I was talking to a young friend of mine about a really hard situation she’s walked for years with her family. Hurtful, horrible things have happened over which she’s had no control, but has still had to bear the consequences, even as a young girl. Sadly, hers is not a new story. When you get to be my age, you find that you know a lot of people who have endured circumstances that no one, NO ONE, should have to. And, especially in cases where the behavior is continual, with no apparent attempts to stop on the horizon, a decision has to be made about where, or even if they should, still fit in the picture. And what about forgiveness? She said something to me that I think is a very common hang up:

“I feel like all I’ve done is ‘forgive’ my whole life. I’ve forgiven all the childhood stuff, but how do you forgive, when the behavior remains the same? They haven’t changed at all…”

When we’re wronged, isn’t it easy to think that if we’re going to forgive it, then the least they could do is change? Shouldn’t it work both ways? My answer is YES. But it doesn’t. Some people never seem to change, because, well, that’s between them and God, and they’re often too busy blaming others for their problems to figure that out. The choice to forgive a wrong is a heart choice for yourself. It’s the act of handing over the hurt, and all the mess surrounding it, to God’s bigger hands so that YOU can be free of it. YOU can be free (and stay free by choosing forgiveness everyday) of all the negative feelings and resentments, so you can ultimately be the one who is free to really pray for that person to seek God, to have their heart changed, and possibly, if it’s in His plan, restore that relationship. I’m thankful that God has given us a way to relief from the sharp arrows of life, and that we’re not the ones who have to be in charge of changing the heart of the archer.

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive YOU YOUR trespasses.” Mark 11:25 ESV (emphasis mine)

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that YOU may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16 ESV (emphasis mine)

**Do a Google search for verses on forgiveness. You will note that we are to forgive, even seventy times seven, since we’ve been forgiven much. But not one time does it say that, if you are in a bad, or even dangerous, situation, you need to forgive and stay in harm’s way. Forgive for your own healing, and place yourself out of harm’s way by reaching out to your pastor, the authorities, or sound counsel until such a time as safe reconciliation, if possible, can take place.