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  • Writer's pictureRenikko Bivens

When Forgiveness Feels Impossible

Updated: Feb 26, 2023

In Christian belief, forgiveness is a central tenet. Christians are obligated to extend God's mercy to others. This requires us to show compassion and forgive those who have wronged us. Forgiveness is essential to our faith, but it isn't easy, especially after suffering a great wrong or hurt. As a result of the pain and hurt that others have caused them, many Christians struggle to reconcile their desire to forgive with the conflicting emotions they are experiencing. Let’s take a look at some of the obstacles that make it hard for Christians to forgive, and then provide some advice and encouragement for making that leap.

Why Forgiveness Can Feel Impossible

There are many reasons why it may seem impossible to extend forgiveness. Some of the most common reasons people find it difficult to forgive others are feelings of betrayal or hurt, a belief that the person does not deserve forgiveness, and a fear that granting forgiveness would amount to excusing the offense.

The Bible recognizes the difficulty of forgiving others and offers counsel and comfort to those having a hard time doing so. When we read Ephesians 4:31-32, the apostle Paul commands us to "Erase all resentment, hostility, and anger, as well as any and all forms of brawling, slander, and other forms of interpersonal hostility. Treat one another with kindness and compassion, and forgive one another, just as in Christ God forgave you." Though it emphasizes the importance of forgiveness to our faith, this passage also recognizes the challenge of overcoming hurt and anger.

It's human nature to cling to resentment when we've been wronged or hurt. Letting go of these people or things can feel like a betrayal of our own feelings or tacit approval of the offender's actions. Despite this, as Christians, we are responsible for showing mercy and kindness to others, no matter how challenging the situation is.

The belief that the person doesn't merit forgiveness can make forgiving difficult. This is a normal reaction, especially if the offense has seriously hurt or traumatized you. But remember that forgiveness isn't about making the offender's actions okay or releasing them from blame. It's about giving others grace and compassion instead of holding onto our resentment and bitterness. Peter asks Jesus in Matthew 18:21-22 the number of times he must forgive someone who has sinned against him. " I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times," Jesus replies. This passage serves as a reminder that forgiveness is not about keeping a tally of wrongs done or determining whether an offender deserves mercy.

Christians are obligated to show mercy and kindness to others because God has shown them to us. The Bible provides hope and guidance for those who have trouble forgiving others and moving past their hurt and anger.

Encouragement for Christian Believers Struggling with Unforgiveness

While forgiveness is essential to the Christian faith, extending that mercy to those who have wronged or hurt us is not always easy. Remember that you are not alone in your struggle with unforgiveness and that with God's help, you can take the first step toward forgiving those who have wronged you.

If you're ready to start forgiving, consider these steps as a starting point:

  1. Pray for the one who wronged you, and ask God to give you His perspective on them so you can show them mercy and forgiveness.

  2. Seek advice from a reliable person — Sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust can be a great first step toward healing from your hurt and anger.

  3. Don't forget God's undeserved favor and mercy toward you. Think about how God has pardoned you despite your flaws and failures; let that motivate you to do the same for others.

There are numerous examples in the Bible of people who were able to forgive despite terrible circumstances. The story of Joseph in the book of Genesis is one of the most compelling examples. Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, shows grace and compassion to his captors. The Bible says that Joseph told his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20). Despite their terrible treatment of him, Joseph was able to forgive his brothers because of his faith in God.

The life of Stephen in the book of Acts is yet another illustration. Even as he is stoned to death by a mob of furious Jews, Stephen asks God to forgive them. "Lord, do not hold this sin against them," he prays in Acts 7:60. Because he trusted in God, Stephen could extend mercy even as he faced imminent death.

Keep in mind that forgiving someone who has wronged you can be a lengthy and challenging process. Sure, it's not easy, but God's help makes anything possible. Colossians 3:13 puts it this way "Please put aside your differences and seek forgiveness from one another if necessary. Reciprocate God's mercy by forgiving others." You can start the path to forgiveness, healing, and freedom with faith in God and a willingness to extend grace and compassion to others.

There are countless examples of people whose faith in God allowed them to forgive even in the worst situations. They provide us with strength and motivation through their examples. Forgiving others is one of the hardest things Christians must do, but it is also one of the most crucial. If you're having trouble forgiving someone, you're not alone. Have faith that God can help you forgive. Remind yourself of God's mercy and grace, pray for the one who wronged you, and lean on the people who love you. Keep in mind that forgiving someone is an ongoing procedure; it may be difficult, but with God's help, it is certainly doable.

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