When Forgiving is Just Too Hard

“Forgive … as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32 MSG


photo: Raye Wortel

For most of us, forgiveness isn’t a matter of should, but a question of can.

I know I’m supposed to forgive, but I don’t think I have the strength, or (let’s be honest) the desire to forgive.

The Bible speaks over and over of forgiving others because God forgave us. The promises of our own mercy, forgiveness, and peace for obeying this command looks great on paper, but to pull forgiveness off the pages of God’s Word and offer it to the people in our life is a completely different thing.

Let’s face it, it costs to forgive. It means laying down the fight, making the first move, and the hardest part – giving up our right to ourselves.

It always seems to cost more to play the part of the forgiver, than the forgiven.

We are deeply wounded when the people we care about betray, lie, and break their promises. We’re shattered by their actions, and burn with bitterness, anger, and grief, making our heartbreak even more unbearable.

We frantically search for a way to let go, get past, and rebuild what was lost. The pain stinks, and we want to move quickly to make it better. In our head, we know forgiveness is the ointment needed to heal, but the cost seems too high:

Why should I forgive, I’m the one who was hurt?

I’ve been dragged so low, I haven’t the strength to forgive.

What they’ve done is unforgivable.

Forgiving makes me look weak or desperate.

Forgiveness looks too much like a free pass. I want them to hurt like I hurt.

So, how do we forgive when we don’t think we can? How do we “turn the other cheek” when we simply don’t want to?

Take them (and you) out of the equation.

Sounds crazy, right? When my husband and I were going through a crisis in our marriage, I knew I had to forgive him if we had any hope of fixing what was broken. The trouble was, I didn’t want to forgive. For all the reasons I listed above, I absolutely had no desire to forgive him. There was no way I could muster the strength or will to do it. I prayed God would infuse me with the desire to forgive, but I couldn’t get past my pain. Nothing I did would muster the power to forgive.

That’s when I realized I had to turn my attention towards something I wanted to do – obey and glorify God.

I didn’t forgive my husband for his sake or mine. I did it because my desire to please God overrode my pain, my fears, and what I thought I deserved.

My husband once asked me how I was able to forgive him. I told him my forgiveness had nothing to do with him. I forgave because God asked me to, and I desired to honor that request. Period. It wasn’t for my benefit, or his.

When I focused on pleasing God, forgiveness came easily. And that act of obedience created an intimacy and closeness with God I had never experienced.

Forgiving someone who has cause tremendous pain is so hard, but when we choose to turn our eyes towards Jesus and forgive simply because it pleases him, we find the way to heal, move on, and hopefully grow.

What’s your biggest obstacle when it comes to forgiving someone? How has God helped you to forgive when you thought you couldn’t?

9 Replies

  1. Stacey

    Beautifully said! Thanks Raye

    1. Raye Wortel

      For you, my friend!

  2. Carole Bode

    Raye, I told my last class to: forgive generously, so they could live victoriously. However, that put forgiveness on a human level. You put forgiveness on a loving-my-Lord level which is so much more attainable!!
    Well done! Thank you for your post.

  3. Devery

    Good read, and reminder, after a blow-out, yesterday, with a loved one. Glorifying God is the best motivator to forgiveness, but the means is the remembrance of the forgiveness He offered first, that I too, am able to do the same….and then pray that the other party shares in the same experience with Him….all, in One…..all in LOVE.

    1. Raye Wortel

      So true, Devery. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Carlotta

    I needed this today. Ended my day yesterday with some not so nice feelings about someone that I thought let me down. And no surpise at all…woke up to find the answer waiting for me on my computer. Wonderful how God gives us the answers always and how simple the solutions really are. Thank you for sharing your insight in to forgiving…looking at it in a new and powerful way. Thank you. Have a great, hope filled day.

    1. Raye Wortel

      I’m so glad God used these words to meet with you this morning! Thank YOU for your encouragement and kindness, Carlotta.

      1. Karen

        Wow Raye, what a great, new and refreshing way to look at forgiveness, thanks 🙂

        1. Raye Wortel

          Glad you liked it Karen!

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