The Forgiveness Journey Requires Time

You don’t have to be a fast forgiver. You have permission to take time.

Forgiveness is such a loaded word. It has betrayal pain attached to it. It has “supposed to’s” attached to it.

Forgiveness is a journey that begins in pain and ends in hope. Healing from the unfair is the journey. These words are about giving you grace for the journey.  Hint:  Journeys require time.

There are people who forgive too fast. For so many wrong reasons:

  • Because I am supposed to.
  • Because I’ve been shamed into it.
  • Because I want to move on.
  • This is white-knuckling and doing it anyway.
  • This is punishing myself because I am stuck in my pain.
  • This is done to avoid my pain.
  • This feels responsible.
  • This is done to gain an advantage over the person I am forgiving.
  • Because I’m a good Christian.
  • Because I want the power of the grudge.
  • Because mom made me.
  • Because my intention to is the right thing.
  • To wipe out my emotions.
  • To start the process of grief.
  • This is not honest.
  • This makes things worse.

Did I leave a reason off of the list?

Have you forgiven too fast and have regrets?

Are these reasons why you are stubbornly refusing to forgive? Or feel justified to not forgive?

I am granting you permission to wait with God through the holy tension of forgiveness so healing can really happen.

Author Lisa Pascavis Smith shared this honest moment in the book, Grace Gab, about recovering from her husband’s unfaithfulness:

I knew God was calling me to forgive and show love toward my husband. Like Gideon, I delayed doing what God was calling me to do, and He met me with grace. He allowed me time. It wasn’t that I was being disobedient, just postponing what needed to be done, because I needed time to process my pain. God gave me that grace space. He met me in my heartache and stayed close to me as I walked through the hardest season of my life. –p. 26

Did you notice that God allowed her time to be on the journey of forgiveness? God gave her grace space. Not a “supposed to” command but time to move toward forgiveness.

I have found this to be true every time.

Did you also notice that in that grace space she found God to be close to her?

God is not disappointed in your inability to forgive. God is not aloof until you can forgive and be back in the blessing. God really is close to you in this healing journey. God is leading you every step of the way to the healing point of forgiveness. Because forgiveness is core to the heart of God. The heart of God is to forgive much and to forgive often. It is the very distinctive of God, over the many other universal gods.

Psalm 40:1-3 gives these words of hope and permission to wait and heal. I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.

This is God coming near to you when you can’t do what you know you are supposed to do.

This is God coming near when you are stuck in your pain. That pit of despair is as bad as it sounds. You know it like I know it, right? God has to be near to set my feet on solid ground again and to steady me.

The middle of this journey towards forgiveness is full of mud and mire. It is the pain you wish you weren’t feeling. It is the slow realization of the depth of the betrayal. It is seeing your naivete’ and that makes you feel very stupid. It is also the real fear of not knowing who to trust and the doubt if you can ever trust anyone again.

Verses 3 to 5 are about trust. Because many will see what God has done and be amazed, including me again. From Dr. Henry Cloud’s 5 Essentials of Trust, the last one (with all 5 building onto each other) is track record. You trust again when you can see the track record. When God is near you do see his track record. In the mud and mire it is hard to see the track record though. Right?

Each of the 5 Essentials of Trust (Understanding, Intent, Ability, Character, Track Record) involve time. The healing from betrayal involves time. You have permission to take time to heal. I think Psalm 40 and the whole of the Bible gives you permission to take time to heal.

What about Matthew 6:14-15 and the Lord’s Prayer? “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

This sure sounds like a “supposed to.” It certainly sounds conditional.

When you pray the Lord’s prayer, which may be daily for so many of you, you don’t want to be a liar.

This verse adds pressure to be a fast forgiver.

Let’s zoom out a wee bit. I believe Jesus is saying this is who I am and this work of forgiveness is life-transforming. When you read the life of Jesus, this is certainly who Jesus is.

The sign that you have been forgiven is a heightened capacity for love, for grace giving, for forgiving others and an entirely more peaceable life. The more we understand the core of who God is–who is love and justice which means forgiveness–we become more like Jesus which makes the decision of forgiveness more possible.

This is not conditional. This is the result of growth—imperfect progress growth. We have been granted time to grow.

You know you are moving towards the decision of forgiveness when God stirs it up inside of you. The signal to you is when you realize there is bitterness growing inside of you. You don’t wish to be a bitter person. You wish to be more like Jesus and Jesus forgives. You start believing there is a possibility that you can forgive and free yourself of this pain. You pray the Lord’s Prayer and you know this is now a possibility.

Forgiveness begins in pain and ends in hope. This is the journey.

It may also help to be reminded again of what forgiveness is not:

  • Letting go of healthy forms of anger.
  • Allowing others to continue to disrespect your needs and boundaries.
  • Lying down and becoming a human doormat.
  • Telling the wrongdoer that the past is no longer significant and everything’s fine now.
  • Agreeing to become best buddies with the wrongdoer.
  • Pretending to go back to normal relations as if nothing happened.
  • Denying that you may still have to live with pain caused by the wrongful deed.
  • Condoning of a bad behavior or the justifying of an offense.
  • Waiting for an apology first, or whether the person will ever be talked to again.
  • Demanding of reconciliation. Reconciliation, which is the coming together again of two upset parties, is not necessarily the outcome of forgiving.
  • Losing.
  • The easy way out. This is one of the bravest things you will ever do.

You have permission to take the time to have the possibility of forgiveness stirred up inside of you because you are choosing your imperfect progress growth. Because you are understanding more and more this God of love who oozes forgiveness and grace.

I pray you heal from the things no one apologized for.

Hopefully this is more desirable to you than your misery of the unfair that you are carrying around.

Hopefully you want to fling that unfair to the God of Justice.

The God of Justice can make this unfair thing fair again—better than you can. Read Psalm 37:28, Psalm 45;6, Isaiah 5:16, and Isaiah 55:8-11 for specifics on that promise.

There is one thing evil cannot overcome—ever. That is forgiveness. On the cross Jesus declared, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34. 

Evil had no response back. Forgiveness won that day. Evil still has no response to forgiveness. So if you stay in unforgiveness, evil thrives. You have permission to take time to move towards forgiveness to find this freedom that is core to the heart of God.

A Bravester quality is daring to forgive. We understand that it is not easy and that there is vulnerability, thus bravery, involved. This is not a simple command to be obeyed out of the Bible. We also know the beauty of the brave life that follows forgiveness. I choose the beauty.

Read more about the journey: The Journey of Forgiveness.

Read the rest of Psalm 40 to read about the good news of God’s justice, tender mercies, the honesty of losing courage, the prayer for who has destroyed you, and a plea for God to hurry.

Read the book

A small book about being the people that hurting people need.

“This is the book that I wish I had had for people in my life that have suffered and needed me to be that compassionate friend. This is the book that I wish others in my life had read before they dismissed my pain, or compared it to theirs, or stumbled horribly through trying to lessen my pain because it was actually really about THEM not feeling comfortable with it.”

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