01272016_ReneeSwope_Forgiveness

I thought I was over the hurt. Was sure I had moved on. But as I slipped my thumb under the seal of the invitation to my 10-year college reunion, it hit me:

I had not forgiven her.

During our last semester at school, the harsh tone and accusing anger of a friend had been more than my heart could handle, especially in the middle of my year-long battle with depression. A deep sense of sadness and self-doubt, that I couldn’t explain or escape, had left me feeling depleted.

When she questioned something I had done and expressed deep frustration toward me, I didn’t have the mental or emotional strength to process her criticism without being pulled into a pit of condemnation.

I knew if I attended our class reunion I would see her and other friends who had gotten tangled in our mess.

And with that possibility came a flood of memories and emotions that made me feel paralyzed. The same way I felt the day our friendship ended. The day that pretty much ruined the last few weeks of our senior year.

Holding the envelope in my hand, all that hurt took hold of me again. Instead of simply deciding how to RSVP, I stood at the edge of a pit filled with insecurity that threatened to pull me back in.

After weeks of holding onto the invitation, I decided I was tired of living as prisoner to my hurt. I wanted freedom. The kind of freedom I had come to know in the ten years in-between. The freedom of forgiveness Jesus died to give me.

I spent hours praying and pouring over Scripture about forgiveness, reading my Bible like a desperate woman each day, for the next month. Listening to worship music and messages on forgiveness, I asked God to drench me with His perspective, heal all those hurts and give me a soul-confidence that was separate from what had happened.

I needed His assurance so I could walk into my reunion, not as a wounded woman but as a secure child of God.

By the time I arrived, my mind was filled with Truth and grace. And much to my shock, I literally wanted to find my old friend and restore our relationship. The confidence that came as I followed God’s command to seek and offer forgiveness felt like a miracle.

Forgiving those who have hurt us is hard. Often we feel afraid to forgive because it might open us to be hurt again. And that’s understandable. Other times we’re afraid if we bring something up we might unearth bitterness we don’t want to deal with, so we just leave it buried.

But any time we bury a hurt alive, it will keep rising from the dead to haunt us.

During this season of working through my fears, God used Ephesians 4:2, 32 to show me how to let forgiveness set me free from the hurt I had buried.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. . . . Forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.”

Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves when we offer it to others.

Forgiving those who have hurt in the way this Scripture describes has helped me recognize I need God’s grace as much as anyone else. And although pardoning pain and offense is never easy, it is possible when we follow God’s plan of being humble and gentle, patient and bearing with others.

In doing so, we don’t forgive so we can forget. We forgive, as we have been forgiven, so we can find freedom from the pain, whether it’s still present or in our past. It can be the most excruciating faith work of all, but Jesus did the greatest work of all on the cross.

Because of what Christ did, what we do with His grace and mercy makes all the difference. It is worth the work it takes to be set free.

Lord, I need Your help to forgive. Help me process my hurt with You and let go of any pain or bitterness that keeps me from wholeness and hope. Empower me to forgive just as You have forgiven me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

by Renee SwopeA Confident Heart 

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  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Renee,
    How true that we are the only prisoner when we choose not to forgive. Especially hard is to forgive those who never apologize or acknowledge they’ve done something to hurt another. Forgiveness has to come with “no strings attached”. Sometimes forgiveness is ongoing – not a once and done kind of thing. Just when I think I have forgiven my ex for all the wrongs and abuse he dished out, he now does things that affect our grown children and I feel this “picking of the scab of an old wound”. Again, and again, I have to entrust all this to God’s care…letting Him be the final judge and not take that burden into my own hands. Thank you for a great post and reminder!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • http://www.ReneeSwope.com Renee Swope

      Yes friend, it is ESPECIALLY hard when those who have hurt us don’t acknowledge, admit or apologize. It’s been some of the hardest holy work in my own healing — in the past and present. It is ongoing, just as you shared. Sometimes I get so frustrated with myself that it keeps popping up and hurting me. And, that’s where I know again that it’s a healing work on Jesus can do through me and in me. Show me what lies I’ve believed because of the hurts and how they are holding on still.

      So grateful for a place like (in)Courage be real with each other about the hard stuff life, and grace and walking close to Jesus. Thanks for sharing in the conversation. :)

  • http://www.aringingbell.com Kate @ A Ringing Bell

    This is just so true: “But any time we bury a hurt alive, it will keep rising from the dead to haunt us.”

    I’m sitting here not only thinking about a few of the things that have been so hard to forgive and heal from over the years, but also processing a few reasons that others might have to forgive ME. Both can be difficult to handle and heal. Lord, help us.

    So grateful we can always hold fast to the forgiveness and pardon we receive in Jesus.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Blessings to you,
    Kate :)

    • http://www.ReneeSwope.com Renee Swope

      With you in this, Kathi. Gosh, both are so hard. So grateful for a Savior who is able and willing to give us strength and grace to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Blessings back to you!

  • Beth Williams

    Renee,
    Some people may never even know they hurt us. The devil is the one who keeps brining up past hurts to haunt us and keep us in a state of unforgiveness and self pity! It is only when we trust God and forgive the other person that we are set free!!
    Blessings :)

  • Tracey Casciano

    Renee,
    I enjoyed this post and write a lot about forgiveness myself. My book, “Out of the Darkroom, Into the Light: A Story of Faith and Forgiveness After Child Abuse” described how I was able to forgive after a lifetime of hurt. It’s important the we encourage others to get past the past and forgive so that we can all move forward and live for Him!
    Blessings,
    Tracey

    • http://www.ReneeSwope.com Renee Swope

      So glad you’ve written a resource for others who need help forgiving, especially after abuse. What a hugs step of courage and a gift I bet it is to your readers!

  • Lynn D Morrissey

    Renee,

    I really appreciate this heartfelt, transparent post and the courage it took to write it and to attend that reunion. You didn’t say what happened, and I pray that you and your friend were able to reconcile. Sadly, reconciliation is not a guaranteed result of forgiveness. But peace is. We need to be at peace with the Lord. Five years ago I reconciled with a dear friend from my younger years. Neither of us was even sure of what had caused the split (it’s amazing how time can erase wounds’ memories). Still, it took courage for both of us to meet and to talk and to try to mend the past riff. Perhaps we both needed to forgive each other that we had never sought each other out. It saddens me that we wasted so many years. We made our peace and there was absolutely no animosity between us. I’m so happy about that. But after all those years, there was another sense in which we could not go back–too many years had passed, and we were two different people. We just couldn’t seem to pick up the threads and weave them together into a pattern of the old friendship. Our interests (and my passion for Christ) were not mutual. So the threads unraveled. She passed away last year, and I attended the funeral. I felt deep love for her and gratitude for all she had been in my life, but deep sadness that I could not share Christ w/ her, and so sad that despite our reconciliation, the friendship did not continue. From my experience and from what you are saying here, I know it’s imperative not to wait. You and your friend waited ten years and in my case, longer. Oh that we would all just go to the foot of the Cross where forgiveness flows freely, and where we can bow the knee and ask for God’s strength to forgive others. God bless you for your example, Renee.

    Blessings,

    Lynn

    • http://www.ReneeSwope.com Renee Swope

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are so right that sometimes, a lot of times actually, forgiveness heals that tear but sometimes the relationship is never the same again. It’s hard, but it’s okay. I think in the end God protects us from what isnt’ best for us.

      Thanks you also for asking what happened. My friend and I did reconcile. I meant to share that I’ll be telling the rest of the story to be in another post on my blog this week. Or maybe I can post it on inCourage next month?? Anyway, God showed me even more than I was able to share in this post due to word count. But yes, we ended up hugging. And I stood there stunned by God’s grace.

  • Martha

    This is so timely for me right now. My husband of 28 years asked for forgiveness a few days ago for several specific ways he has mistreated me during our entire marriage. I forgave him, but the pain and wounds are still there. It doesn’t help that I have seen no evidence of repentance (turning away from the wrong ways). He is acting as if everything is ok now, and can go on as it has been in the past. Please pray for me as I struggle through this. It is very difficult and painful, but I know, know, know that I need the freedom – and my daughters need to see me heal and walk in freedom too.

    • Irene

      Martha, as the youngest daughter of a loving mother, like yourself, I can imagine what you are going through, I saw my mother going through the same. May Jesus our Lord and Savior blanket your heart and give you peace for today and tomorrow. You are in my prayers tonight. God bless! Irene.

    • http://www.ReneeSwope.com Renee Swope

      I’m praying for you Martha. Praying for trust, and healthy conversations with your husband about how to build trust back so forgiveness can come fully, as healing comes and Jesus is able to repair the hurts, not just have you both move on. He wants it all for you. Abundant healing and hope, freedom and assurance.

  • Rebecca Jones

    I know I’ve forgiven people but up it pops, I like the phrase rising up to haunt you, or coming back to bite you. These really are serpents of Mark 16:6, that need casting out, of our minds and thoughts. That hurt is stinging, painful, even deadly if it stays attached to your soul and causes fear and doubt. Even if people who hurt you do it on purpose or truly don’t understand, it can be hard to face them. Especially, if you see them regularly, I know someone who just doesn’t understand. So my conversation, has to be very limited, and that hurts too, because I wanted to help. I even apologized, maybe, even for something I never even did. So I leave it to Jesus.

    • http://www.ReneeSwope.com Renee Swope

      That’s really wise to set boundaries Rebecca. God’s been helping me learn how to do that too. Praying for you this morning.

      • Rebecca Jones

        Thank you, I pray for all the lades as well, I even feel a sense of peace this morning.The Lord is moving us all toward His love.

  • Debbie Preuss

    PRAYER OF THE UNLOVED 

    (by list member Debbie Preuss, 1999) 

     

    She stands alone at the edge of the field, The last one chosen again 

    Though she tries to laugh it off, her heart is full of the bitter pain 

    The kids call her stupid, worthless, saying she’s ugly and slow 

    Though their words have no fists, they deal a mighty blow 

    They bruise her very spirit, that lives away down deep 

    When she goes to bed tonight, she’ll remember and softly weep 

    She’ll whisper a prayer she’s prayed before, to her Lord above 

    Please, oh please, Lord send to me, someone to show me love 

    As the years roll slowly by, never changing, on and on 

    The childish schoolyard has been replaced, by the senior prom 

    She waits all night for her phone to ring, for someone to ask her out 

    But she begins to hear in her teenage brain, the old schoolyard shout 

    As they called her worthless, stupid, saying she was ugly and slow 

    She had hoped then, that by this time, at least one would know 

    That underneath their ugly labels, lay a kind and generous heart 

    But somehow, for some reason, she had been set apart 

    So as she goes to bed tonight, she will softy weep 

    As bitter disappointment fills her, and she tries to sleep 

    She whispers a prayer she’s prayed before, to her Lord above 

    Please, oh please Lord, send to me, someone to show me love 

     

    Time goes by and others get married, though she jumps for the bouquet 

    It is always just beyond her grasp, but she says that it’s okay 

    She hasn’t any prospects yet, and it seems to be her fate 

    Since she was the only girl in school, who didn’t have a prom date 

    So she goes slowly home again, dreaming of the day she’ll wed 

    But as she thinks about the past, doubting fills her head 

    So as she goes to bed tonight, she will softly weep 

    Because the pain that’s in her heart, has cut down so deep 

    So she whispers a prayer she’s prayed before, to her Lord above 

    Please oh please Lord, send to me, someone to show me love 

     

    As the years continue on, little caring comes her way 

    But this confused, dejected girl, still continues to pray 

    The Lord God sent out to her, some friends to show her love 

    But it has been so long now, that she pushes away and shoves 

    She is afraid to open her heart, and maybe she simply can’t 

    For in her mind she still hears, that old schoolyard chant 

    That she’s ugly, dumb and slow, they always picked her last 

    So today her life is haunted, by the words from the past 

     

    They’ve been repeated in her life, over and over again 

    Though the words don’t have fists, they inflict such lasting pain 

    So as she goes to bed tonight, she will softly weep 

    As disappointment fills her, and she cannot sleep 

    She whispers a prayer she’s not prayed before, to her Lord above 

    Please, oh please send to me, someone who I can love 

     

    As time went on, her life did change, but not full speed ahead 

    At first the change was subtle, as she followed where God led 

    Though the path was rough and steep, as each step seemed unsure 

    She knew with her Lord leading her, that she would endure 

    As she reached out to the others who once had called her names 

    The Lord performed a miracle, He removed her pain 

    Still as she goes to bed tonight, she will softly weep 

    For at the end of the day she’s still alone, so she prays herself to sleep 

    She whispers a prayer she’s prayed before, to her Lord above 

    Please oh please Lord send to me, someone to show me love 

     

    Suddenly she hears something, she has never heard before 

    And she listens closely, realizing it is the voice of the Lord 

    “I have loved you all your life in sunshine or in rain 

    I was there to love you too, when you felt so much pain 

    You may have been last to be chosen, on the schoolyard field 

    But you were first to be chosen, My little girl when you kneeled 

    The prom you missed for lack of a date will simply not compare 

    To the dance that we will have, when I meet you in the air 

    Though you’ve prayed for someone to love, I have set you aside 

    To be one of My chosen ones, to be part of My heavenly bride 

    I have told you while on earth, you must love one another 

    But I am your real true Friend, who sticks closer than a brother 

    All those times that you prayed, I did hear your prayer 

    For I love you little girl, yes I was always there 

    The love that I have for you, simply has no end 

    That’s why I call you My child, but also, you’re My friend” 

    As she goes to bed tonight, she will softly weep 

    For the Lord kept His promises after all, and now at last she can sleep 

    But first she whispers a brand new prayer, to her Lord above 

    Thank You for coming to me Yourself, to show me Your real, true love 

    Amen 

    Debbie Preuss ©

    • http://www.ReneeSwope.com Renee Swope

      Amen!! Beautiful Debbie. Thank you so much for sharing. :)

  • JeanneTakenaka

    Renee, thank you for sharing this story. It’s amazing how that unforgiveness leaves us in an insecure place, at least in some area of our lives. It’s only in forgiving that we truly know God’s peace, and the completeness of His presence.

    I once heard of forgiveness being giving up the right to get even. I think this is true, but it’s also a releasing of the hurt, the pain caused by a person in a situation. Though not all relationships can be redeemed (depending on things like if abuse was involved), giving up the pain into Jesus hands and asking Him to give us the ability to forgive frees us from those insecurities and the bondage to that heart ache.

    You’ve got me thinking about this today. Thank you for sharing your insights!

    • http://www.ReneeSwope.com Renee Swope

      Yes, everything you said. Yes, yes, yes. God’s working on me too. :)

  • Marina/AccordantLife

    Forgiveness can be seem like (and be) such a difficult undertaking. Yet, as you share beautifully, the path to freedom is ALWAYS worth the hike. Thank you!

    • http://www.ReneeSwope.com Renee Swope

      Thank you for sharing Marina. It’s so difficult. The hardest Holy work of all… to let Christ {in} us love and forgive through us. And in that surrender healing comes. But it’s a process for sure. :)

  • http://ToLiveIsChristBlog.com Elsie @ To Live Is Christ Blog

    Renee,
    I was drawn into your post by your personal story and the way your college wounds from long ago suddenly raised their ugly heads. It’s the funniest thing to me how we can function so well and maturely in our everyday lives, and then out of the blue something from the past blindsides us and before we know it, we’re right back where we were 10 years ago!!! And I was challenged by your choice to take a month to dig deep in the Word and seek out the heart of God about forgiveness. I have never been so intentional about something like that and I appreciate your commitment. Very personally challenging. ❤︎

    • http://www.ReneeSwope.com Renee Swope

      Thank you Elsie for your encouragement about how I processed through it all. I just hated the emotional prison I was living in and desperately wanted freedom. Also, you’re so right about how it takes us back. Something happened recently that wounded me in the deepest way and it triggered emotions from a time in my childhood that happened over 40 years ago. Each time I think it’s an alert from Jesus that there’s healing He wants for me and so we’re on another a long walk of healing and forgiveness, again.

  • http://soaronthewingsofeagles.wordpress.com Casey

    I struggle with forgiving someone who really hurt not just me, but my family as well. Some days I feel like I have forgiven the person and other days the bitter thoughts return. I am so ashamed that after three years, I still feel some bitterness. I still avoided the person like the plague when I ran into them at the mall, of all places. I wonder if that was a sign from God. I have anxiety and I second guess myself all the time; I have also had a particular dream in which I tell the person I have forgiven them, but the outcome of the dream was entirely undesirable. It still haunts me to this day. Thank you for this post, I believe I truly needed to read this.

    Also, I was quite enjoying reading your personal story and I am curious if you were able to make amends with this person.

    • http://www.ReneeSwope.com Renee Swope

      Praying for you Casey. That’s hard stuff when someone hurts us, but tripled pain when they hurt our people too!! One time I had a similar situation and I wrote the person a letter of forgiveness, and then held onto it until my heart was ready to give it to them. They never responded but years later they told me it meant a lot, and now we’re casual acquaintances.

      Thanks you also for asking what happened. My friend and I did reconcile. I meant to share that, but instead I’m thinking about elling the rest of the story to be in another post on my blog this week. Or maybe in another post on inCourage next month?? Anyway, God showed me even more than I was able to share in this post due to word count. But yes, we ended up hugging. And I stood there stunned by God’s grace.

      • http://soaronthewingsofeagles.wordpress.com Casey

        You are very right; I would certainly take all the pain on myself rather than have to dish it out to my whole family. But, time moves on and so do we.

        That is fantastic! I am so glad to hear a happy ending to this story. I look forward to reading the whole thing!

  • Jennifer Barnett Chapman

    Great devotional. I’m working on forgiving my bosses and coworkers for not communications with me to give me the support I need to do my job.

    • http://www.ReneeSwope.com Renee Swope

      Praying for you Jennifer. That’s happened to me in the past and it’s really hard.

  • Mary M.

    I have found that forgiving those who have hurt me is like burdens being lifted. I found that if I pray for someone who has hurt me and ask God to bless them and help them, I cannot be angry or unforgiving toward them. I am thankful that God loves us and forgives us-even me with all my sins and short comings.