How can I forgive when it hurts so much?

This is a part of a series about forgiveness and handling memories, first to last

This post begins here…

In this blog post about forgiveness I want to identify four things

  1. I know how hard forgiveness is when you have been deeply wronged
  2. The kind of peace God wants you to have
  3. How to let go and know that the person wont “get away with it”
  4. The small print – justice

PLEASE NOTE: This is not related to any specific situation or any individual or group of people in my own life or in my past. If you know me… DONT take it personally. It’s not about you.

So let me begin…

Firstly, I want you to know…

1. I know how hard forgiveness is when you have been deeply wronged

Let’s say you were in a relationship and your partner hurt you. Not once. Not twice, but ongoingly. For years you were hurt, either physically or emotionally or both.

Perhaps your life was damaged and ruined. You became a shell of a human being. Let’s say that if you were a man, then you lost your sense of manhood and trust in women and God because you believed that God put you two together. Or if you were a woman, then you lost trust in men, marriages, God and your sense of self was damaged.

Then you spoke to well meaning Christians and they said “just let it go” or “you need to forgive to be forgiven” or “if you walk in hatred you walk in darkness. All of this is valid scripture… but is it helpful?

Job’s comforters also had good advice, but they were rebuked by God.

Job’s comforters

This is tough stuff… how can you forgive someone who hurt you, and if they were given another chance they would hurt you again, they never apologised, and they might be hurting someone else right now – at this very moment?

Child abuse comes to mind… perhaps you were abused and your abuser has never been caught and that person might be abusing others at this time. Should you forgive and forget? Is God OK with what happened?

You might see scriptures like this one…

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31-32

… but you cant imagine just pushing all that stuff under a rug and pretend that its gone and somehow its all ok now. When you bury stuff alive, it doesnt die, it’s still alive down there.

Perhaps you grew up with sexual abuse and no one ever apologised to you for it. Can you just forgive and forget? Should you go and be kind to those people and tenderhearted to them? God bless you if you can do that, you have probably had years of counselling and you are ready to do that. This post is not for you.

But what if you are really stuck and you can’t “just let it go”? Then this is the post for you.

Firstly I wanted to start with this… I want you to know that I know how it feels.

So what now? Here is the second part where I explain…

2. The kind of peace God wants you to have

Let me show you what God showed me early last year (2011). He showed me two images. I will repeat them to you now.

The first image He showed me… I saw God as a Father and me as His son (which I am). The son was having problems with another kid at school. The other kid goes on and on at the kid, hurting him.

So the son now has two options.

The first option is to fight back and smack the other kid so hard that the other kid never ever does that again. This is not the way described in the bible (despite it seeming to work quite well and lots of people doing it in the bible).

The second option is that the son comes to his Father and explains what happened and the Father goes to the other kid’s parents and explains what is happening to you and they do something to stop the situation.

What God showed me is that He (the Father) is a good Father and He steps in and protect his son (or you, a daughter) and He will arrange for the other child to get a punishment severe enough that the bad behaviour stops occurring.

If you know that you have a Father in Heaven like that, you will be able to take all the issues to Him (in prayer) and know for certain that He will intervene and judge the situation correctly and hand out the correct response needed to protect you and bring justice.

Well… you DO have a Father in Heaven like that and in a moment (below) I will show you that scripturally.

The second image He showed me… was of a son feeling peaceful. I can still remember the sense of peace of that son.

The son could let it go BECAUSE he totally trusted that his Father would intervene and make a judgement and hand out an appropriate sentence.

The sense of peace in that son was the thing that got me. The son was calm. No angst at all. I really mean it, none at all.

Rather than fight back, the son had  handed the situation over to God and all the tension and anger was removed.

Why was the emotion removed? Because he knew the injustice would be dealt with.

You see, when you are safe and away from the situation, when you have boundaries in place… then it’s the sense of injustice that upsets us and blocks us from forgiving. Its as if we think something like this: if I forgive then he or she gets away with it and THATS NOT FAIR!!!

But if you knew – scripturally – that God will step in and handle it, then you could give the sense of injustice over to Him. THEN you can let it go, as you watch the outcome.

So we come to…

3. How to let go and know that the person wont “get away with it”

God showed me this verse and I took it literally and I found inner peace with my past situations…

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” – Rom 12:19

The key for you is to NOT take revenge. Yes defend yourself and move away from the source of trouble and put up good boundaries… but dont take revenge. Let it go because God will take action.

So I did exactly that. I did not take revenge, I opened the way for God’s wrath instead.

Did you hear that? Maybe read that last sentence again. I said to God in prayer something like “I forgive these people and I open the way for Your wrath instead”.

It’s as if I had two choices… I could fight, scratch and bite and be angry.

OR. I could forgive and be 100% sure that God would judge and be wrathful (if He found it necessary of course).

I cant have both. You cant have both. It’s as if He waits for us to stop. When we let it go and choose to be peaceful, then He takes over and judges the situation and takes action.

I have a vision right now of someone taking a whole lot of brown tangled emotional stuff out of their chest and lifting it up to Him. I hope that is you 🙂

This approach I am suggesting is confirmed in this verse…

Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you. – Prov 20:22

You DO protect yourself, but you DONT pay them back.

I did this in prayer and I felt peace and I have ever since! I feel no need to talk to anyone about it. I dont threaten. I just hand it over and go on with my life.

I can let it go now, because I know that the injustice of the abuse in my past are being handled by my Father.

You can also see Him as a Judge – the bible has many stories and parables of God as a Judge.

This is how I re-processed the injustices of my life in general and found peace with them. I thought about the situations, people known and unknown, and I “opened the way for God’s wrath”. And I felt and feel release. Peace.

Encouraged? Good. BUT. Let me clarify the small print.

4. The small print – justice

Yes, there is always “the small print”  🙂

One time I remember handing a situation over to God and I waited to see what would happen… and the person was… BLESSED!!

A few weeks later they did it again and so I did it again too… and they were… BLESSED AGAIN?


A person may think their own ways are right,
but the Lord weighs the heart. – Prov 21:2

You see, God isnt my personal slave, He doesnt say “how high” when I say “jump”. He looks into my heart. He looks into their heart. He sees what I am not aware of.

When I thought He should take action on my behalf, He judged fairly, He saw what I cannot see in the situation… and He chose to bless instead.

And Im ok with that. Totally. I dont know what is going on in the other person’s life. I am not qualified to judge them and where they have come from. I dont know how they have changed since I last saw them. I dont hear their silent prayers to God. I dont know their heart. But He sees all of this.

I now know that when I forgive, Im asking Him to judge with the insight that only He has. He can see all the factors in the situation and I can’t. I hand it into His hands and Im satisfied that He knows best. I trust Him.

And Im ok with Him blessing on that occasion  because as I said, the real issue that gnaws at us is injustice. If I know He will judge with justice and accuracy… I dont mind what outcome He decides on, I just let it go and move on with my life.

NOTE:  (Added afterward) This verse keeps coming to mind…

Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve, sending you a blessing instead of this curse. Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine to the LORD your God as before. – Joel 2:14

That verse doesnt fit in with this post, but I feel to add it. If it’s for you, take it, believe Him.

13 responses to “How can I forgive when it hurts so much?

  1. Oh my goodness!! How I have been suffering from the rejection of a Christian mentor who said I was too needy when what I needed was a personal walk with Jesus. How badly it has cut me that she said that loving someone well means doing hard things, like cutting me off after a year of a deep relationship together. How I have cried and battled for forgiveness and to let go and let God do this. This has been the hardest battle for me in my newfound salvation. I so appreciate this article and it’s simple but powerful truths. I am willing to really do the hard things, forgive and love in spite of, but this is so hard and painful. I am asking God to give me the strength to let go and see him as my protector and that his love never fails and isn’t conditional. I do not want to be bitter, I want to obey his word so badly. Thank you for writing this out as I continue to try and keep myself aligned with his truth. Honoring him with my life.

  2. A few days ago when you posted this, I didnt read it (time issues), but I read it today after a weekend of “power struggles” w/X….. It brought back the CHOICE I had made to forgive him but also reminded me that I need to choose to CONTINUE to forgive and allow GOD to work……That is hard to do sometimes! Thank you for this blog Mark!

  3. When we don’t forgive, we are keeping ourselves in bondage to the other person(s). Forgiveness is a choice, then comes the healing. The memory does not go away, but the pain of it does as the forgiveness process works in us. Awful circumstances can be GREAT teachers, if we will allow it.

  4. Iv struggled for 23 yrs with not been able to forgive and I know the pain Iv suffered. Yr post jst summed up all the words… Jst beautiful. Thk u x

    Sent from my iPhone

  5. Your title is “How can I forgive when it hurts so much?” I’ve found through forgiveness, it doesn’t hurt anymore. I don’t know how that works, it just does.

    I also think we don’t forgive because we think that somehow, if we hold that person in unforgiveness (indebtedness), somehow we can get them or a past event to change so that a need that was previously unmet will be met. It doesn’t work that way. God has a much greater ability to meet our needs than any one person can; forgiving someone opens the door and allows Him to enter (and I think He doesn’t just enter, He rushes in!)

    • Its true what you are saying, we hold onto something in the hope it will change or they will change… but mostly people dont change.

      We refuse to forgive because we hope that they will suffer for the injustice and somehow we imagine that our unforgiveness hurts them. It doesnt. And they dont care anyway. Usually such people are deep under water and cant feel our feelings… so our intense anger and unforgiveness doesnt harm them… it only harms us.

      Instead, acknowledge the injustice to God and forgive and thereby open the way for Him to judge and step into the situation and make it right.

      God bless you, Mark.

  6. You did a Great job–you have a clear way of convincing in mechanical fashion how easily this works: “I cant have both. You cant have both. It’s as if He waits for us to stop. When we let it go and choose to be peaceful, then He takes over and judges the situation and takes action.” That was amazingly clear. Good Job!!!<3+Wendy

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