We’ve spent the first half of this book considering some of the major whys of forgiveness. But like everything else in the Christian life, forgiving others is much more than what-fors and how-comes. Ours is an active faith. It is made alive and appealing only when our nouns turn into verbs.
On the other side of “choosing forgiveness” is the kind of life God intended for you when He sent His Son to die for your sin—the freedom to bless others, to walk unhindered by bitterness and resentment, to relate confidently with God and with the people around you, and most important to be a living, walking display of the gospel and grace of Christ.
But how do you get there? How do you come to the place where forgiveness can do its healing work, both in you and in your offender?
How do you become like the woman who wrote to share, “I have chosen to forgive my husband for the sexual relationship he had with his girlfriend before we met. I’ve been holding on to this hurt for four years. I’m excited now to embrace him and tell him he has been released.”
How do you find freedom from an issue that’s been seething and simmering for a good part of your lifetime, like the person who told me, “The Lord had me release a prisoner that I’ve held captive for over sixteen years. Now God can restore the years that the locusts have eaten.”
How do you overcome an offense so entangled in your heart that it’s shaped the person you are and the way you react to all of life, like the woman who said, “I was molested by my brothers and father for as long as I could remember until I was sixteen. This led to years of letting men abuse my body. I never knew how to have a healthy relationship with men. I have held this hatred for so long in my heart. But I am choosing to release it and give it to God.”
I’ve seen the Lord give people grace to forgive in situations that are almost beyond belief.
“Last February,” one woman wrote, “a neighbor broke into our home and killed my husband, kidnapped me, raped me, and then killed himself. I was left with three small children.” She went on to say how she took “great satisfaction in hoping that he [her attacker] was burning in hell,” and how “the only way I could deal with the situation was to know he was being punished.”
God began to deal with her heart at a women’s conference where I spoke on forgiveness. She knew the pain was killing her. She knew she needed to forgive. And once she did, she was able to experience God’s peace and rid herself of needing to know what ultimately happened to her assailant. “Now I am free. I don’t know if he is in hell or heaven. But I know God is in control, and I can praise Him.”
I’ve watched the Lord reconcile and restore relationships between people who could hardly stand to be in the same room together. I remember being approached at the close of another conference by two such women who wanted to tell me their story. They were mother and daughter-in-law. The young woman, every bit of nine months pregnant, had been married to the other woman’s son for four years.
But through all the years they had known each other, they had never gotten along. In fact, their dislike for each other had grown pretty intense. I don’t know that they could have even explained anymore what their complaint with each other was all about, but they had certainly gotten to the place where everything about the other one bothered them.
I’m sure you know how that can happen. Maybe it’s happened to you.
Though this mother-in-law was on the host committee for the conference, she had not invited her daughter-in-law to attend—“I knew she wouldn’t come if I invited her.”
But she did come. Uninvited.
Wouldn’t you know it, God found them there, sitting in different sections of the auditorium. And during the course of that afternoon, as I shared about the importance of forgiveness, one of them made the first move. I don’t even know which one, but all I do know is that they both ended up in the prayer room, in each other’s arms, seeking and finding one another’s forgiveness.
I’m telling you, it can happen—in any situation—in your situation—as God gives the grace and as you make the choice to do what He’s calling you to do.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Lawrence Kimbrough, Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008).
We have just released a new Bible Study based on Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book, Choosing Forgiveness.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Choosing Forgiveness, Lesson #1
What Happens When We Refuse?
Choosing Forgiveness, Lesson #2
The Promise of Forgiveness
Choosing Forgiveness, Lesson #3
The Art of Forgiveness
Choosing Forgiveness, Lesson #4
What True Forgiveness Is — And Isn’t
Choosing Forgiveness, Lesson #5
Returning a Blessing