How to Make Forgiveness Happen

There is enough in the past few days' worth of devotionals to keep us thinking (and forgiving) for weeks. But there are a couple of specific applications that need to be considered.

First, focus fully on God's forgiveness of you. Don't hurry through this. Think of how vast, how extensive His mercy has been extended toward you, like David did when he wrote "Hymn 103." He got extremely specific:

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle . . . .
. . . He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
(Psalm 103:1–5, 10–12)

Meditate on that in your own life. Personalize these words by substituting me and my for us and your. Ponder the depth of God's mercy . . . the debts against you He graciously canceled. The extent to which you can envision God's forgiveness of you, to that same measure you will be given the capacity to forgive others.

Next, deal directly and honestly with any resentment you currently hold against anyone.

It's a tough assignment. But think of the alternative—torturing, agonizing feelings, the churning within, the enormous emotional energy you burn up and waste every day.

Maybe you are willing to go just so far. You will bargain with God and agree to forgive but not forget. That is one of the most regrettable mistakes a Christian can make. Because limited forgiveness is like conditional love—a poor substitute for the genuine item. It's no forgiveness at all.

Amy Carmichael said it best when she wrote these words:

If I say, "Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget," as though the God, who twice a day washes all the sands on all the shores of all the world, could not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of Calvary love.1

So much for forgiving. We now need to think about forgetting. That's next. If forgiveness is the process God takes us through to heal inner wounds . . . then forgetting would be the removal of the ugly scar.

And God can even do that.

Limited forgiveness is like conditional love—a poor substitute for the genuine item. It's no forgiveness at all.

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  1. Amy Carmichael, taken from If, copyright © 1953 by Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, 19034.

Taken from Improving Your Serve by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 1981 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com

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