The gift of forgiveness doesn’t have to wait for any special occasion. But with the holidays fast approaching, you might find it’s a gift you’ll want to unwrap early – just in case you find yourself in the middle of some not so merry moments this holiday season.
We all have them. Wounds that seem to spring up and surprise us this time of year. Maybe it’s the empty chair at the family table. Or the person sitting across from you who made you feel unloved as a child and like a disappointment as a grown up. Or it might be something as simple as a certain song or food or tradition that stirs up sadness or anger that we thought we had buried long ago.
Whatever it is, the hurt we carry with us throughout the year is often amplified during the holidays. Maybe it’s stress. Maybe it’s all the forced family togetherness. Or maybe it’s just that the sad and bad things look worse somehow when contrasted against all the glitter, greenery, and twinkle lights.
So how can the gift of forgiveness help? By giving us a way to get past the pain.
You might be thinking, “Forgiveness? After what they did to me? They’ve never apologized. Never even acknowledged how they hurt me. They don’t deserve my forgiveness!” And that may be true. But this isn’t about them. It’s about us.
It’s been said that refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. It will make you sick with bitterness. Trap you in despair. And keep you from moving on. And that’s no way to live.
God wants to free you from the prison of anger, grudge holding, and bitterness.
How? By letting go. And letting God be God. When I keep someone on the hook for something they’ve done to me, it’s like I’m trying to step into God’s shoes and show them the error of their ways. My God has shown me again and again that I can trust Him entirely to care for my every need. And believing that He will properly deal with someone who has hurt me is one of the ways I need to trust Him more.
Forgiveness is not saying what happened is “ok” or “doesn’t matter.” Broken hearts matter very much to God.
Choosing to forgive might feel like you’re saying what happened to you doesn’t matter. That the injury can be forgotten. But God sees your broken heart. He sees your pain and disappointment. And He is reaching out, inviting you to allow Him to hold them for you, so you don’t have to any more.
Your wounds matter so much to God that He has given us a way to acknowledge them by laying them down at the foot of His cross. To leave them there, in His care so we can be free to move forward unburdened. That is the gift of real forgiveness.
Choosing to let go frees you to receive what He has next for you.
With God’s help we can choose to forgive even the most difficult people in our lives. We often confuse forgiveness with approval or embracing the actions or behavior of another. But this isn’t true. To forgive doesn’t mean you are bound together by approval or acceptance. In fact, forgiving someone sets you free from being bound to them at all.
Real forgiveness sets us free from allowing another person to control our future thoughts and behaviors. Or to ruin another holiday dinner! If we wait for the one who hurt us to apologize or change their ways or do whatever we think we need before we can forgive them, we’ve given them power over us and our peace of mind. And why would we put that kind of influence into the hands of someone who has already hurt us? That power belongs in God’s hands alone.
He is inviting us to unwrap the gift of forgiveness. He is saying, “Forgive as I forgive,” not because He’s trying to test our fortitude. But because He knows forgiveness is the path to true freedom, peace, and joy. And that sounds like a lovely way to spend this holiday season.
Have you ever chosen to forgive someone who hurt you, even if they didn’t apologize? Is there someone in your life today who you could give the gift of forgiveness? What kind of help will you need to make that choice? And how might the gift of forgiveness change you?