The Struggle with Forgiveness

forgiveness

Forgiveness is something that I really struggle with. And when I say struggle, I mean STRUGGLE. I am a queen of holding grudges and not letting stuff go. I could give you a wrap sheet of people who I have cut off and cut out of my life for hurting me or doing me wrong. That list includes colleagues, friends and even family. (No, I don’t discriminate) And I’m the type that will cut you off and never speak to you again in life. The type that will see you in the street, at the store, or at your mama’s house and won’t speak. The type that would keep riding if I saw your car broke down on the side of the road. Okay, maybe I’m not that bad, but you get my point. My struggle with forgiveness is so real. But God has really been working with me on this issue lately and forcing me to face my issues with forgiveness head on.

I’ve been seeing that my issues with forgiveness come from the fact that I heavily value justice. I hate when things aren’t even and fair. I feel like if you do something wrong then you should make it right. If you hurt someone, then you should do everything in your power to make it up to them. It’s a standard that I hold myself and others to, and it’s that way of thinking that’s made it so easy to hold grudges and bitterness in my heart against others. Whenever people have wronged me in the past my automatic response has been, “They did something to hurt me, so if they want my forgiveness then they should come to me and make it up to me by apologizing. That’s only me being fair.” I felt that if I forgive them without them taking the steps to make it “right”, then I was letting them off the hook. I thought that if I didn’t hold a grudge then what they did had no consequences.

While it may sound fair and even sound right on the surface, the way I was thinking, and the way many of us think about forgiveness, isn’t based on truth. I think what’s at the core of our unforgiveness is the lie that our healing has to come from the same place that our hurt came from. We feel that since a particular person was responsible for hurting us, then by default, they are responsible for healing us. We hold on tightly to anger and pain from past hurts because we falsely believe that the people who hurt us are the only ones capable of setting us free. Forgiveness frees us from that way of thinking. It allows us to realize that even though someone hurt us, we don’t have to wait around for them to heal us. We don’t have to walk around day after day holding onto grudges, waiting around for an apology that may or may not ever come. Forgiveness allows us to see that our healing is not dependent on the person that hurt us. It opens our eyes to the fact that it doesn’t matter where our hurt came from because our healing ultimately comes through Christ. That’s what makes forgiveness so freeing. It turns our attention away from the ones who hurts us, and sets our eyes on the One who heals us. He is the only One capable of tending to the wounds from our past. He is the only One that can take the sting out of the slights we’ve felt. He is the only One who can piece our heart back together after it’s been broken by others.

And realizing that forgiveness hinges on Him and not on human beings, reminds me of why Christ died on the cross for us. His death was the ultimate act of forgiveness. It was the recognition that no human being would ever be capable of apologizing, sacrificing or paying God back enough to cover the wrongs of our sins. It was the ultimate recognition that there was no way a human being could heal the agonizing hurt we cause God whenever we disobey Him through our sin. Christ’s death was the realization that human beings were incapable of undoing the damage our sinful ways cause. I hurt the very heart of God every single time I sin. We hurt the very heart of God every single time we sin. Every single time. Yet He doesn’t hold grudges until I make it “right”. He doesn’t make me, or any of us, pay Him back for wronging Him. He forgave each of us and tangibly showed us that forgiveness by sending His only begotten Son. Looking at His incredible forgiveness of all of my sins, makes my unforgiveness seem really petty, childish, trivial, insignificant…well you get the point.

So maybe you’re like me and struggle with forgiveness. Maybe you’ve been holding grudges with the false hope that the people that hurt you were the only ones capable of healing you. Maybe somewhere along the way you forgot that the same forgiveness God extended to us over 2000 years ago on an old, rugged cross is the same forgiveness we’re called to extend to others. But as you go into the new year, start off by taking your eyes off of the ones that hurt you and fix them on the only One who has ever been capable of healing you. Go into this new year letting go of pain and bitterness that unforgiveness causes, so you’ll be able to fully embrace the healing and comfort that God’s forgiveness brings. Pick up that phone, send that text, write that e-mail or letter (Shoutout to you if you still write letters) and let someone who hurt you know that you forgive them because you know the One who has forgiven you.

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The Purging Process

One of the worst feelings in the world is when you eat something you’re not supposed to and get sick. (BTW, this is going to be kinda gross but stay with me on this.) For me, the one thing that’s guaranteed to make me sick to my stomach anytime I eat them are avocadoes. Every time I’ve ever ingested this green fruit or vegetable or whatever it is, I’ve gotten sick. Right after I eat it I’m fine, but a few hours later, I find myself feeling nauseous…really, really nauseous. The nausea continues for what feels like forever until my body finally can’t stand it anymore and I throw up (Eww!). Clearly, my body doesn’t react well to avocadoes because whenever I’ve eaten them, they’ve caused an adverse reaction. In other words, avocadoes are bad for me. The nausea I’ve felt, was my body’s way of signaling that what I ate is not good for me and that terrible feeling wouldn’t go away until my body purged itself of what was making it sick.

Now, of course, the actual process of throwing up is painful and ugly. It physically hurts to throw up. And it’s a pretty exhausting experience. Not to mention the fact that having your face planted over a toilet bowl or trash can during the whole ordeal, isn’t exactly a pretty site. To say the least, throwing up is not a pleasant experience but after you do, you feel a lot better.

It’s funny how our physical body’s reaction to bad things it ingests mirrors our spiritual, emotional and mental sides’ reactions to bad things. Often times we become sick spiritually, mentally and emotionally because of the bad things that have happened to us or that we’ve participated in. Those bad things could be abuse, trauma or an otherwise negative life experience. And when they occur, our mind and soul ingests those experiences and starts to internalize them. Initially those things may not affect us, but once those bad things settle within us, they start to cause an adverse reaction. We often start to feel the spiritual, mental and emotional equivalent of nausea. We find ourselves in a miserable state that won’t seem to go away.

But just like our physical body doesn’t get better until it regurgitates what’s been making it sick, our spiritual, mental and emotional being can’t get better until it does the same. Many times we go through things in life that hurt us deeply and traumatize us and leave us feeling sick. Maybe that sickness manifests itself as depression, an uncontrollable temper, or an addiction. However that sickness manifests itself, it manifests itself in ways that seem to linger. It manifests itself in ways that leave us feeling miserable. The only thing that will make the pain go away is to purge ourselves of whatever we’ve ingested and internalized. Our healing is on the other side of our purging process. But here’s the catch: purging is painful. Purging is ugly. Purging is hard to do and takes a lot of energy out of you. It’s incredibly hard to look at the things that you’d rather forget ever happened. It’s painful to work through tough memories from your past. It’s tough to have to deal with the anger, sadness, frustration, and unforgiveness that is associated with said things from your past. On the surface, it may seem far easier to “just move on” and act like those things aren’t really affecting you. But here’s the other catch: purging is the only way you’ll ever find healing for you mind, soul and emotions. The internal pain won’t go away until you rid yourself of the bad things that are causing that pain. Just like the nausea won’t go away until you throw up and get everything bad out of your system, whatever internal pain you’re facing won’t go away until you’re gone through the purging process. There are no short cuts or ways around it. You have to go through the excruciating pain of purging to finally find relief from whatever has been plaguing you.

The purging process is so difficult but if you can just push through the pain, you’ll find relief. Of course, you can and probably should work through the pain with a caring professional or loved one. But however you choose to work through it, know that you’ll feel so much better after you do. Release those things that have been hurting you once and for all, so you can move forward and feel better.

I Know Depression

I know depression.

I know what it feels like to hurt and hurt so deeply that it reaches the depths of your soul.

I know what it feels like to have that nagging pain that won’t seem to go away.

I know what it feels like to lay in the bed at night crying your heart out.

I know what it feels like to pray to God, begging Him not to let you wake up in the morning because you can’t stand the sadness anymore.

I know what it feels like to smile and pretend that everything is okay, even though you’re dying inside.

I know what it feels like to try to hide what you’re going through from classmates, coworkers, family and friends.

I know what it feels like.

I know depression.

I’ve dealt with depression since I was 13 years old. And over the past 10 years, I’ve struggled with it in silence, for the most part. I struggled with it alone, silently drowning in pain and soaking in tears for a lot of reasons.

I was afraid of the stigma that comes with depression. Afraid of being judged by others and being called “crazy”.

I didn’t want people to think I was weak or could not handle everything on my own. And a lot of times, I honestly did think I could handle it on my own.

I thought that depression meant that I was ungrateful. I mean, my life hasn’t been picture perfect, but I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a lot to be happy about, so why couldn’t I be? Why couldn’t I just snap myself out of it and be “normal” like everyone else?

I also always placed extremely high expectations on myself and felt that I had to be perfect. Depression got in the way of me being perfect and reaching the incredibly high standards I set for myself. Admitting that I was battling depression, felt like having to admit that I didn’t always have it together and perfect, and that was something I wasn’t ready to do for the longest.

But over this past year, as I’ve grown in my relationship with Christ, I’ve started to realize that depression is not my destiny. John 10:10 tells us that the enemy came to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus came so that we could have life and have it abundantly. Depression isn’t a life of abundance. It steals your hope. It kills your joy. It destroys your peace. That’s not the life any of us are meant to live. We’re meant to live an abundant life. Occasional sadness is a natural and necessary part of life, but when sadness lingers for too long and starts turning into depression, it’s okay to reach out and get help. I know that I’ve spent the past ten years of my life, suffering with depression and struggling to hide it from others, because of fear and shame. But, I’m finally in a place where I’m ready to heal from my depression. And I’m starting that healing process with a caring professional and deciding to share what has been an incredibly painful part of my life with others.

So if you’re going through depression and you’re reading this, know that you are not alone. The sadness, emptiness and hopelessness that you’re dealing with is something that I’ve dealt with, and so many others have, too. It’s okay that you’re hurting but know that you don’t have to continue hurting for the rest of your life and God doesn’t want you to hurt for the rest of your life. Please don’t let the fear of being judged or the shame about the pain that you’re feeling keep you from getting the help and the healing God so desperately wants you to have. No matter how it feels right now, understand that He sees the pain that you’re going through, just like He saw all the pain I’ve gone through over the past ten years. He sees your broken heart and He’s close to you. He sees how depression has crushed your spirit and He’s more than willing to rescue you. (Psalm 34:18) He loves you so much and He wants you to heal and be whole. Some of your healing will come from praying and crying out to Him, but often times healing will also come through the help of a trained counselor or therapist. That healing may also include taking medication until you start feeling better. And if it does, that’s perfectly okay. It took me an entire decade to realize that, but it doesn’t have to take you that long. I know that it’s so hard to deal with depression, especially when you’re hiding your pain in the darkness of fear and shame. But you don’t have to deal with depression alone. You can reach out to get the help that you need, so you can start living your life, and live it more abundantly.

Perhaps…

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Perhaps you were born for such a time as this. Perhaps your life is meant to show God’s love in radical ways. Perhaps you were created to look out for the poor, the lonely and the oppressed, rather than the rich, the popular and the powerful. Perhaps you’ve been called to live out the Gospel in ways that challenge the status quo and make people uncomfortable. Perhaps you were created to change the business-as-usual practices in the world and in the church. Perhaps…