“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” Hebrews 12:15 (NLT)
“The day that Jesus was crushed for our sins, He revealed the true meaning of justice was no longer found in revenge, but in forgiveness.” Kris Vallotton
- Find a place where you can be alone with Jesus and your Bible. To decompress, I like to set up an environment that relaxes me (light a candle, put on light music, or open a window). Read Hebrews 12:5-15.
- Write down Hebrews 12:15 in your journal or where you will see it during your day.
Forgiveness: Mercy’s Triumph over Judgment
I stood on the shoreline with my heart completely exposed. Holding the weight of my burdens and feeling humbled by the expanse of the ocean before me, I waded out knee-high into the water. As a wave approached, these words unexpectedly tumbled out of my mouth, “I forgive this betrayal, and I thank you, Lord, that you have never betrayed me.” The baptismal waves crashed over my feet, overwhelming me with a newfound glimpse of freedom, washing my pain out to sea.
Ok, now let me back up and explain. I recently had the privilege to participate in a day-long workshop led by a powerhouse woman named Renee. We started the day early, coffee in hand, on the beach near my home in Coronado, California. She gave me a pebble and instructed me to put it in my shoe, take a long walk, and ask God to reveal tolerated annoyances in my life. As I walked, I was able to identify the constant, dulling pain of bitterness.
Freshly aware of my desperation for God, we headed up the road to hike Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, which is a breathtaking place for self-reflection. After we found a bench to sit on, we processed what causes bitterness to take root. My answer was self-protection. I realized that although the boundaries I set with unrepentant people are healthy, I also use these boundaries to justify disconnection. I had been failing to trust God with judgment and preventing His Spirit from tending to the brokenness of my heart.
As we headed down the trail toward the water, she had me list offenses I’ve held. As one would come to mind, I would share, and she would pick up a rock to put in my backpack. It became heavy, as did my heart. We talked about how my relationships felt strained because my heart had become too tender and could no longer preserve intimacy in the face of conflict.
So, there at the shore, I unloaded my rocks into the sea. A different word seemed to come from deep within me to describe each injustice stone. I’d say, “I forgive this misunderstanding, and I thank you, Lord, that you have never misunderstood me.” Then I’d say, “I forgive this accusation. Thank you, Father, for defeating the accuser.” And so on. The truth was renewing my mind. God was who I needed Him to be each time others had fallen short of my needs and expectations. I could feel my
heart start to open, resentment softening into restoration.
After I had thrown out the last rock, Renee came over and handed me another stone. This one was not jagged as the others had been, but smooth. She put it in my hand and said, “Now, go forgive yourself.” Somehow, this seemed the hardest to do. But God spoke to me through the smoothness of the stone— that it was His mercy to refine me, but against his character to punish me in judgment. With that, I released my final stone, and His grace consumed my shame.
We ended the workshop with communion. As I received the elements of bread and wine, I recognized that it is through my undeserved forgiveness that I can find peace leaving justice in the hands of a good God.
Blessings and Love,
Questions to Ponder
- What does Scripture say about forgiveness? (Mark 11:26)
- How did Jesus treat those who wronged Him? (Luke 23:34)
- What does clinical psychology say about the physical effects of unforgiveness? Learn more at https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_connections/forgiveness-your- health-depends-on-it.
- What is forgiveness not? (Psalm 55:22, i.e. approval of wrongdoing, exemption for prosecution of illegal action, requirement of reconciliation with an abuser)
Spend a day with the Lord with the intention of self-care. Go for a hike with a sack of injustice rocks. Unload your burdens to the Lord. I know it can be hard to get away, but remember the airplane metaphor: we must put our own oxygen masks on before we can help our families. Here are a few things to keep in mind on your journey:
Give yourself loads of grace in this process. This is hard soul-work! But when I am unkind to myself or others, the Holy Spirit is not present in that judgment. We need to let shame go and allow Him to woo us with His love, patience, joy, intentionality, faithfulness, and goodness.
Forgiveness sets us FREE. Hebrews 12 challenges us to press into the discipline of the Lord, which feels painful at the moment but produces a peaceful harvest in our lives. Forgiving can feel like an obligation, but as the Lord lifts burdens, that feeling will turn to liberation. “Letting it go” is a spiritual practice of trust.
Let the Spirit lead you! If God prompts a desire to restore a particular broken relationship during your time with Him, you may need to have a love-filled conversation and mend it. Ask Him for divine strategy.
Journal. Write down your experience for the next time you need to forgive because there is power in testimonies of God’s victory!
Pursue More. If you would like more information on the workshop, you can contact Renee at donandrenee.com.