When God expands our capacity to love, we have the ability to let go of unforgiveness. Sometimes we need to reach the end of ourselves first.
Around September of last year, I sensed something significant was shifting. I wish I could say it was because the Lord revealed something profound to me through His word that I was obediently putting into action. In reality, it felt a lot more like pain and discomfort.
I have the gift of hindsight now, so I can say with clarity that in His infinite kindness, God was revealing through His spirit sin that needed to be rooted out of my life. More specifically, He showed me how unforgiveness was inhibiting my ability to live out His most important commandment, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-40
Confronting Our Sin
It is always uncomfortable when our sin is confronted, and forgiveness can be tricky, especially if you have been wronged in some significant ways. But any way you dress it up or justify it, unforgiveness can turn into bitterness, turning you away from anything resembling a loving disciple of Jesus.
In Ephesians 4:30-32, Paul addresses a new way of living in the Spirit. The last three verses of that chapter address the issue of forgiveness. “And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by him for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.”
It is important to pause here to remember that God’s kindness leads us to repentance, and repentance is a gift. Becoming a mature, loving disciple of Jesus will require a continual practice of weeding out, not giving you life to make room for something more. This is our work as disciples, increasing our capacity to love until our final day of redemption.
I spent the last four months of the year wrestling through what I knew I needed to do. It’s not always quick work, but it’s holy. It requires honesty and humility, which, let’s be honest, can first be humiliating. When wrestling with our thorns, the prick of the conviction of our sin can be so painful that we would rather give up.
What I didn’t understand fully at the time was that God, in his kindness, was nudging me to make space for something else. Our lives got flipped upside down this past month. Around the beginning of the year, we were made aware of a twenty-month-old little boy who needed a permanent home. The short story is that we have known that our family is incomplete, and we have long been praying that a need would drop in our lap. We have some scar tissue from an experience that when I got honest, terrified me, and I became paralyzed by that fear.
When this need arose, that fear almost stopped me from obeying the very thing God was asking of us. The truth was, I felt like I was still in the process of making room. The previous four months had felt so much like labor, and though I had tasted moments of freedom, there was still some work to do. After cycling through fear and grief, I came to this question. Is this what God had been preparing me for?
We have since welcomed that boy into our home with open arms, but the last four weeks of our lives have been lived in that very thin space between brutally hard and so holy that I can hardly find words. I will never understand the higher ways of God. I’m still scratching my head over the past six months, and here is where I have arrived. When God expands our capacity to love, He will often take us on a journey to the end of ourselves and call us back to hunger for Him.
In His Word
“And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by him for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, anger, and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:30-32
In Your Life
Over the next week, as it says in Psalm 139, ask God to search your heart. Repentance truly is a gift, and God is always kind to show us where He is calling us back to Himself.
Tim Keller’s book, “Forgive”, is an excellent place to start if you are struggling to forgive somebody, or maybe even yourself in your life right now.