Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

When Forgiveness Takes Hold

About two years ago, my kids and I were facing a very difficult situation…one over which we had absolutely no control.

I worried and fretted. I begged and pleaded. But most importantly, I prayed.

I had spent the spring reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. I was so convicted about the importance of prayer that I began praying a circle around my home. Literally. Every single day, I went outside and walked around my home. Every single day, I prayed a hedge of protection over my family. Every single day, I asked God to spare us from the unfair situation we were facing.

And guess what? We still had to walk through it. We still had to face the hurt and the pain. We still had to deal with the unfair and painful situation.

But God…

It might seem like God didn’t answer my prayer. In reality, He did something far greater. He changed me. Permanently. Completely.

I had no idea what God was doing. I didn’t understand why we had to walk through the pain. I didn’t understand why He failed to answer my prayer.

Now I understand. You see, it was in those daily prayer walks—prayer walks that happened every single day for months—that my heart was softened. It was in my crying out to God that forgiveness took hold of every ounce of my being. It was in my fear that God removed every the root of bitterness that was still clinging to the fertile soil in my heart. It was in my heart-wrenching pain that His peace that surpasses all understanding began to guard my heart and mind.

And today…

Today as I sit hear consoling my children, day by day wiping their tears, I, too, can freely mourn. I can weep with my children as they tell me about their sadness. I can embrace my children as they struggle to understand why their dad had to be taken so soon. I can laugh as they tell stories about the silly things he did. I can relive the good days—days that I had buried deep within my heart.

Forgiveness is so important. If I had not forgiven my ex-husband prior to this time, I would be struggling to help my children. My kids need to feel safe coming to me, telling me the hard things. They need to know I will openly embrace the good memories of their dad, not just cling to the bad.

Grief is hard enough. To complicate it by bitterness and unforgiveness makes it even more difficult.

As I look back over this journey, I realize forgiveness is not always easy to explain. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Reconciliation can be a result of forgiveness, but not always. It doesn’t mean that we allow the other person to continue walking all over us. Sometimes it’s essential that we stand up for ourselves. And forgiveness certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t feel additional hurt and pain. Many times, the damage continues to build.

What I now realize is that after I spent months praying and walking, he no longer had control over me. It didn’t matter what he said or did, I was able to simply put it behind me and keep going, head held high. It meant that the new offenses didn’t add up because I chose not to let them bother me. It meant that I let things go rather than holding a grudge.

Yes, he still made me mad. But I was able to forgive seventy times seven. I was able to trust that every hurt and pain he caused me were in God’s hands, and it was His responsibility to take care of them. I was able to laugh at the stupidity of insults and arguments because I didn’t care about what he said or did to me; I only cared about what the Father thought of me.

And, today forgiveness allows me to mourn his death, to mourn the man who used to be my best friend, the man who is the father of my children, the man I once pledged to love until death do we part. And I guess a part of me still loved him.

I don’t know where you are on this journey. Many of you are facing the same pain of adultery and divorce that I have faced. Maybe not. Maybe it’s something totally unrelated. But we are all faced with the decision of whether to forgive at some point in our lives. Many times throughout our lives.

Will you let go of the anger and bitterness? Will you pray so long and so hard that God steps in and changes your heart? Will you trust God with the offense and let Him handle the offender?

If you do, you will find a freedom that is unmatched by anything this world has to offer. And, if you find that you have to say good-bye long before it’s time, you can grieve without regret.

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