As I sit here I do so with friends who today sit in the heartbreak of hope deferred, while other friends sit on the edge of life living 45 seconds away from their bomb shelter.
Complexity, perilious times have their way of digging deep into our souls. It is so easy to pick up offense when it concerns the people we care about. But today as I be with these friends, I again find myself sitting with the fundamental need we all have, to forgive and be forgiven.
Genesis 50 is the story of a man whose brothers plotted his murder, betrayed him and ended up selling him into slavery. That is some serious stuff to process! We pick up the story some years later, when this same man, Jospeh has become second in charge of the ruling world power of the day, Egypt.
“After burying his father, Joseph went back to Egypt. All his brothers who had come with him to bury his father returned with him. After the funeral, Joseph’s brothers talked among themselves: “What if Joseph is carrying a grudge and decides to pay us back for all the wrong we did him?”
So they sent Joseph a message, “Before his death, your father gave this command: Tell Joseph, ‘Forgive your brothers’ sin – all that wrongdoing. They did treat you very badly.’ Will you do it? Will you forgive the sins of the servants of your father’s God?” When Joseph received their message, he wept.” (Genesis 50:14-17)
NOT FOR THE FAINTHEARTED
It is no small thing to keep our hearts soft and tender. It seems easier to armor up with self protect, self justify and harden our hearts. Forgiveness often feels like the last thing we want to do.
Desmond Tutu said of forgiveness that “It is the noblest strength of the human spirit. It is saying this is God’s child and I will not participate in their loosing their humanity in my eyes.”
Forgiveness is not weak. It is not for the fainthearted. It is a power move because it pulls on the noble, the honorable in us. It intrudes into the story of fear, trauma, shame, rejection, offense. It says we are more than these emotions and experiences.
Forgiveness had a profound effect on Joseph and the next moment of his life and the lives of others around him. It does for all of us. Bill Johnson says, “Places of influence are given to those who know how to forgive.”
In verse 19 it records, “Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid. Do I act for God? Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now – life for many people.”
Forgiveness freed Joseph. It untied him from one deep haunting experience, into another perspective other than just seeing the wrong and shame, it freed him to see a bigger picture.
Joseph who was second in charge of a nation, remembered who he was and who he wasn’t. God alone judges and condemns. God remembers. God vindicates.
We need forgiveness and we need to forgive.
So how do we walk it?
WALKING OUT FORGIVENESS
- Acknowledge the hurt happened. Don’t numb it or rationalize it away. You got hurt. It is ok to say I am hurt.
2. Make a decision to do something with that hurt. It is so easy to put it on the back burner and numb or rationalize the hurt away.
Do something about it or it will do something with you. Medical research is discovering that around 70% of cancers are rooted in unforgiveness which produces the emotion of bitterness.
3. Make a choice to forgive. Sometimes the pain is so deep that forgiving is too big a step. That’s ok. Making a choice to consider forgiveness is success and a huge step forward.
Forgiveness is not something you do when you FEEL like it. Not all of life is about feelings. You are not your feelings. They are not your identity. They are indicators about what we need. Forgiveness is a cognitive choice to acknowledge our hurt and heal. It is a choice to honor ourselves, and bring our dignity into the picture.
Forgiving doesn’t mean you have to trust that person or even at this point consider relationship with them. This is simply just about freeing yourself through forgiveness.
When I forgive, I process it first with God. This is a model we use. You may have another, that is fine.
- Prayer for Forgiving others
“I forgive………. for….. (it is important to name what for because it legitimizes your hurt). I choose to release them completely now from the debt they owe me. I renounce any place I have judged them. I speak blessing instead.”
“Lord, I repent of my judgement of……as if I knew all the reasons they did what they did. Please forgive me for taking your place and role in judging them. I ask you to forgive them and have mercy on them, and I ask you to release me now from judgement coming into my life.”
- Prayer for Forgiving self
“Father God because you have forgiven me I now choose to forgive myself of…….. I release myself from accusation, judgements, self slander and self hatred. I accept myself for who I am and who you have made me to be.
Holy Spirit I ask you to work holiness in me in this area and change my heart. Wash away from me the pain and wounding from this person(s), the anger and resentment I have felt and my desire for vengeance. I choose to trust you with the justice I need.”
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