What Forgiveness Really Looks Like


“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Have you ever royally messed up?  Have you ever felt the sting of regret like a punch in the stomach?

I have.

In fact, I think I sometimes seemingly keep punching myself in the stomach because it is hard for me to fathom what real forgiveness looks like.

People preach about, write about and talk about the need to forgive others, but a less common topic of conversation is the need to forgive ourselves.

I was talking to a friend a couple of months ago and in the middle of my sentence and long drawn out emotional story, she looked at me and said, “Erin, I feel God telling me to say this to you  right now: You need to forgive yourself.”

Right then I lost it. She had nailed the issue on its head.

“Wow”, I remember thinking, “why is so hard for me to understand this concept?”

I mean I’ve run the idea through my mind plenty of times before, but I don’t think I’ve ever truly understood its value until that moment.

And Satan knows exactly how to kick me when I’m down.  I realized a while back that I walk around with a very guilty conscience.

Heart from a friend. Seen on the sidewalk outside of church. Deuteronomy 31:6: "Never will I leave you or forsake you."

Heart from a friend. Seen on the sidewalk outside of church. Deuteronomy 31:6: “Never will I leave you or forsake you.”

Every mistake, every misstep or careless act I hold over my own head, because somewhere deep inside the message I received growing up was that I was unacceptable or that the world was over when I did something wrong.

Like somehow one moment in time could define me.

I lived like this for so long, even after I declared Jesus Christ as my Lord, and that was over 10 years ago!  What a force.  What an idol masquerading in clothing of security.

I see now that this seeming insecurity is really just an idol  because I am accepting it as “truth” above God’s truth.

In fact, it’s no truth at all.  And I am literally bowing down to it.

Everything I do, every time I make a mistake or do something in fear of a mistake, I am bowing to this idol.

If I were to give it a name, it would be the idol of worthiness.  And it begs the question: “Am I acceptable? Will I be cut off? Will be abandoned?”

And then  my beliefs in response to these questions almost become a cyclical self-fulfilling prophecy in my own life.  And I know God is leading me to the place where the curse can be broken. But I need to choose, with God’s strength, to help break this curse.

Beauty in random places. God weaves beauty into every living thing because he loves us and wants us to flourish in his love.

Beauty in random places – God weaves beauty into every living thing because he loves us and wants us to flourish in his love.

Exodus 20:5 (NIV):
“You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”

Recently I began reading a book called “Healing for Damaged Emotions” by David A. Seamands, one of the most impacting books on healing I have ever read, next to Thom Gardner’s  “Healing the Wounded Heart.”

I know there has been much discussion over Seamands’ alleged affair later in his life, but this doesn’t change the message of his book because the message about healing is really coming from God, not David.  David is just a vessel used by God.

Isaiah 55: 8-11

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Regardless of what someone may say, eloquently or not, if they speak the Word of God, it will not return to itself empty. Regardless of Seamands’ alleged affair and sin, it does not change the message of the Bible that he brings to the pages of his book.

And what this book brings to light are a few important principles about forgiveness.  Seamands writes that true healing cannot believe until forgiveness is present.

“Many years ago I was driven to the conclusion that the two major causes of most emotional problems among evangelical Christians are these: the failure to understand, receive and live out God’s unconditional grace and forgiveness; and the failure to give out that unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace to other people.” – David A. Seamands, “Healing for Damaged Emotions”

Reading this book has opened my eyes to what real forgiveness looks like.  True forgiveness doesn’t live in a home of a statement. It lives in the heart.  That is why Jesus addresses this very issue in the book of Matthew.

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[g]

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[h] was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[i] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

True forgiveness is the willingness to pay the price for what someone else has done to you ~  Mark Kang via Ruth Kang (Milwaukee Church of Christ)

Hence, Jesus is the true example of absolute, complete, untainted forgiveness because he took on the sin of the world — a

Jesus is the ultimate example of forgiveness~

Jesus is the ultimate example of forgiveness~

detestable cup to bear — at the cross.

Despite literally begging God three times in the Garden of Gesthamane if there was any other way for God to achieve His will, and despite God saying no those same requests three times, Jesus WILLING went to the cross anyways.

Wow….Sometimes talking about Jesus going to the cross can feel redundant.

But then something of this magnitude comes to light and it is a reminder all over again.

I consider myself thoroughly reminded.

If the above statement is true, then this means that true forgiveness is being willing to pay the price, or, it is the willingness to take on whatever emotion, insecurity or pain you may feel as a result of something someone else did, or said, to you.

And if turned on yourself, this means that the mistakes you’ve made, or all of the times you didn’t “measure up” to whatever standard you think you needed to, are forgiveable.

It really comes down to acceptance for things that are and will be.  No matter how many sci-fi movies come out, we cannot travel back in time and rewrite our wrongs.

Not all is lost, however.  This is a lie from Satan that he wants us to believe. But wisen up and catch him in his schemes.

John 8:44 (NIV):
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

But Jesus died so that death would no longer have power over us.  If sin breeds death, and Jesus conquered sin, then death is virtually null and void, at least in the spiritual sense.  Even in the physical sense, death is no longer defeat.  It is victory.

Psalm 116:15 (NIV)

“Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his faithful servants.”

God can turn anything around at any moment.

He can and does speak things into existence whenever he pleases.

I mean why would God deny himself an opportunity to glorify himself? God cannot possibly deny himself the opportunity to be glorified.

So remember that our good is inextricably intertwined with God’s will to glorify himself.  The two cannot be separated – “Trusting God” by Jerry Bridges.

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Filed under: forgiveness, Healing, Hearts, Love

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