It’s Hard to Forgive; It’s harder to Forget
Forgiveness is almost impossible sometimes. We know we should. We want to, but the memories keep the pain alive. Unforgiveness is dangerous. It can cause sickness and stress and makes us bitter, angry people. It is the root of the problems in many friendships, marriages, and working relationships.
On our own we can’t do it. We need help.
We Need Enabling Grace
This is what I love about God. He never demands anything from us that he will not provide the help to do. He also doesn’t require anything of us that he is not willing to do.
How do we forgive others? Well, we start with the heart of our God and his gift of forgiveness.
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. Micah 7: 18-19.
Pray to see the people you can’t forgive as Jesus sees them.
Hurt people hurt people, right? We all know that, but our defenses rise up and we want to lash back. I see it with my middle school students all the time. They can’t see the pain of the person stirring up trouble, so they lash back which intensifies the battle. But kindness can disarm the anger. Pray. The prayer is easy:
“God, help me see ____________ as you do.”
How to Forgive and Not Remember
So, here’s the deal: we may never completely forget, but God will soften the memory and heal our wounds as we choose to forgive. The Bible tells us that God will “remember our sin no more.”
But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD. I will put My law in their minds and inscribe it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor,or a man his brother,saying, ‘Know the LORD,’for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sins no more.” says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and orders the moon and stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the LORD of Hosts is His name:… Jeremiah 31:31-34.
Understanding Hebrew Culture
The Bible tells us that God will “not remember” our sins, but we need to know Hebraic culture to really understand what it means to “forget” and forgive. Many of us fear that if we can’t forget then we haven’t forgiven. But according to Lois Tverberg, there’s more to forgiving and forgetting than having it erased from our brains.
In her book, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus, Tverberg explains that in Hebrew the word for “remember” is zakhar. It means both to remember and to take action as one remembers. The Hebrew word for “forget”, shakach and nashach, also holds the idea of not acting upon the memory.
Notice the psalmist cry to God:
“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1).
Tverberg explains: “Here the psalmist is saying, “Why do you ignore my prayers and not intervene in my crisis?” God does not forget, but sometimes it seems as if he does” (p. 75).
We know that feeling don’t we? When circumstances don’t get better it feels as if God’s inaction proves He’s forgotten us even though He hasn’t.
To Forget Is More than Memory Loss
In the same way, when God forgives and no longer “remembers” our sins, he is not acting on our sin. In the same way when we forgive and “forget,” it’s not that the memory is erased, it’s that we don’t retaliate. We don’t lash back with hurtful words or actions.
When I read about this Hebrew concept of “forgetting” in Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus, I felt such freedom. This is what I love so much about our God and His Word. It is freeing. It’s not demanding. His commands don’t suck the life out of us. If they do, we aren’t interpreting it correctly.
Quit Striving to Forget
Listen to these words from Brian Simmons, the author of The Passion Translation of the Bible. I just received this in an email today.
When you know Me, you will no longer strive to be better or strive to be loved. When you experience My endless compassion, you will learn to forgive. To strive is to leave My strength and embrace the cares of life. To refuse to strive means you will enter the life that I give to all those who love Me. Faith rests in hope. Know that I will never fail you or disappoint you. So My child, this is the day of Sabbath joy when you will enter into the realm of My kingdom.
In God’s Kingdom there is forgiveness, and the Kingdom of God is in us who have asked for Jesus to come into our lives and be our king.
Bible Reading Plan to Help Us Forgive and “Forget” #BiteofBread
Lamentations 3: 23: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (NIV)
- The word “compassions” is often translated as “mercies.” The Lord’s mercy is new every morning. Every day we awake with new help, new hope, and forgiveness. “Mercy” has been translated from chesed. This is the merciful, acts of loving-kindness bound by God’s covenant making heart. What part of God’s chesed do you need today? Do you need his chesed to be forgiven or to help forgive? Write a prayer thanking Him for this daily fresh slate.
Luke 7:47: “I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” ~Jesus (NIV)
- I love this story in the Bible. If you have time, read the entire scene in Luke 7. It’s of the prostitute who crashes the Pharisee’s dinner party to anoint Jesus. Rather than focusing on the people you need to forgive, take time to love on Jesus today. Worship Him. Get on your knees. Thank Him for forgiving you of your sins.
Matthew 6: 13-15: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
- Remember, forgiveness does not mean forgetting, it means letting go and not “getting back.” One of Google’s definitions is “canceling a debt.” Have you ever realized that the temptation Jesus is referring to in the Lord’s prayer (verse 13 is the end of the prayer) is unforgiveness? You may want to read the entire Lord’s prayer here- Matt. 6: 9-13. Google’s other definitions for forgiveness include to stop feeling resentful and angry. That’s hard, but we trust God to free our hearts as we choose to cancel the debt. Journal the debts you choose to cancel today and write a prayer asking God to help free your heart too.
Romans 12:9: 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,” says the Lord.
- Can you give it to God? Can you trust His justice and righteousness? The verse before this one says to try to live at peace with everyone. I love how the scripture says “try.” God knows it’s hard. He understands. But He also knows that unforgiveness and revenge makes things worse. The rest of this scripture says to bless your enemies. Though it says to give them water and food, maybe you can start with simply praying for them. Write a prayer for those people you cannot forgive.
Colossians 3: 1-2: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
- If you are having trouble forgiving someone and the scene continues to play in your mind, write it down in a journal, close the book, and give it to God. Turn on your favorite worship music and focus on worshiping God. Don’t dwell on the offense or continue to talk about it. Worship the King. Let Jesus’s peace rule in you.
Thursday Night Live is Back! (I hope.)
We are slowly getting back to our normal since Florence and company visiting and all that’s been going on in my life. I hope you can meet me in my living room Thursday night at 7:20 ET. Just follow me on Facebook, grab your Bible, and get ready to dig deeper into these scriptures. Can’t wait! In case you missed last week’s teaching on 5 truths to help us defeat comparison, here’s the video.
Digging Deep in Forgiveness,