Sometimes forgiveness takes time to give. I wish I could insist that since God commands us to forgive others like we’ve been forgiven, that we Christians instantly forgive each other. We are supposed to, we know that. But the truth is, sometimes we aren’t ready to forgive, much less forget. There could be many reasons people struggle with forgiving YOU when you have sinned against them.
Perhaps the very same sin you committed against someone, has been committed before, by someone else. Their old heartbreak has never been healed, and so they see this new heartbreak—that you caused– as “unforgivable”. Trust that God will soften their hearts, and that He can and will heal that heartbreak. Try your hardest not to judge this person. Instead, love them, and move on until they are ready to give you the forgiveness you desire.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
As the person who committed the sin against someone else, remember that just because you are ready to ask for forgiveness, they may not be ready to forgive you. When we hurt someone, we sometimes don’t know the depth of the hurt we’ve caused. Sometimes people need time to pray about their hurt. Sometimes they need to seek counseling from a professional to help them heal. Sometimes they just need some space. Whatever they need, give them the time to heal. I know it’s hard because you’ve already asked them to forgive you, and want it to be over. But we mustn’t guilt anyone into forgiving us. Part of this healing means we give THEM the time and space they need.
This might be a tough to admit, but sometimes we are not showing true repentance for the sin which we committed, and therefore it’s hard for those who we’ve hurt to forgive our actions.
Being forgiven and reconciling with people we love is important. It’s worth working towards, and it’s worth becoming humble in our self-examination. Did I mention it was difficult? When we hurt another person, through words or actions, whether intentionally or not, we can be reassured about how deep the grace of God is. Remember that He has forgiven you, already. But also remember that we are human, and healing is a process. Be patient, and pray that God heals the heart of the person we have wronged.
Forgiveness and trust are two separate issues, but unfortunately, we tend to run them together in our mind. We are commanded to “forgive” immediately. Trust takes a lot of time to regain, once it has been broken. Perhaps this is an area we can work on, in our own lives, as we pray for the person(s) whom we might have sinned against.
When our children see us work towards repairing a relationship that has been broken, they learn that healing and forgiveness is more than a platitude; emotional healing and true reconciliation in relationships take a lot of effort from both sides. But in this effort, God works on our character…on our own hearts… and ultimately, it is God who heals all our emotional wounds.
Lisa Strnad is a weekly contributor to the What’s in the Bible and JellyTelly blogs. She is a homeschooling mom of two, who works independent contractor in Christian media as a writer, marketing consultant, and public relations specialist. She speaks to Christian women’s groups on the issues of motherhood, home schooling and raising a child with special needs. Lisa and her family make their home in Nashville. Her blog, Talking Like A Girl, is currently being restructured.