Life is hard. Getting everything right is impossible. I hate when I make mistakes. I hate causing other people pain. I hate failing and I hate that I break God’s law (sin).
Yet, I feel like I have hit the self-destruct button in recent days. I have failed in so many ways. I have messed up a lot lately, backed out of commitments, spoken harshly, made huge mistakes that have affected others, battled for sobriety harder than anyone but a fellow struggler could understand. In the end, I have collected consequences of my own bad choices. I have repeatedly responded out of the anxiety and pain in my heart rather than out of faith in God. Instead of trusting that even though I was afraid and hurting, even though everything seemed to be spinning out of control, God remains in control. So, I chose to try to keep myself safe. Entrusting myself to God’s care is another of the things faith chooses (and that my 12 step program teaches). Through God’s Word, I know how important it is to acknowledge my sin before Him, repent, and ask for forgiveness. And through the twelve step program I have been involved in, I have learned the necessity of acknowledging to the ones I have hurt the damage I have done and to make amends.
And so I have. Four times in the last four days I have gone to four different people and acknowledged my shortfalls (my sins), acknowledged the hurt that I caused them both unintentionally and intentionally. I have humbly asked forgiveness from each of them. I am thankful for the one who has responded by extending forgiveness.
Not receiving forgiveness from the three others makes me feel insecure and question whether I have offended beyond their ability to forgive. Hurting others has deeply grieved my heart. The broken relationships deeply grieves my heart. Questions keep playing over in my mind. Have I so destroyed the relationships with my mess-ups that they can’t be restored? Will the damage I did to the person be a scar she carries or will she heal? Please Jesus, help her heal.
At the same time, I am ever aware that not one person I have hurt is required to forgive me – they have the freedom and the right to deny me forgiveness. It hurts. It is humbling, but the truth is, her hurt matters. I am the one in the wrong. Just because I am ready to recognize my sin, ask her forgiveness, and continue in relationship does not mean she is required or ready to forgive. And truth? She may never be ready to forgive me or trust me again. That is her choice and her right. I have to accept where she is at.
And you may be thinking this all sounds hopeless, so why even bother? What if I am not forgiven by the ones I hurt? What if I am never reconciled to the ones that I have offended? The hard part of making amends isn’t confessing the harm to others (let’s face it- they already know) or asking for forgiveness. Being rejected and having a deaf ear turned to the request for forgiveness is the hard part. Knowing that the harm caused runs so deep that the offended party is unable to forgive is the most difficult thing – and something I deeply grieve. Yet, maybe God can somehow use my confession of hurt I’ve caused and the request for forgiveness to spur the other party’s healing forward, to bring her some kind of peace. So, no matter the cost or the humiliation I may experience, I am compelled to confess my wrongdoing and to seek forgiveness with the ultimate goal of reconciliation (if possible). All along, I pray that even if forgiveness is beyond her ability, that God will use my words to move her to healing.
All this talk of not being forgiven, I want to end with the best news: God forgives. Every one of my sins (and yours) is ultimately against Him (Psalm 51:4). And praise God! He promises that if I confess my sin, He will forgive and if you confess your sin, He will forgive. “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9) Whether or not others choose to forgive me, I am forgiven by the One who every one of my sins has been against. Not only am I forgiven, but He washes away the filth of my sin.
Before God, I don’t have to wonder if I am okay. I don’t have to question if my sin was too big or the harm I caused too much for Him to forgive. The minute I turn to Him, confess that I have messed up, that I have failed to hold on to His truth, He forgives me. He welcomes me back into fellowship. Through Christ, I have peace with God! This is part of the gift God has given me through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus.
Oh, it doesn’t take away the consequences. And really? God forgives me, but the ones that I have hurt are still hurting. That will grieve my heart as I pray for each one to know the peace of God in the hurt and as I plead with Him to write healing in their hearts as He has in mine. Thankfully, I can hold on to the promise that one day, He will make all things right. One day, when Jesus comes, all relationships will be healed and He will wipe away every tear. In the meantime, I am learning to walk in the forgiveness that I have in Christ, while praying for the ones that I have hurt to be brought to healing.
And for you today? Have you hurt someone – intentionally or unintentionally? Are you ready to make amends and seek forgiveness for your failures and sins? If you are, I encourage you to pray today, seek God, asking Him to prepare not only your heart, but also the heart of the person you have wronged. Then, step out in faith and courage, confident that the One who has called you is with you. Confess your shortfall (sin) to the other person and ask forgiveness…without expectation of receiving an apology for the part they may have played in the situation…without expectation of receiving forgiveness. The other person may not forgive – you can’t change that. But by acknowledging the harm that you have done (without excuse) and asking forgiveness, you are giving value to the other person. You are also choosing to live peaceably as much as you are able.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” ~ Romans 12:18