You know, it's crazy how thin the line between forgiveness and resentment/bitterness can be. One minute I feel as though I have forgiven those people in my past who have hurt me, and the next... I'm feeling resentful and angry.
About a year ago, I was deeply hurt by a few people. I knew that I had done wrong in the situation, and I tried apologizing for it... but it was of no use. I desperately wanted (and still want) reconciliation to take place, but it never happened, and it was painfully obvious that it was not desired from the other side.
Even though it was a year ago, I still have a lot of pain from that situation. I have tried forgetting about it and moving on, but it's not that simple. I want to just forgive all those people who hurt me and hurt me on purpose, but it's not easy. Through those people's accusations of my character, I have had to wrestle through a lot of questions and doubts about who I am and who Christ sees me to be. I constantly question now my abilities to do ministry and to get along with others in ministry, and I question my motivations for doing the things that I do.
Though I do not question or doubt myself as much as I did right after everything happened, the pain is still evident. I have had some people in my life wonder why I can't just forget about it and move on, and why I'm holding on to it. The truth is... I don't know either. I desperately want to be free of these doubts and I want to have confidence in the abilities and talents that God has given me, but it feels almost impossible to do that.
I am the type of person that just wants to "fix" things. I want to fix everything that I've done wrong to anyone, and I almost always feel as though it's up to me to make things right, because I'm normally in the wrong (at least that's how I tend to look at it). I feel so great when the other person wants reconciliation as well, and I have had wonderful friendships blossom from those times of reconciliation. However... Feeling as though it is on me to fix everything tends to blow up in my face when the other person is not interested in any kind of reconciliation whatsoever. I beat myself up thinking that I have done something so bad to not even deserve forgiveness or reconciliation, and that because of my stupid behavior, I have lost the opportunity to make things right and be forgiven.
But the truth is... that is ALL a lie. I am not expected to in a sense humiliate myself and beg for mercy from others, but rather I am to do my part in apologizing for my share in the situation and asking for forgiveness. After that... I'm off the hook. If I have gone into my apology with the right attitude and truly desire forgiveness and reconciliation, then that's all that is expected of me. No more, no less.
This is why I love the book of Romans. So often I think that if I don't try hard enough, if I don't apologize to others and to God enough, then I'm going to lose credibility and I'm either no longer going to be loved or I'm going to be judged and condemned. But this isn't true. Though humans may fail me and may withhold forgiveness from me, my God will never do that. He calls me to do what I can in order to make things right, but no matter what, He will still love me. I don't need to go crazy trying to please everyone and make them happy with me - because the fact is, if I do everything that I need to do and they still won't forgive me, the responsibility for the situation no longer lies with me.
Too bad it's so stinking hard to remember that... But I DO need to remember Romans 12:18 which says, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." If I have done everything I can in order to live peaceably with others, then that's all that I have to do. I can also take great comfort in knowing that even if I'm not forgiven by people or by my fellow believers, I have been forgiven by my God:
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-2)
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1)
"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)
Yes, I am a wretched sinner. Yes, I make stupid mistakes all the time and I don't treat people as well as I should. But I do know that I desire to make things right, and even if those things don't occur, I don't need to harbor resentment toward the other person or even believe that I haven't done enough to make the other person happy. Though I have been deeply hurt by these people, I don't need to be resentful or bitter toward them. I can forgive them, because that is exactly what Christ has done for me. They are fellow believers and fellow companions on this journey of life. Even(or maybe especially) if they are not believers, then it becomes that much more important that I forgive them and show them mercy and kindness - because that is what my Savior did for me.
There is such a huge part of me that wants to just do the same thing that those people did to me and refuse forgiveness. However, I know that this is the opposite of showing Christ's love to them. As much as my fleshly nature wants to harbor judgment and resentment toward them, I know that I need to forgive them and love them unconditionally. No, it's honestly not easy, and I'm probably going to really suck at it. But it's what God has called me to do, and maybe... just maybe... one day I will be able to move on from this and the pain will begin to decrease.
I know that this is a lesson that God will use to work in me for the rest of my life, and I know that I'm going to mess up so many times that I may not even be able to count them. But the beauty of it is... I am still forgiven. And thus, I must forgive others. No matter what.