I hate crying. But I sat in my car and cried. I was upset, frustrated, and hurt. I didn’t know how else to express it besides letting tears fall on my face. 

I tried to not let it bother me, but at this point there was so much anger and bitterness stored up. God, I can’t stand these people. I don’t want anything to do with them. I don’t want to be here anymore. Why am I still here? Why are you allowing me to still be here? God, you see me, right?

Unforgiveness can be so subtle. Sometimes, we don’t even catch ourselves holding a grudge, and yet somehow we can find ourselves in situations where unresolved hurt begins to consume us. The thought of this person turns us cold. The anger that resurfaces hinders us from being at peace. We vent more and more about the situation just to feel heard and justified. 

Forgiveness is easier said than done. But when done, forgiveness changes us. Here are five things to remember when it’s hard to forgive. 

1. Forgiveness Reflects the Character of God 

When we look at our relationship as human beings to the Creator of humankind, we can put into perspective and begin to understand the hurt, anger, and pain that God feels. He created us in His image and in our free will, we chose to sin against Him. Genesis 6:5-6 says, The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” 

In His love for us and in His plan to restore and redeem, God sent His son to die on the cross for our sins. John 3:16 says to us that, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Forgiveness is part of the good news. It is the character of God. When we forgive as God has forgiven us, we reflect His love towards His children. 

2. More Than Just Flesh and Blood

Sometimes we can be so fixed on our anger and the person who did wrong against us that we forget about the spiritual battle we are fighting. That’s the tactic of the enemy. Paul says to us in Ephesians 6: 10-12, Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

The battle is not against flesh and blood. The battle is not against that family member, friend, neighbor, or co-worker. Scripture confirms for us that the battle is against the rulers, authorities, powers of the dark world, and the spiritual forces of evil.

If satan can get us to believe that it’s okay to linger in a state of bitterness and unforgiveness, then he has a foothold on us from experiencing the goodness of God.

But Scripture also tells us to be strong in the Lord and his mighty power, to put on the armor of God, so that we can take a stand against these schemes. There is power, victory, and authority in Jesus. We walk in the same power, victory, and authority when we forgive those who have hurt us.  

RELATED: A Prayer-Driven Life: Power of Confessing and Forgiving (Part 4 of 5)

3. Forgiveness Releases You

As much as we want to conceal our feelings and emotions, the bitterness that we allow in our hearts consumes us over time. It impacts our thoughts and our attitudes, the way we interact with people, and it even impacts us physically. We may think that holding a grudge affects the other person but really it holds us captive. In Psalm 66:18 it states, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Unforgiveness blocks us from hearing the voice of God, receiving the blessings that God wants to give us, and the flow of the Holy Spirit in our life.

We are instructed over and over again in the Bible to forgive.  

Matthew 6:14-15 says,For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Ephesians 4: 31-32 reminds us, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Forgiveness isn’t a matter of suppressing the pain but rather releasing the offense and giving the burden to God.

In doing so, we find healing, grace, and freedom. We are consciously making the decision to let go so that God can come in to fill us with His presence and the peace that we need in our life. 

4. Forgiveness Requires Nothing from the Other Person 

As human beings, we tend to look for closure. If I can make things right with someone, if we could mend our hurt, if we both took part of the conversation and owned up to our mistakes then we can move on from this incident. While reconciliation and restoration is a beautiful and powerful thing, it’s not always the reality. Reconciliation requires the parties involved to play an active role in mending the relationship. It requires us to change.

I’ve been learning that while I don’t have control over the other person’s thoughts or actions, I have control of mine.

I can forgive and I can give the burden of anger, frustration and bitterness to God without being granted permission from someone else. Forgiveness doesn’t require anything from the other person or the parties involved. It’s an intentional decision that we can choose to make.  

5. Pray 

It can be so easy to dwell in our emotions to the point where we exclude God from the chaos that we feel. But it’s in these moments that we need God the most. It’s okay to come before God with the things that are on your heart. You can be honest. God, it’s really hard for me to forgive right now. It’s even hard for me to pray about this right now. But I want to come to you with everything that’s been on my heart and my mind. Lord, help me to give this up to you. Help me to love like how you love and to forgive others as you have forgiven me. 

God sees you. He knows what happened. He wants you to walk in the freedom that Jesus Christ died to give to us. In our deepest hurts and our deepest pain, we can press in.