Forgiveness and the Future

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“We do not belong to those who shrink back … but to those who have faith. “ (Hebrews 10:39)

Shrinking back from the new is a familiar fear. It’s like moving house, packing and preparing and yet wanting to retain possession of the old.

But the opposite is having faith, looking forward and anticipating change with a God who knows the future and walks with you into it.

Nowhere is this need for faith in the God of change more appropriate, as we approach the new year, than in the area of forgiveness. Here’s the thing:

As you go into the new year remember, there’s no future without forgiveness! Let go of the past!

The life of faith is about going ahead, not about lingering in unhappy memories.

One of the most significant books I’ve ever read was Total Forgiveness by R.T.Kendall. Its understanding of grace and graciousness still challenges and shocks me. Here’s a bit I’ve adapted from the back cover:

“When everything in you wants to hold a grudge, point a finger and remember the pain, God wants you to lay it all aside. You can avoid spiritual quicksand and experience the incredible freedom found in total forgiveness. Is total forgiveness easy? Of course not…but this new year, let’s go for a game plan…and let’s receive the encouragement to cast out areas of unforgiveness that have kept you from enjoying the best God has to offer you.”

The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward at all.

But “we don’t belong to those who shrink back… “Before you can live a part of you has to die. You have to let go of what could have been, how you should have acted and what you wish you would have said differently. You have to accept that you can’t change the past experiences, opinions of others at that moment in time or outcomes from their choices or yours. When you finally recognize that truth then you will understand the true meaning of forgiveness of yourself and others.

From this point you will finally be free.

But you have to choose.

In his book,  Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela described his last day in prison: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

And that is no less the case  for us. Don’t shrink back. Press forward into a new year of liberty from old hurts.

One last, favorite book quote:  Wm. Paul Young in The Shack , wrote: “Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat……Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established………Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation………Forgiveness does not excuse anything………You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness……”

Here’s a prayer for the new year, quoted (out of context) from Leviticus 26:10: “ You have eaten old store long kept, but you shall clear out the old to make way for the new.”

Make way for the new! Forgive completely!

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