Around January of this year, I started to feel different and it led to me acting differently. I wish I could tell you now that the way I was feeling and acting was positive; however, it truly wasn’t. I was angry, bitter, and frustrated with just about everything and everyone in my life. It spilled over into everything: work, family, friends. I started to avoid people because of it. I put myself into a box and didn’t let myself out. I would put on a front, but inside I was crumbling. Even then, God was working in the depths of my heart and tearing down and building up – I just didn’t realize it yet.
I lead a bible study through my church and when the time came to pick a new one, we voted. The girls in my group unanimously picked a study on forgiveness. I don’t know about you but forgiveness has always been a part of Christian theology that I put on the back burner. I don’t like it, so I immediately thought: “Oh great… these next 6 weeks are going to be terrible.” As usual, God used what I didn’t want to face to grow me in great new ways using the seeds he had been planting in my heart.
As we continued through the forgiveness study, it seemed like each girl in my group was having a “breakthrough” and yet here I was still feeling stubborn, bitter, broken, and angry; I was coming undone even further. But friends, this is where the beauty starts to unfold itself in this story. Near the end of one study, I remember specifically and intentionally praying for each girl. Before I knew the words were tumbling out of my mouth, I was praying for myself. I prayed so deeply that forgiveness would worm its way into my heart and break down the long-standing walls. I remember praying for God to bring me to my knees and cling only to Him. I remember praying for a breakdown, for God to change my heart from the inside out. Y’all, I cannot tell you how much this prayer has changed my life for the better.
Through this study, we had been focusing on two passages: Matthew 18:21-25 & Ephesians 4: 25-5:2. In the first passage, Peter and the other disciples question Jesus about forgiveness. Jesus responds with a parable teaching us that forgiveness is non-negotiable; we need to forgive everyone, every time, for everything. In the passage, Peter is looking for a way out of forgiveness, he asks Jesus just how many times he needs to offer forgiveness and Jesus answers with “I tell you, not seven times, but seven times seventy” (v. 22) He tells Peter that there is not a maximum times we need to extend forgiveness. I remember thinking, “Peter I agree with you; there is a maximum for forgiveness.” Yet, God silently whispered into my heart, “No, my child. My forgiveness is unending.”
As we continued to study forgiveness, God started to reveal more to me about His heart behind forgiveness. For probably the first time, I realized forgiveness leads to sanctification. Thinking back to the garden, God wanted us to be just like Him; He created us in His image. Yet we messed it up by sinning. But thankfully, God sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to die the death we never could and offer the forgiveness we don’t deserve. Jesus died on the cross to offer us vertical forgiveness.
But God doesn’t just want to end it there. He wants to continue the process of reforming and remaking our hearts through the process of sanctification. So, by experiencing Jesus’ death on the cross, forgiveness becomes an innate part of us as Christ followers. As God taught me these things, He started to remold my view on forgiveness. Week by week, my heart became more and more softened. I found myself believing in the power of forgiveness not just for myself but for my relationships.
One night, I felt the spirit moving in my heart. “Now,” He whispered. Steadying myself, I shared some of my personal testimony that at the time I believed made me dirty and broken, and let out a breath I had been holding for years. In that moment, knowing that God had already forgiven me for the transgressions of my past time and time again, I finally, finally let go. I allowed the light of Jesus to flood into my broken soul and my heart was flooded with warmth, clarity, and overwhelming peace.
“Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly love children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 4:25-5:2)
Christ has burned these verses into my heart. During the weeks following my revelation, God started to replace the negative harmful emotions of my heart. Anger turned to satisfaction. Bitterness turned to delight. My unforgiving heart was chipped away to reveal grace, compassion, tenderness, and kindness. God removed the devil’s foothold enabling me to remove all damaging emotions. I have felt more myself these last several weeks and others have noticed. The joy and freedom that the Holy Spirit penetrated my heart with has allowed for refreshing, enthusiastic, peace-driven life that God wanted for us even in the garden.
I’m still growing in forgiveness. I know that it will be a continuous process of returning to the cross over and over again in surrender, and it is my prayer that sharing my experience with you will encourage you to seek forgiveness in your own life, for whoever and whatever needs it. I pray that you would be sanctified and changed from the inside out as I have been. Oh dear friend, I pray that God would bring you to your knees and allow for a breakdown breakthrough moment for you. Let God turn your pain into grace; Jesus wants you to live forgiven.
Thank you for sharing and writing Katie!