It’s a common notion that there is more emotional tragedy, depression, and possibly even suicides during the holidays. The supposed most joyful time of the year often turns into just the opposite of that. I don’t think that it’s necessarily that people have more problems during the holidays, but more that they feel those problems more during this time. And this actually makes perfect sense.
The enemy’s sole purpose is to rob the world of whatever is good. The enemy wants to remove all positive aspects from our lives, and at Christmastime, this means his priority becomes robbing us of all our joy. He intends to make us feel discontented, empty, angry, and depressed. Often times he does this through convincing us to hold on to our hurt and to not receive forgiveness.
I once heard the desire to not forgive explained: Not forgiving is like setting yourself on fire and hoping the other person dies of smoke inhalation.
The problem with forgiveness and the reason it is so difficult for us is that we don’t truly understand what it is. In order to understand what forgiveness is, we need to understand what it is not.
Forgiveness is not forgetting. It’s not fair to ourselves for us to expect to forget something that has hurt us. We can’t expect to forget the pain it caused and the effects it had on our life. If we are supposed to mirror God’s forgiveness in our own lives, forgetting is not a part. God wouldn’t be omniscient, or all-knowing, if He forgot about that He has forgiven us.
Forgiveness is not minimizing the seriousness of the offense or the hurt it caused. There is an idea that forgiveness is synonymous with “it’s okay” or “it’s fine”. It’s not okay. It’s not fine. The pain is huge. The damage is huge. But the power of Jesus’s forgiveness on the cross was huge, too.
Forgiveness is not waiting for the other person to apologize. If you wait for the other person to say sorry, you’re holding yourself a hostage to them. You’re binding your peace to them. You’re giving them power to hold you in complete bondage. Forgiveness is personal; the other person’s actions are irrelevant.
Forgiveness is not asking for reconciliation. Though reconciliation may follow forgiveness, they are not the same. You can’t expect the other person to be in a place to mend things just because you are.
Forgiveness is not fair. But let’s all praise God for this! If forgiveness were fair, we wouldn’t be able to receive it through Jesus. The enemy will try to convince us that “they don’t deserve your forgiveness.” Let’s be aware of who we listen to.
Forgiveness is not impossible. If we measure by our own abilities, this is true. But thankfully, after we begin doing life with Christ, we are no longer measured by our own abilities, but by His. The enemy will seek to devour us and tell us that it’s impossible for us to truly forgive, but once again, we should be aware of who we are listening to.
“Come now, let us settle this matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” (Isaiah 1:18-19)
God says that we are to forgive out of obedience to Him. This obedience that He speaks of lets us know that we aren’t ever going to have the intuition to forgive. Our worldly instincts will not lead us to desire forgiving. Rather, we need obedience to do what we won’t want to do.
The world revolves around acting on feelings. When we are stuck in the ways of the world, we wait for feelings to lead and choices to follow. God commands us to make the choice of forgiveness, regardless of where our feelings may be. Our feelings will follow.
God’s way is never going to be what we feel like, but it’s the choice we are supposed to make. God’s way of forgiveness includes praying for the person, blessing them, and doing good to them.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44). God knows what He’s doing when he commands this of us. He knows that when praying for someone, it will change our heart. It’s impossible to hate someone while truly praying for their soul. Through engaging in devout and intentional prayer, your wounds caused by that person will be mended and your heart for them will be changed as God desires it to be.
God also calls us to bless our enemies–to speak well of them. Though this may be the most counterintuitive response, so is forgiveness as a whole. In only speaking well of the person who has hurt you, you free yourself from the anger and negativity they bring to your life.
Lastly, God calls us to do good to them. Just as He has done infinitely good to us despite all our betrayal, we are instructed to do the same.
It’s not easy. It’s actually really, really hard. But just as we have been forgiven, we are to forgive.