Tips for finding joy and freedom through the power of forgiveness
Recently, I was in a situation in which someone I trusted betrayed me. At a point in my life when I needed help the most and longed to surround myself with safe people, this person not only lied to my face but also took something from me that wasn’t theirs to take. I was so angry that I found myself fantasizing about getting revenge. I allowed my mind to mull over the offence, festering within my heart a deep resentment toward this person. When I wasn’t thinking about the offence, I was talking about the offence. And the more I talked about it, the more my words fed the anger within my soul. My words kept the offence alive and before I knew it, I was becoming angry, resentful, and bitter.
Every one of us has a story about someone who has wronged us. The events and circumstance may vary, but the pain of being betrayed feels the same. The hurt from the disappointment and the anger from the injustice of it all can make up the perfect storm for a joyless life. In fact, take a moment and think about your own story of when someone deeply offended you. How did you deal with it? Were you able to let it roll off your back and move on—joyfully walking in true freedom and forgiveness? Or did you find yourself tripped up and trapped by the weight of the burden of it all? Well, if your answer is the latter, I get it. So, keep on reading.
Listen, there are few guarantees in life. Taxes, death, and someone offending us are just to name a few. The bottom line is this: How do we manage it? The offences, that is. And not just manage it, but truly let them go? Well, I believe the answer is in the how. How do we fully release it so that we can experience genuine freedom, peace, and joy?
The great news is that God gives us the answer to these questions in his Word and lays it out beautifully.
First, we must recognize that talking about the offence keeps the offence alive. Scripture reminds us about the power of our words: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). Words have the power to create, fuel, ignite, and influence how we see, think, and believe. In fact, our very own words can either fuel our faith in relation to the Word of God or they can dampen our faith when we speak out of our negative emotions. The good of life only comes by speaking the good of God’s Word into our lives. The key is recognizing the power of our words. If we can’t speak positively about a person or a situation, then maybe we should stop speaking about it—period. After all, 99.9 percent of the time when we speak negatively about something, we inevitably feel negatively about it. To shut things down, sometimes it’s best to shut things up. As in, shut our mouths.
Second, we’ve got to suck it up and pray for those who have offended us. And not just that—we must use our words to bless them. I’m not making this up, Scripture says so. “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28). Most of us would agree that it is a thousand times easier to cuss someone out (and yes, it counts if you go off on someone in your head) than to pray for that person. But God wants us to open our mouths and bless the offender. As my mother says, “Do it until you feel it.” Besides, it’s not about whether or not we “feel” like it, it’s about obeying the Word of God. Because here’s the cool part: somehow, some way, when we use our words to bless people as well as to pray for them, God supernaturally allows us to see them as he sees them and to love them as he loves them. And even more important, he allows us to forgive them as God has forgiven us. Why? Because only God knows why people do what they do. Everyone has a backstory. So even when we don’t know their story, we must trust God in the process. It’s choosing to love and forgive the offenders right where they are—just like we desire others to do for us. Just saying.
And finally, sometimes it’s as simple as making the choice to say, “I’m choosing to let go of the offence. I’m going to release it right now. I’m going to hand the offence and the offender over to the Lord and choose not to go back to that negative place by picking it back up again.” Sounds good, right? But what if you say those words with your mouth yet your mind continues to hold onto the offence by replaying it over and over again. This is when you step aside by pulling out the big guns. It’s in those hard places that you’ve got to allow the power of the Holy Spirit to take over. Remember, when we’re weak, he is strong. The greatest part about walking with the Lord is knowing that Jesus Christ is more than capable of handling any situation: anytime, anywhere, and anyhow he chooses to do so.
Allow the power of the Holy Spirit to do the work for you by giving the burden over to him. When the task is too difficult to bear, it’s as simple as praying, “Lord, will you forgive this person through me?” Whatever you need, God will give it to you! In fact, he’s even given you his mind. Scripture says, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). So when those old offences try to play themselves out in your mind, say, “I cast down every imagination and take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5), reminding yourself that you have “the mind of Christ.” He’s given you the power to think as he thinks, to know as he knows, and to forgive as he forgives. As he releases all our offences toward him into the sea of forgetfulness, we can do the same for others.
So today, take it, speak it, and live it—and talk yourself happy!
Kristi Watts is the author of Talk Yourself Happy: Transform Your Heart By Speaking God’s Promises (January 2017, Nelson Books). She recently launched Kristi Watts Ministries to provide Bible study tools, video blogs, and speaking engagements. Kristi lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with her son.