When Forgiveness Seems Illusive

I long to be the one who makes you smile.

From deep within me is a person who wants to be that somebody who makes every person feel like a somebody.

I really do want to be an encourager, but far too often I leave a conversation thinking about what I wish I had said [ please tell me I’m not alone! ]

As a blogger, it’s easier for me to write down the words and pour my heart into a post; but those same words don’t as easily come out of my mouth. That’s how I often see myself, but I know that it isn’t healthy for me to ignore my insufficiency if I truly want to do better in my personal relationships.  “Words of affirmation” seem to be the love language of almost everyone around me!

Not a bit surprising, really, that just about the time I start working on an area that needs improvement–real life steps in to teach me a lesson.

I had barely started The 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge by Revive Our Hearts Ministry, when I found myself falling behind.  It happens.  I read my Bible every day, and rarely miss, but I don’t always use devotionals, so it’s not a regular habit.

The enemy knew right where to attack.

Hearing the words in my own voice, I began the, “I am a complete failure” conversation in my mind.  One unkind statement toward my spouse and I felt like the worst wife in the world.  Quickly asking for forgiveness from God and then my husband, I voiced the words that I thought would heal the situation.  But it didn’t end there. I let the wound fester and it refused to heal in my own heart.

Why?  Why, if I did all the right things and said what needed to be said, did I still feel like a failure?  Why did real forgiveness seem so illusive?

Because–I’ll say it again–the enemy knows where to attack.  He knows our weakness and our vulnerability. Our insecurities. He knows the things that we are passionate about, and he strives to be just as passionate about getting us off course.

Was it coincidence that I had recently began a daily devotional that was on encouraging my husband?  I don’t think so.  Something that God intended for good was being used as a sword.  Cutting deep, I knew that reading the words and even saying the right words were not enough.

This wound was more than just a misspoken word.  It was a feeling of failure that was really based in pride.  I did what was “required” of me–in the physical realm, but spiritually I was not letting go.   Just as love is an action word, so is forgiveness.  Sometimes we say “I’m sorry”, or on the receiving end of an apology we say, “I forgive you”, but our actions say something very different.  The response we have to grace should be Christ-honoring, but it doesn’t mean that we are self-deprecating.  Pity-parties are not appropriate for a believer who has “died to self” and is “living for Christ.” (Galatians 2:20)

When we struggle to get our emotions to match the truth, it is absolutely imperative that we allow the Bible to be the foundation for what we believe about God and ourselves.  Psalm 103 is a well-known Psalm that has become one of my favorites, and this particular chapter is titled “The Forgiving God” in the Holman Christian Standard Study Bible.  David’s verbiage describes perfectly the character of our forgiving God and what our response should be when we experience His mercy and grace and forgiveness:

 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in faithful love.
 He will not always accuse us
or be angry forever.
 He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve
or repaid us according to our iniquities.

 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his faithful love
toward those who fear him.
 As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed
our transgressions from us.  Psalm 103:8-12

The beauty of this Psalm is that he is painting a picture of what God’s character looks like.  Just when we need to be reminded of it the most–when we find ourselves accused and guilty, He reminds us of this incredible truth–grace abounds.

Grace.  Unmerited favor.

That wonderful, amazing, matchless grace of our loving God.

The old hymn, Amazing Grace says it in a way that millions still resonate with it today:

“Amazing grace!  How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!” John Newton, 1779

For me, it is not just about recognizing God’s grace–it is often a matter of accepting it for myself.  Seeing myself as that wretch, sometimes I allow others to be forgiven but fail to remember and apply this truth to myself: forgiveness is not given freely because I deserve it, but because God is so gracious and loving and compassionate.

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and full of faithful love.”  Psalm 103:8

It is His character that defines Him, and accepting who He is and that He is faithful toward us should motivate us to want to please Him.

When I don’t forgive myself, I am in a sense, rejecting His forgiveness.  I’m saying the opposite of what He says in verse 12:

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”  Psalm 103:12

Grace abounds.

What an awesome thing to remember!  Our response? gratitude.   When we choose to accept God’s grace with thankfulness, it overflows and spills into our relationships as we learn to give grace to others.  Grace freely given, not because they deserve it, but because we have been shown what true grace looks like–and we want to model it in our own lives.

“From eternity to eternity the Lord’s faithful love is toward those who fear Him…”  Psalm 103:17

2 replies »

  1. You know, you’re not alone. I too think about things I should have said, but didn’t. Or wish I hadn’t said, or perhaps just said “better.” To me, it always feels like a lost, or worse, ruined opportunity. But I know that every new day is a do-over, and so I just pray that God will help me hear His voice at those times when He has something for me to say…or not say. I can’t trust myself sometimes because my flawed humanity weighs me down. I’d rather just hide behind His amazing grace, and sleep well at night.

    Liked by 1 person

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