All too often I focus on the evidence of unforgiveness in my life rather than the forgiveness. I’m familiar with the indicators of unforgiveness because I know them well. I know the messy battle of wrestling with what I know to do and how I end up acting.
I know the struggle of saying I’ve forgiven someone, and then the very real evidence that proves I’ve still got a ways to go. And then there are those moments in time that feel like delicate spun glass, filled with crystal clarity that God has worked a miracle. Forgiveness so real that you feel only love and zero residual effects of the offense.
Fully formed forgiveness does three miracles in our hearts.
The most epic story of forgiveness is found between a man named Joseph and his eleven brothers. Jealousy left unchecked and unforgiven causes behaviors that lead to life-long regret. Joseph’s brothers conspired to kill him, but ended up selling him instead. Then they covered up their malice by telling their father he was dead and “proving” by drenching Joseph’s cloak in animal’s blood.
Time passed and Joseph’s journey led him to entrusted slave to the pit to entrusted prisoner to second in command in Egypt. Could he have cultivated bitterness, hatred, and revenge in his heart toward his brothers? But how could his trust in God have grown if he had? I think in the deepest of his hearts he wrestled with his emotions and the dreams God placed in his heart.
Submitting and surrendering to God won. Forgiveness reigned in his heart.
But lurking in his brother’s hearts was doubt. Could this brother of theirs that they hated really and truly forgive them? Was it a show for their father’s sake?
We find Joseph’s heart in Genesis 50:15-21
And in the finding we see the three miracles that forgiveness brings to our hearts.
It leaves the righting of wrongs in God’s hands. Joseph asks them, “Am I in the place of God?” You see, God doesn’t want us to take revenge. He wants us to leave other’s actions and responses in his hands. We miss out on God’s redemption for our own hearts when we allow ourselves to be consumed with revenge. Our hearts grow hard and we see nothing but our rage, which makes us rage at others and, frankly, causes us to behave in ways that wound. Leave the righting of wrongs to God. He will make all things right in his time and in his way.
To see God’s plan in man’s malice. God used hate-filled intentions to bring Joseph to a place where many lives could be saved. Joseph saw, by God’s grace, a larger picture than what he lived. He trusted God with his heart and life even when he couldn’t see how it would work out. You can too. You may only see and feel the hurt caused by another’s choices or actions, but ask God to give you a glimpse into how God is using the wound. Maybe he’s growing compassion in you or the ability to forgive. And that maybe you’ll get to share your story with someone who needs to hear how God worked good out of bad.
To repay evil with practical affection. Joseph ends Genesis with kindness. Kindness is love in action. He acted kindly toward his brother and their families. It’s one thing to speak words, but it’s an altogether different thing to act kind towards someone who meant you harm. Remember my story from a couple of weeks ago? Even though my heart pounds with the memory of the pain, I can show kindness.
Let forgiveness work it’s miracle. It’s a process and some days you won’t feel like you’re making any progress. Rather than turn away from God and the person, turn to God with your hurt and pain and let him move in you and through you. The first step is declaring forgiveness. The second and third and fourth and so on, is embracing the process. And then it becomes real. Let the process transform you as love transformed the Velveteen Rabbit into a real bunny.
Forgiveness works three miracles in our hearts.
Leaves the righting of wrongs in God’s hands.
To see God’s plan in man’s malice.
To repay evil with practical affection.