In a previous post I made a statement that I found myself questioning pretty soon after I wrote it. At that time I desired to correct and expound upon it, but did not feel the Lord’s release to do so. I had almost forgotten about it until this morning when I felt the gentle prompting that now is the time to correct it. In the post, Entrusted Forgiveness, I wrote, “He will hand my precious gift of forgiveness back to me so I can personally gift it to them.” As I continued to study forgiveness in scripture in the days and weeks after that, I became more and more convinced that I was incorrect. At first glance it might not seem significant, but in the heart of the forgiver I believe it is.
My understanding as I wrote that statement was that I would need to extend forgiveness to that person personally and directly if they come to me, so the Lord would grant it back to me to do so. I now realize that understanding is in conflict with the concept that entrusting something to the Lord means He forever holds it, and I am not to take it back. I believe the same should be applied to my forgiveness. I believe having a spirit of forgiveness is achieved by the offering and release of that forgiveness to Christ. In obedience to Christ I forged and offered it, Christ is now and always will be the mediator of it. If that person is broken and sorrowful, Christ will pour out the peace of His forgiveness and, to a much lesser extent, mine on that person. I am liberated from the concern of “if” or “when” that will happen, it is fully entrusted to Him. In the future if this person were to speak words of sorrow and request forgiveness and I took back control of my forgiveness, I could be tempted to wonder if they were genuine, which could then cause me to wrestle with releasing it all over again. As I have fully entrusted that forgiveness to Christ I can rest in His dispensing of it. He alone knows the hearts of men, and He will not dispense it until sorrow and repentance is genuine. Maintaining a spirit of forgiveness by fully entrusting my forgiveness to Christ and never taking it back liberates me.
I find great peace in entrusting my forgiveness to Christ, but must also acknowledge the pain of the wound that necessitated forgiveness was not instantly relieved in that process, it is still present. After a failed attempt at Biblical reconciliation, one of my daughters looked at me with tears flowing down her face and questioned, “how am I supposed to not hate [them]?” Her words were justified, it is legitimate anger. In the presence of deep wounds it can be very difficult to discern what is simply the agony of the wound, what is anger, and what is a potential root of bitterness. Anger alone is not a sin, what we do with the anger determines whether or not it becomes a sin (Ephesians 4:26). It is not unrighteous to be angry when wronged, but we must quickly address it, we must “not let the sun go down on [our] anger,” or it will very soon become a stronghold of bitterness. Daily, we as a family must and do ask the Lord to reveal in our hearts the iniquity of bitterness so we can repent should it be found. My daughter asked that question because she knows she is called to love her enemies, and for now this person is very much acting as an enemy (Luke 6:27-28). She spoke longing for righteousness but recognizing the impossibility of it within ourselves alone. She already knew the answer, but we spoke it anyway. When the pain is deep we must sometimes start by praying for the Lord to grant us the desire to forgive, our flesh certainly does not want to, but He is faithful and will create the desire if we ask. Once the desire is birthed we must go through the painful process of surrendering and entrusting everything that accompanies that wound and the forgiveness to Christ. It is the agonizing process of crucifying our flesh, but as we fix our focus on Him, meditating on our knowledge of Him through His Word it becomes much easier. We find rest in knowing He is our gentle Shepherd who weeps with us and intercedes for us, and at the same time that He is righteous and just and does not leave unrepented of sin unpunished.
The Lord has been so gracious to me as I have been searching my way through this journey of forgiveness. In the past week alone He provided two profound opportunities to pour into the lives of others. As He intersected my life with the lives of two different strangers to have the opportunity to be His hands and feet to them in two different ways, He gently spoke to my heart “this is why you entrust your pain and forgiveness to me.” Hebrews 12:1 immediately came to mind in that moment,“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” [NIV]. I long to run the race well, I don’t want to miss a single opportunity He has prepared in advance for me (Ephesians 2:10). If I cling to my right to be angry at this person, or if I tightly grip my forgiveness refusing to entrust it to Christ, my hands are no longer free to be His, and it will hinder and entangle me in this race.
This race is all that truly matters, everything else is meaningless. I am running Home as purposefully and quickly as I can, and I intend to run so as to win the prize. I know the wisdom and truth of His Word, and recognize it is for my good and His glory that He calls me to throw off all that hinders and entangles. I am liberated to run through entrusting my forgiveness to Him. I am set free to race by relinquishing anger and resisting bitterness. May I run in a way that brings only honor and glory to Him, and through the throwing off of everything that hinders and entangles may I leave a legacy of freedom and joy in Christ that causes others to hunger and thirst for Him.
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 [NASB]
Artwork: Sarah Harmening