Numb to the pain, She sat in her counselor’s office to talk about the rape that occurred 10 years prior. She wanted to share what happened but the words would not come. Even if they did, would she feel better? She hoped so, but doubted the process. This part of Her life had been hidden for 10 years; surely another 10 wouldn’t hurt, right?
Although she wanted desperately to run, She desired freedom more than escape.
Freedom from nightmares, uncontrollable mood swings, panic attacks, and the feeling of gasping for air. Freedom from unforgiveness. Hiding any longer from her pain would never help her move forward. So she stayed in counseling.
Uneasy, she described what happened. The sounds, sights, and smells returned as if it were yesterday. She was left wanting one thing.
Couldn’t someone say they were sorry for what happened? Not a shallow apology, but one that would restore meaning to her life. One that would somehow return her loss of innocence. Surely an apology from the man who raped her would make a difference, right?
After 10 years, She knew she wanted freedom from the unforgiveness that seemed to enslave her. But how was she supposed to forgive when he never said, “I’m sorry”? She spent a lot of time praying and studying how to move forward when bitter and angry. How to forgive when an apology never comes. Along that journey, She learned a few things.
First of all, for forgiveness to bring freedom, She had to offer it freely, with no strings attached. Not because the person who hurt her earned it, but because it’s Christ’s gift. If you are a Christian, no one’s sin, not even your own, has the right to hold you captive. That means you are free to forgive.
You may not feel like forgiving, but that is where you ask for God‘s strength. Ask Him daily for help until you are able to offer forgiveness freely to yourself and others.
Second, She had to release her shame. Often when someone hurts us, we blame ourselves. If we had been a better person, done something differently, or spoken more assertively we could have avoided what happened. Right? Wrong! Pressing shame and blame upon ourselves is not conducive to freedom and healing. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Shame is a yoke of slavery. Instead of accepting shame, choose to stand firm in Jesus’ love. Stand firm in His freedom that releases you from shame. Because of His sacrifice on the cross you are free!
Third, She had to keep walking forward. To move past your past you must walk through it to move beyond it. This might involve time and professional help … but here’s the freeing part: your past does not define you, Christ does!
She never received an apology from the man who raped her. But she came to realize that even if he were to apologize it would not make up for the hurt he caused. His apology could not and would not set her free.
Freedom is not contingent upon receiving an apology from those who have hurt us. Instead, forgiveness leads to freedom and is possible because Christ’s death on the cross set us free.
Dear Lord, thank You that Your death on the cross gives us all the strength we need to forgive those who have hurt us. Where there is unforgiveness, uproot it with grace. Allow Your mercy to fall on the burdened places of our hearts and minds and show us the areas we need to be set free. Thank You that Your grace, always has been, and will always be, enough. In Jesus’ Name I Pray, Amen.
The word “forgive” is not one dimensional. It doesn’t just mean “let go and let God” a challenge for anyone who has experienced traumatizing abuse, injustice, neglect or abandonment. Believers can, with the help of God’s Spirit, leave pain to find wholeness, leave regret to find purpose and leave the past to live fully in the present.
Reflect and Respond:
In what ways are you living with unforgiveness that anchors you in a victim stance?
What is the first step you can take to forgive? If your heart is unwilling, ask Christ for the strength it will take to set you free.