NOTE: This is a blog post Susan wrote in 2010 on another site we had at the time. After a little bit of updating, we decided to share it with you here. It seems like this topic is always applicable. Enjoy!
A Pastor friend of mine recommended a book to me recently because of the chapter on forgiveness. Most of this blog will be quotes from that book because I don't think I could say it better. The book is 10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe by Larry Osborne.
I have been questioning what it feels like and what it means to forgive someone when there has been tremendous hurt. If there is still hurt and distrust, is it really forgiveness? How do I get past it all? What am I doing wrong? These were just some of the questions I asked my friend. Osborne addresses the false beliefs we tend to have about forgiveness. Here is one:
Some of us have been taught that forgiveness is pretending nothing happened - a head in the sand posture that ignores the obvious. Some of us think of it as a never ending series of second chances. Others view it as a fresh start with all the consequences and old baggage removed. Still others imagine it as the immediate and full restoration of a broken relationship, complete with the same level of trust and privileges that preceded the wrongdoing. But the goofiest idea of all is the widely held belief that genuine forgiveness means literally forgetting what happened - wiping the slate so clean that every memory of the transgression disappears.He then spends time talking about how we think that God actually "forgets" our former transgressions and so we should forget it when people sin against us. But God doesn't forget in the sense that he can't remember things!
So, what does the Bible mean when it speaks of God remembering our sins no more? It means that he no longer responds to us in light of those sins. They no longer derail our relationship with him. They no longer garner his wrath. They are gone - completely - from our account. But it doesn't mean he can't remember all the things we've done. An omniscient God doesn't forget stuff.He then talks about why this is such a big deal:
When forgiving becomes synonymous with forgetting, it tends to produce spiritual confusion and other rather unfortunate spiritual responses for those of us who have been forgiven and those of us who need to forgive.Simply forgetting that someone has deeply hurt you or abused you, allows the door to remain open for even more hurt and abuse. While a Christian’s vertical relationship with God remains untouched in the midst of sinful actions, there are horizontal consequences in the form of broken or lost relationships that often accompany deep hurt and wounds. Osborne continues:
There's another problem that occurs when forgiving gets confused with forgetting. We tend to assume that if someone has forgiven us, whatever happened in the past should be a dead issue. The other person should just get over it and move on. But that's unreasonable. It unfairly turns the tables on the one who has been wronged. It assumes his or her pain should magically disappear. And if it doesn't, we get to write off the injured party as an unforgiving slob. Our sin is now their problem. Not a bad deal! Yet, in reality, healing takes time. Forgiveness is a decision lived out as a lengthy process. The expectation that those we've wronged should simply forget about it is not only unreasonable; it's emotionally unhealthy. People who can't remember what happened to them or who bury their pain are not spiritually mature; they're mentally or emotionally handicapped.That really spoke to me. I think for a long time I've dismissed emotions. After all, God is Sovereign and He does everything perfectly and for my good. Yes, He is and He does, but that doesn't take away my humanity. I was created with emotions. Jesus displayed
many emotions while walking on this earth with mankind. He had compassion, He cried, and He was angry at times!
The Psalms are full of emotion. The Psalmists cry out to God. They praise God. Tears of anger and joy abound in the Psalms! So why do we think that our hurt and pain should just go away? I heard someone once say that the Holy Spirit is pleased to sometimes work in decades. But we live in a culture of quick fixes. TV shows abound with huge problems that are solved in 30 - 60 minutes. We can cook a meal in minutes with our microwave ovens, so why are you still hurting? Come on, get over it! I've been guilty of expecting