; this is the righteousness or the vindication which they obtain from Me [this is that which I impart to them as their justification], says the Lord.” Isaiah 54:17 (AMP)
“Yet those [people and circumstances] that be against us, so far are they from thwarting us at all, that even without their will they become to us the causes of crowns, and procurers of countless blessings, so that GOD’S WISDOM turns their plots unto our our salvation and glory. See how really no one [or nothing] is against us!” ~ John Chrystostom (c. 347-407 Archbishop of Constantinople)
Forgiveness is freeing ourselves from ongoing torment. Forgiveness is humbling ourselves before the Throne of God, allowing God to come in and heal our heart while trusting He will remain faithful in His promise to reveal His goodness. It is trusting His word:
“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.” Psalm 89:14 (NIV)
“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.” Romans 8:28 (AMP)
While I’ve learned what forgiveness IS, the Lord has also revealed what it IS NOT. It is not submitting to an abuser or allowing abuse to continue. Forgiving does not necessarily include reconciliation or restoration of the relationship.
This is the process the Lord has walked me through in my journey.
When we trust in God to take care of these things, we can realize the beauty and vindication in this truth.
“Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:15
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20