For the One Who Can’t Forgive

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For the longest time, those words Christ uttered with his body pinioned to the cross didn’t make sense to me.

“Father, forgive them.”

I didn’t want the witnesses to be forgiven. They didn’t deserve it. As they hurled insults at him, making a mockery of my God, he suffered the unthinkable.

Why would he say such a thing?

I would have much preferred him to say something like, “Father, punish them,” or “Father, condemn them.”

But no. In a moment where everyone he loved had abandoned him, including his own Father, he sent up a plea for forgiveness. He longed for the unrighteous to be made righteous through his suffering.

He turns the attention of history’s greatest love story from his agony to our need.

I just didn’t understand it. And because I didn’t get it, I failed to see my own need to extend forgiveness as well.

To me, forgiveness meant excusing what was done, and my list of offenses was long. I had been stolen from in every way possible: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Was I simply supposed to slap a band-aid on everything which had been done and pretend I was okay?

I simply couldn’t do it. So for years, I carried the weight of a bitter heart around with me into every relationship, every church service, and every attempt to worship. I wondered why God seemed so distant and unreachable.

There seemed to be an invisible curtain stretched across the sky, blocking me from his light.

Until we see our own need for forgiveness, we will never know how crucial it is to extend it to others. I was blinded by my own self-righteous armor and couldn’t grasp how desperate I was for His grace.

In the middle of a severe bout with postpartum depression, God brought me to my knees. I saw that even my honest attempts to be good were like filthy rags in the sight of a holy God.

I finally understood that by extending forgiveness, I was ultimately setting myself free. Free from bitterness and anger. Free from shame.

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As Jesus hung there on the cross, he didn’t simply forgive those who persecuted him. He asked his Father to forgive them.

He released the burden into the hands of the One who reigns in Heaven. And when you and I forgive, we do the same.

Forgiveness releases the burden of judgment to the Ultimate Judge.

We were never intended to carry around that weight, my friends. When we do, we live lives that are bitter, angry, and depressed.

If you are holding a burden of resentment or grudges today, it is time to stop making excuses and release it. And if those feelings of hurt are recoiled by new events, come before God and release it again.

Will you sit with me and close your eyes for a moment? Imagine yourself holding onto a glass bottle as you stand at the edge of the ocean. In that bottle are little scraps of paper which represent all of the harm others have caused you.

Pray, “Father, I trust you. I know your plans are good. I don’t understand but I believe you do. I forgive this person (or persons) and ask that you help heal my heart.”

Grasp that bottle for the last time, and with all of the strength you have, release it into the waves.

Now lift your hands to the Heavens because it is in His hands now.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 NIV

 

*All pictures taken by Abby McDonald

*Linking up with Suzie Eller’s #LiveFreeThursday and Barbie Swihart’s Weekend Brew. Come join us and be inspired.

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18 thoughts on “For the One Who Can’t Forgive

  1. Forgiveness does the heart good. I’m thankful for Jesus’ example in this,. When it seems impossible, he sets the record straight. Whew! Thanks for delving into forgiveness today, Abby.

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  2. Abby,
    The one held captive by grudges is the one bearing them. What freedom we find when we turn over all the offenses committed against us. This Easter may we all be so struck by Christ’s unfathomable love that we are willing to release the hurts that hold us captive. Beautiful post, Abby!!
    Have a joyous Easter…((hugs)),
    Bev

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    • You have a wonderful Easter too, Bev! And so true; it is us who are held captive by those grudges. Praying for you and your family, my friend.

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  3. What a beautiful picture of what forgiveness is! Like you, I carried that burden with me for more years than I care to remember. What a relief to finally release it. We can’t forgive until we understand what forgiveness is, what it isn’t, and how freely it has been given to us. Thank you for your life-giving words! #LiveFree

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  4. When you said, “he didn’t simply forgive those who persecuted him. He asked his Father to forgive them”, that really struck me, Abby. So simple but incredibly profound. That he didn’t just offer forgiveness but asked God to give it. That’s a game changer to me because it encourages us to 1) go straight to God with the grievance 2) petition ON BEHALF of the person who hurt us. Wow.

    Thanks for this Sister. This will stay with me for a really long time!

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    • Thank you so much for your kind words today, April. That part about Him asking the Father to forgive them just struck me as I was reading it this week. I love how scripture is always coming alive, filled with new nuggets of truth if we simply take the take to find them. Have a blessed Easter, friend.

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  5. Abby, beautiful photography – wow! I can certainly relate to carrying the weight of a bitter heart around with me…but I love your encouragement to toss it into the waves. I love that imagery!

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  6. Abby,
    Good thoughts on forgiveness. I believe the inability to forgive occurs in each life from time to time. I’ve had some trouble with forgiveness myself but I know I have to forgive. Who wants to carry the weight of past experiences with them forever? More importantly, God commands it, so we must extend it to others.

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  7. Abby I once heard someone say that when we forgive, we don’t receive a lobotomy. We can’t forget. We choose to not seek revenge – retaliation. That’s God’s business. Sometimes we have to choose it every day, every hour. Thanks for your transparency on your struggles with this issue. It helps us all. Love you xxoo

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  8. Beautiful words, Abby! You really hit when you said “until we see the need for forgiveness in ourselves we will never know how crucial it is to extend it to others”. It seem like such an easy stumbling block to overcome but really it means we need to get out of the way of ourselves. Blessed you shared this at The Weekend Brew. Happy Easter!

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  9. Awesome thoughts here, Abby. Yes, how often we say we forgive, only to realize we’ve buried the hurt deeper. Jesus showed us the ultimate example of forgiveness. So thankful for His forgiveness, and His example today!

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