When I became a Christian I thought, was led to believe, that anger, hate and depression would automatically be swept away by the flood of Jesus love. Jesus' love dramatically affected me, I was no longer alone and knew an unconditional love like none other. However, I was surprised by the anger and hatred that lingered within me. I learned the words, "Forgive as you have been forgiven" and I really tried to but the feelings of anger kept coming back. I was ashamed of those feelings so I tried to push them down but they seemed to grow. As the feelings intensified I became even more ashamed so I pushed down harder. I cried, "Lord please help me to forgive," but still I didn't seem to be able to let go. Finally I became depressed, I hated myself and I thought about dying a lot.
Around this time we started going to a new church, one that had a professional counselor on staff. I decided with fear and trembling to pay him a visit. Over the course of months I told him my story, one that few knew, and he helped me to sort through the confusion. As we walked through my experiences step by step, we prayed and step by step, I let go of my pain and I forgave. After months I found relief from anger, feelings of hatred and my depression was lifted off me like a heavy wet blanket.
Forgiveness can be a complicated matter. Sometimes one can forgive easily because the wound is little more that an abrasion other times it is a deep and wide gash or a cut that that has been opened over and over again. These injuries need treatment and time to heal.
After my sessions were over I thought that I would never have to deal with those feelings again but some things go deep and lurk in hidden crannies and then pop up when least expected. At these times I seek out help and talk things over, hidden things tend to grow rotten and create problems, talking about them helps to sweep them away.
I am the one who has benefitted the most from forgiveness. I have peace and true joy in my heart rather than turmoil and pain.
Sometimes we feel that we can't forgive because it means letting the person off the hook. Forgiveness is not the same as making excuses for a person. When we hurt others there is always a price to pay so when someone misbehaves and willfully hurts others they need to be held accountable for their actions. The Lord does not excuse our bad behaviour we must come to him and contritely confess our sins to recieve his forgiveness and grace. We are saved to eternal life and God calls us his children but there are still earthly consequences for our sins, we do not escape them and we shouldn't. Jesus says "if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."(Matthew 5:23 &24)
Forgiveness does not mean making excuses for or letting people off the hook or allowing them to continue hurting others. Forgiveness means letting go of hurt, loving that person whole heartedly and praying for the Lord's blessings on them. Love and forgiveness do not always come instantly at our bidding or easily but if we are willing Jesus who is love can and will help us. I am thankful that he was patient with me and helped me.
I Corinthians 13
13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.