The Struggle with Forgiveness

By Marlys Burgett

Ever struggle with forgiveness? Someone bullied your child, a friend was wronged and called you in tears for help, your spouse got fired without just cause– a million situations can cause us to get angry and hold a grudge against another.

This world is unjust, and we long for things to be made right. We long for vengeance, yet God says vengeance is His and calls us to forgive. He will take care of how we are wronged. I did a search on the phrase “vengeance is mine, says the Lord” and “God will fight for us.”  Wow!  There are tons of verses on God’s promises to avenge and fight for us and protect us:

“Therefore thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I am going to plead your case and exact full vengeance for you. . . .’” Jer 51:33

“I will extol you, O Lord, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my enemies rejoice over me.” Ps 30:1

The difficult part is to surrender the outcome to Jesus and forgive the offender. God calls us to forgive! He mandates us to forgive! Again, a word search on forgiveness reveals multiple instances!

“For if you forgive people their wrong doing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.” Matt 6:14

“. . . accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” Col 3:13

You then, convicted of your sin of unforgiveness can reach for your Bible for help. You confess in prayer and surrender the unforgiveness in your heart, laying it down at the feet of Jesus and go on about your day. Sure enough, something happens; and you pick the offense back up and stew and fret and are back to square one . . . back into the angst of the unforgiveness and feeling like a “bad Jesus girl” because you just can’t seem to let it go. Uggh! And so it goes day after day . . . but fret not!

Psalm 51:1-12 contains lovely promises for rescue when you have the sin of unforgiveness lurking in your heart, mind and spirit. It’s been a passage that has brought reminders of God’s faithful love and mercies through dark times as I confess my unforgiveness. This is David’s prayer for pardon over his sin with Bathsheba. Author Paul David Tripp says, “Psalm 51 is one of the Bible’s best prayers of confession.”

“Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; according to Your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion.” vs 1 God is ready to hear our plea for His help. He is gracious, compassionate, and does not shame or condemn us in our resistance to obey His authority to forgive. He understands the human struggle.

“Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is before me.” vs 2 God promises to shower us clean from the guilt and shame of our sin– like taking a long cool shower and rinsing off the sweat, grime and dust after mowing the lawn in 100 degree heat and humidity.

 “Against You – You alone – I have sinned.” vs 4 Forgiveness is hard and painful and requires a lot of personal work with God. We are instructed to seek God directly to forgive our sin of unforgiveness toward those who have offended us. This is for our sake! This is the vertical and prayerful conversation with God is the first step and so very important before we move into a horizontal conversation of forgiveness with others.

“Surely You desire integrity in the inner self, and You teach me wisdom deep within. You purify me, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt.” vs 6-9 God wants us to do the internal work of cultivating our heart, mind, body and spirit with the unforgiveness we are holding onto. It is only through our private communion with Him we can be set free. Through this open confession to God, His promise of purification and cleansing will occur eventually . . . and oh, what freedom and true joy comes from that struggle.

“God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of Your salvation to me and give me a willing spirit.” vs 10-12 We ask in faith for God’s help to cleanse our heart and revive an unwavering, firmly established faith within us.

Paul David Tripp in his devotional “New Morning Mercies” refers to this Psalm as a “cry for change. David confesses that his problem is not external, but internal; it’s a problem of the inward being. So he cries out for what every sinner needs: a new heart. It is something only God can create. It is the epicenter of his work of grace. He wants more than reformed behavior; he sent his Son to die for you so that you would have a new heart, one that is constantly being renewed.”

Dear Jesus, Thank you for dying for all my sins. May your grace redeem and renew my heart to love and forgive all people as you in your kindness and mercy have forgiven me. Amen.

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