“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 NIV
I turned 32 and real life hit me like a mad truck straight up in the face. All of the sudden I experienced pain I had never experienced before which managed to snowball into a pile of pain and loss.
For some of you, you have been destroyed, you have been knocked down. Some of you have walked the path of divorce, some of you have lost someone dear to you because of someone else, some of you have lost your careers or worse.
Within a year, I went through a divorce, lost my business and managed to gain a threatening stalker. It was chaotic at best and certainly confusing. It also took awhile to process, I had to figure out why this had all happened and to be honest, to this day, I still can’t fully answer that.
There was so much pain and anger somedays it was difficult to breathe.
I spent three years in a horrible disaster that I could not fully explain to you today. It left a path of destruction, legal bills and pain not only for me but for the people around me, for my own children. It involved several people, some more than others but all, I had to eventually forgive.
Today, I am talking to those of you who have been through a kind of pain that takes your breath away. I am talking to those of you who wake up in the middle of the night covered in sweat reliving the nightmare all over again. I’m talking to those of you looking over your shoulder in fear because of something someone did to you.
This is real.
I am talking to those of you who have had your life ripped apart at the hands of someone else. You’ve been told to forgive and you know you need to but, you just don’t know how.
I’m talking to you.
Forgiveness does not condone what they did nor does it free them from the consequences of their actions. Forgiveness sets YOU free and it hands them over for God to work in them, only God can change them anyway.
I am going to share with you practical advice I received that worked. That being said, THIS TAKES TIME. Most people do not forgive instantaneously. We are not Jesus. This is a process of forgiveness please, do not be discouraged if it takes awhile because sometimes, it just does.
1. Pray for God to Help You Forgive: You can’t do this on your own. It’s not possible. This is a God thing and you’ll need him to help you get through this. I could not even talk about it for awhile, I had to process it, I had to grieve and I needed time. God knows those things, he’s got your back and if you will invite him into this situation, he will help you.
2. Acknowledge the Pain: Take a second to breathe and recognize how you feel whether you are sad, angry or both. Cry in the shower, scream into a pillow, do what you need to do to come to grips with the emotions. You have to process the pain and feel it to get through it.
3. Write a Letter: This sounds cheesy, I thought it was too but it helped. I had a lot of things I wanted to say to the people who hurt me but, I never did. This was not because I was afraid or weak. I didn’t say anything to them because I didn’t want to get in the gutter with these people. I also knew it would fall on deaf ears and more than likely, they’d be happy to know I was torn apart. I couldn’t do that so, my pastor had me write them all letters (just for me).
I said all the things I wanted to say to these people, ALL THE THINGS. I said the things that hurt, the words that were not pretty and I told them what I thought of them. Some of the letters were a few paragraphs, some of them were pages. Then, I read the letters out loud. I read them to my pastor (counselor), daring, I know. It helped to read the letters to someone I trusted just to get it “out there” so to speak. There was one letter though I did a little differently.
There was a woman who hurt me badly, she worked at our church. I drove to the church and read the letter out loud in the parking lot. I probably looked crazy but I did not care. Then, I cried. That woman had hurt me, that church had hurt me as well. I had spent nearly a year not even driving to that side of town to avoid having to see that place but right there, in that parking lot, I experienced supernatural forgiveness and I let it all go.
From that point forward, I could drive by that place and not feel pain. I could even drive by that place and not think of that woman, I had been set free.
Don’t mail your letters, read them out loud to a trusted person and tear them up. You will be shocked at the weight that will lift.
4. Change Your Surroundings: Put the worship music on, leave the Pinterest quotes alone and fill your mind with something else. This is KEY to moving forward. If you’re going through a divorce you probably have an unhealthy obsession with Miranda Lambert right now, TURN IT OFF.
I get it. But, seriously, turn it off. While those songs of pain and bitterness are exactly what you are feeling right now, they are also feeding the feelings and not healing them. The same goes for those 1001 Pinterest quotes you are finding right now to go along with your situation. Read the Bible instead.
You have to fill your mind with the right things if you expect it to think the right thoughts. I turned on the worship music, read the Bible and watched more BBC movies than I ever care to admit but hey, they’re clean and they’re pretty good.
5. Be Patient: As I said, this is a process. There is no such thing as drive thru forgiveness so just chill out. Take a deep breath and take it one day at a time. There will come a day when you can hear that person’s name and not feel pain, there will come a day when you can drive by that person’s work and not feel pain, there will come a day when you can see that person in public and not feel a single thing. That’s when you know, you’re free.
Pain is a yoke of slavery around your neck, it chains you up and keeps you from all Christ has for you. Forgiveness breaks the chain, forgiveness breaks every single chain.
Don’t let yourselves be enslaved any longer, Christ has set us free. Live in that freedom, take a deep breath and forgive. Today is your day to be set free.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
Sarah Ann is an author, speaker and media personality committed to honesty, vulnerability and authenticity. She has a passion for empowering people who are willing to be honest and walk out life in Christ together, no masks and no curtains. Sarah holds a Masters in Theology and Apologetics, she also owns a clothing company, Ascent516.com, she is creator of SarahAnnSpeaks.com and the Sarah Ann Speaks Podcast and is featured daily on GEB TV.