When fathers and daughters stop talking
Have you ever been wrong about something for 23 years?
Until the age of 23, when people would tell me that the way I viewed my earthly father had a direct correlation to the way I saw my Heavenly Father, I would roll my eyes. I thought they were wrong because I had a great relationship with my dad, and what I thought was a great relationship with my Father, and I saw no connection between the two.
Then my parents told me they were getting a divorce. My dad was quitting his job as a pastor and moving several states away to continue the relationship that was part of the cause of their divorce.
It hurt to watch my dad leave my mom. It hurt even more to deal with the fact that my dad was leaving me. I convinced myself that if this man, who was 50 percent of my genetic makeup, could decide to leave, even though I hadn’t done anything wrong, my Heavenly Father must be ready to do the same thing.
My life crumbled to pieces over the next six months, and my idea of who my father was and how he felt about me crumbled with it. My relationship with my dad went from being one of the most encouraging things in my life to the cause of tears, hurt, abandonment, and anger.
I walked away from church for the next two years because my feelings told me that if God was really a good, loving Father, then He wouldn’t have done this to me. I hated God.
Change Starts With Confession
Over coffee one day, a friend asked me if, despite everything I was going through, I believed any of the Bible was true. When my answer was yes, her response was that if any of it was true, every word had to be true, in spite of what I felt.
No matter what my circumstances are, when my feelings about God contradict my knowledge of God and His promises, it is always my feelings that are wrong.
When my feelings about God contradict my knowledge of God, my feelings are wrong.
As I realized that truth, God began to show me that I’d been holding the sins of my broken and imperfect earthly father against my good and loving heavenly Father. I’d spent two years feeling sorry for myself and I’d chosen to find my identity in what had happened to me instead of finding my identity in God’s promises for me.
This was just as sinful as anything that my own dad had done, and something had to change.
Freedom Comes Through Forgiveness
Only after I returned to church, joined a group, and shared my story with them was I able to experience freedom from bitterness and forgiveness for what I had done. As I changed, my feelings toward my dad changed and I was able to offer forgiveness for the hurt I had experienced.
4 Ways Forgiving Sets You Free
1. You don’t have to carry the pain anymore.
Jesus tells us in Mark 11:25 that if we hold anything against anyone, we should forgive them because through that process of forgiving others we experience God’s forgiveness.
Forgiving my dad wasn’t saying that what he had done was OK. It just meant I was done letting the pain of my past form the forecast of my future. By forgiving my earthly father, I put myself in a place to receive forgiveness from my Heavenly Father.
2. Your faith increases.
Hebrews 11:1 describes faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Forgiveness grows our faith by forcing us to trust what God says about Himself — that He is for us and His justice is perfect — even when it seems like the person who hurt us is getting away with it.
We can’t trust God with something if we don’t put it in His hands. When we choose to forgive, we’re putting our desire for revenge, retribution and recognition in God’s hands (Romans 12:19). And in return, we gain a deeper, more realistic understanding of what it means to trust in His promises.
3. Your character develops.
To call ourselves Christians is to identify ourselves as people who want to be like Christ. The characteristics that defined Jesus’ life and ministry — compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience — are the same characteristics we want to define our lives (Colossians 3:12).
There’s only one way to grow our character, and that’s by exercising good character.
It is impossible to forgive someone for hurt they have caused and not grow in compassion, humility, and patience. Agreeing not to hold someone’s wrongs against them is an act of compassion and kindness in and of itself. Forgiveness teaches us humility as we submit to God’s command instead of giving into our desire for revenge. And, finally, forgiveness gives us an opportunity to practice patience as we accept the situation for what it is and trust God to intervene as He sees fit.
4. You gain credibility with others.
Nothing shows how much we believe in Jesus’ forgiveness like the way we forgive others.
When people see you forgive someone, it shows that you trust that God is who He says He is and that He is going to do what He said He would do. And often, the way we forgive can give others the courage they need to offer forgiveness.