I shared these thoughts with the Danville High School FCA on Friday morning, and I was looking over them tonight during my devotions and decided to write 'em down .... so that I won't forget 'em. :) We'll call these thoughts ('cause titles are just fun!) "What I've Learned About Forgiveness." Or rather ... What I've Learned (and continue to learn) about Forgiveness ... 'cause forgiveness, like every other lesson, is a life-long process. ;)
Over the past year or so, I've learned a thing or three about forgiveness.
#1 - Forgiveness is a process.
When I need to forgive someone, it's because I've been hurt. That is NOT profound. But it is true. I've been hurt, and pain often brings selfishness. I must fight. FIGHT! I must fight hard to run from my selfish ambitions when I've been hurt. My selfish self wants to scream and yell ... wants to cry ... wants to wallow in self-pity ... wants to tell that person off ... wants to gossip ... want to ... get the picture? ... Forgiveness does not happen over night. That pain is gonna take a while to heal. It may take time to forgive too. But we must! Time is not an excuse for unforgiveness. I must cry out to God every single day until that person is totally and completely forgiveness.
Note: Forgiveness also works the other way. If I hurt someone else, it might take a long time for me to let go of that. I HATE hurting others. It happens though. And I am still learning NOT to beat myself up but ACCEPT forgiveness when it is given.
#2 - I can't change people's actions, but I can control my own.
I always want to fix problems, wrongs I've committed, etc. I can always try. And I'm supposed to try. When I wrong someone, I must go to them, humble myself, and ask for forgiveness. I can continue being their friend no matter what happens. But whether or not they accept my apology, accept my friendship, accept anything and everything (or nothing) I give, I can't change them. All I can do is keep loving them, keep seeking and crying out to Jesus in the situation, and keep keep on keepin' on. Giving up is not an option. I can't change people, but I can control my own actions, attitudes, and words with the power the Holy Spirit gives me through Jesus Christ my Lord.
#3 - I reap what I sow.
I've been learning a lot about reaping and sowing lately. My pastor and my surrender sister, Alex, both talked to me about reaping and sowing within a month of each other ... as well as ... God continued pressing it upon my heart ... all of this within a timespan of a month or two .... (It's like God is in control or something! Ha ha!). I reap what I sow. I don't plant one season and get the harvest the very next season. I plant ... then I cultivate ... then I keep cultivating, nurturing, waiting ... and finally, a few seasons later, I reap my harvest. If I sow bitterness and anger and jealousy and well, sin upon sin ... I will reap sin upon sin upon sin upon .... I think you get my point. I must, like I said in #2, seek Jesus and cry out to Him in the midst of the process of unforgiveness. I must sow good things ... love, grace, hope, and forgiveness (one day at a time) ... and then ... only then! ... will I reap a good harvest.
Forgiveness is a process. Don't beat yourself up about the process if it is long. Just keep striving for forgiveness. Keep surrendering the issues (or issues - plural!) every single day. Keep seeking Jesus and crying out to Him for help and strength. Keep using self-control and sowing good things. And allow God to teach you mighty things about His power and purpose.
Some verses that have helped me over the past year or two have been Psalm 73:26, Philippians 1:6, and Colossians 3:2 ....
Psalm 73:26 - My flesh and my heart may fail, but GOD is the STRENGTH of my heart and my PORTION forever.
Philippians 1:6 - Being confident of this, that HE who began a GOOD work in you will carry it on to COMPLETION until the day of CHRIST JESUS.
Colossians 3:2 - Set your mind on things ABOVE, NOT on earthly things.