Break Cycles, Embrace Grace

The Forgiveness Ripple Effect and How You Create One

forgiveness

I sat by the pond today. The sun shone on my head and the fountain twisted left and down in the wind, but continually sending droplets of water upward and downward. Thousands of them splashing down and ring after ring spreading outward to the shore.

 

I sat, holding a book and pencil in my hand, coffee at my side, and lest you think it too idyllic, the flies buzzed about and the ants tickled my ankles while I pondered the power of one droplet to affect so much change in the surface of the water.

 

This is not a new concept. I’ve skipped rocks and watched the rings start and stop and begin again once the stone sunk beneath the waves. We can use that metaphor for love, kindness, and grace. But as I sat and watched the fountain in the pond and watched the water move I thought of you and me and our journey into forgiveness.

 

You see hurt ripples. Our wounds touch every part of our lives. They touch our inner worlds of thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and our outer worlds of actions and speech. Regret. Shame. Disgrace. These are ripples of wounds to our hearts.

 

We’re individuals, but what happens to us affects us as a society or corporate church body. Our behaviors always reveal our hearts. Even when we try to hide our wounds, the masks slip. And the wounds ripple out.

 

Forgiveness is like dropping a stone that ripples out into all areas of our lives. When I harbor unforgiveness, my relationships suffer. When I forgive, my relationships with God, myself, and others benefit. Even if I never interact with the person who wounded me, once I forgive them, my other relationships improve.

 

The pond is shallow and the fountain’s base is visible for all to see. It’s not majestic, but it is beautiful in a rustic kind of way. But the real treasure is on the south side. You see, the ripples need a place to go, and off to the side, is an outlet between a narrow band of rocks. This tiny outlet winds down and around and feeds the most beautiful wildflowers.

 

Think of the beauty forgiveness will bring to those around you. When you’re heart is ruled by forgiveness, you contribute to the beauty growing in someone else. Imagine the continuous ripple effect as you nurture the forgiveness fountain in your heart.

 

The power of the Holy Spirit works in you and tosses up droplets of obedience that fall down in the form of forgiveness and grace and mercy. And the ripples move out further and further, but still effective, touching lives and hearts. You don’t need to wonder and worry and manage the effects of the ripples. All you need to do is stay connected to the Holy Spirit’s power.

 

That’s where you find forgiveness that brings lasting change into your life.

 

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

The Takeaway

 

Be generous with forgiveness just as your heavenly Father is generous with you.

 

Rely on the Holy Spirit to be the fountain that rises up within you enabling you to forgive.

 

Enjoy the beauty forgiveness brings to your life and others.

 

 

 

How to Forgive God When He Keeps Secrets

forgive

How do we reconcile our disappointments with unanswered prayer when the Psalms distinctly says that God does not disappoint us? What about the things we beg God for that appear to line up with His will, such as no one should perish, and a loved one dies without ever reconciling with Christ? What do we do with the unexplainable hurts and pains of this world when we know that God breathed stars into existence, is able to calm storms with just a word, throw mountains into the sea, and set captives free? How do we forgive?

 

We will experience unexplainable hurts in this life, and we will wonder if God has left us. Our hearts will fail beneath the weight of our burdens. Grief will steal our breath. Our minds will be unable to fathom the abuse we have suffered.

 

During our lifetime we will wonder and question whether or not God loves us because we cannot see Him acting on our behalf in our circumstances. We judge God based on whether or not He’s acting the way we think a loving God should act.

 

We declare God guilty of not loving us the way we think we should be loved. Or we assume that we’ve done something wrong and so begins this vicious cycle of self-punishment and judging God. Instead of running to God we turn away from Him and hide in a corner. Or run in the opposite direction embracing a life that declares hatred for God. Or we become experts at religious conduct with our hearts growing harder each day.

 

Disappointments lead to disillusionment, which leads to cynicism and eventually bitterness and resentment. If we want to move forward in our relationship with God, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts for any indictments against God Himself. And when we do, we just might find we need to forgive God for not living up to our expectations.

 

I’ve given birth to four children and all my labors were difficult and are the stuff of nightmares. My “easiest” labor was about 12 hours long and still involved the NICU. With my third child, I truly believed things would be different. I had prayed. I had peace. I just knew that God was going to work a miracle.

 

He didn’t.

 

The labor lasted far too long. The nursing staff dismissed my needs. The doctors traded shifts and the second doctor changed the previous doctor’s recommendations. I felt like I walked into labor and delivery with God on my side, but the longer it took, the more desperate I felt. And the more I believed that God had abandoned me. It took almost two years to admit that I was furious with God. I could have spit at Him and felt no shame. (that two year journey is a story for another time)

 

But in the process I learned a few things about God and my expectations.

 

First, there will be things that happen that I don’t understand, and in those moments I will need to turn to Him and trust Him, and yes, forgive Him.

 

Deuteronomy 29:29 states, “The secret things belong to the Lord, but the things revealed to us belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

 

This tells me that there will be secrets that I will never know. I’ve chosen to create a “file” in my heart where I put my “why’s” and “what the heck’s” that haven’t been answered. If God chooses not to reveal something, it doesn’t negate the truths that He is still good, kind, and loving. What it does is reinforce the truths found in Isaiah that His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are higher than mine. And when I lean into Him, knowing that he bears the weight on His shoulders, I find comfort.

 

Second, if I allow anger to take root, I will need to address my expectations of how my life should turn out in the light of surrendering to him.

 

Galatians 2:20 states, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

 

Once we surrender our lives, we’re bound to Christ. And we live this life in the flesh by faith in Jesus. Faith means moving forward even when we can’t see. It means that we can declare in the darkness that God is light. And even when we feel abandoned by God, we declare by faith that He never leaves nor forsakes us.

 

What looks like forgiving God is really a surrender to His character, wisdom, love, and ways that are higher than ours. Go ahead. Let your disappointments go. Surrender to him and create a file that His secrets can be kept in. Wrestle through and then place it in His loving hands.

 

I don’t know why the birth of my son went haywire, but even though I thought God abandoned me, He hadn’t. I turned my back on Him when He didn’t give me what I wanted. But what I really wanted was revelation. And that He did. He revealed Himself, I just couldn’t see it at the time.

 

And isn’t seeing Him what we desire most?

 

The Takeaway

 

Anger at God leads to disappointment which leads to bitterness which leads to needing to “forgive” God, aka: surrender.

 

Consider creating a “Secrets File.” A place in your heart where you keep all the things you wish you understood, but don’t and probably never will.

 

Let God keep things for you and trust him to reveal things in his time.

The Real Reason We Struggle to Extend Forgiveness

forgiveness

 

Control. We want it, we fight for it, and we don’t like to give it up. At our core, we live our lives in response to what we can control and what we can’t. We fuss and fume for our rights. What happens when they’re violated? We feel unheard, unwanted, and unneeded. Our wounded hearts cry for retribution.

 

Many of our battles with unforgiveness come because we experience loss of control. We can’t control someone’s choices no matter how hard we try. The struggle with forgiveness lies in this hidden problem many of us carry around and that’s control.

 

We think that if we hold onto our unforgiveness, it shows that we still have control. It almost feels that if we let go of control over the situation that we condone the action that wounded or offended us in the first place.

 

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we’re saying what happened to us is okay. Forgiveness means that we entrust our heart, lives, and the people in it to a God who knows all things, holds all things, and sees all things.

 

But this is the thing with control and unforgiveness. When you withhold forgiveness, you’re allowing anger, bitterness, and resentment to control you instead of the Holy Spirit. You’re actually giving unforgiveness the power in your life that God deserves.

 

If you want to experience forgiveness towards someone, then look to surrendering your need for control in the relationship. I’ve found the greatest freedom I’ve ever experienced is in surrender. You don’t surrender to the pain, but you surrender the pain in your heart to a good, good Father.

 

Everyday we are presented with the opportunity to practice surrender in order to forgive. Your kid calls you names and blames you for their problems. Your parent demands payback for raising you. Your coworker throws you under the bus. Your spouse betrays your trust. All of these hurts and wounds challenge our need for control over an expected outcome.

 

You don’t expect that your child blames you for their drug addiction. You expect your parents to raise you without strings attached. You expect camaraderie among your coworkers, and you never ever expected that the person you exchanged vows with would betray you.

 

But these things happen. People disappoint us and don’t live up to our expectations. No matter how hard we try to control the outcome of our lives, we cannot. And underlying the unforgiveness is an anger because we didn’t have a say into any of those things that hurt us.

 

And so we hold onto our unforgiveness because we’ve had control stripped away from us and, by golly, we’re not going to be caught unawares again.

 

But we will. It’s what makes life an adventure. And wouldn’t it be better to go through life with a forgiving heart so we can see life for what it is? An opportunity to know God and make him known.

 

There’s very little we can actually control. We can’t control someone else, we can’t control natural disasters, and we can’t control our boss’s response to our work. We can control our responses and that’s it. Unforgiveness and control leads us into a defensive attitude towards life, and an offended spirit takes root in our hearts.

 

Even if we try and be all things to all people, some people will reject us. We can’t control the outcome of every decision. That drunk driver might be in the wrong place at the wrong time and our lives are broadsided and changed forever.

 

Control. We long for it. We think we need it. But forgiveness comes when we surrender control. It’s when we submit our hurts, our circumstances, and our disappointments to God that we find forgiveness is possible.

 

It’s in the surrendering where we find the impossible to be possible.

 

The Takeaway for Forgiveness

 

One of the roots of unforgiveness lies in our need for control.

 

Don’t surrender to the pain, but surrender the pain to God.

 

You control your response to the ups and downs of life.

 

 

 

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I write to encourage you that you can experience a vibrant, transformative relationship with God even if your past or your shame tells you otherwise. God invites you upward and onward, will you join me? You'll receive weekly devotionals straight to your inbox. By subscribing you'll receive my 7-Day Devotional, Kicking Perfect, as a thank-you gift from me!

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