Updated: Oct 16, 2019
Four years ago I had the hardest time with forgiveness. I thought I knew what forgiveness was all about, but I had no idea what God was about to teach me, nor was I prepared. It was only until the people closest to me in my life offended me in a way that left me heartbroken, that I was met with the challenge of granting real forgiveness. I have never publicly spoken about this, but many close to me already know. I hope by sharing publicly this might help someone going through heartbreak or struggling to forgive...and of course share what our God is all about in the process :)
So four years ago, I introduced a girl to my family and posed the question if it was okay to date her with the intention to marry her one day. For a traditional Indian family this was unusual because in my home dating, school dances, and being close friends with girls were strongly opposed-- so much that I never entertained the idea. However, this time I felt I was mature enough. I was patient, thoughtful, and prayerful about the decision I made. In fact my own heart was almost at peace, but I knew complete peace would not come until I had my family's blessing. Unfortunately, there were circumstances that I could not fully comprehend at the time and my family was opposed to my decision. This tore my heart apart because on one hand I felt this was the relationship God was leading me into, and on another hand I couldn’t possibly understand why my family whom I loved dearly would suggest I end our relationship. I eventually chose to respect and honor the decision of my family, but I was terrible at this because I went back and forth on that decision a few times because heartbreak is hard and messy.
The thing about “break-ups” is that whoever you bonded with with leaves a permanent imprint on your heart. It never goes away. It will be your choice whether you allow God to mold and soften the edges of that space and fill it with something good, or you let that space gnaw at you making you bitter and resentful. For almost a year I filled that space up with bitterness and resentment towards my family for what they did. Additionally, I couldn’t piece together why God would lead me to such an exceptional person only to have it all blow up right in my face. In short, I was struggling and it sucked.
However during that time, God made it clear as day to me what forgiveness was all about. "Until you go through the fire of forgiving someone who’s closest to you, whom you love and care for deeply, you will never truly understand what forgiveness is. You see, I have loved everyone with a relentless love, in fact I am Love itself. What you feel now, the pain, sorrow, and anger, is what I had to overcome to go the cross. I did it for all eternity— past, present and future."
Forgiveness for us is so difficult. It’s a slow process. When it really counts it always requires a transcendent perspective: to know that because the God of the Universe forgave me, I can forgive another. It’s understanding that the strength to forgive comes from Christ's death and resurrection. And if you don’t forgive, anger leads to bitterness, bitterness leads to poor choices and estrangement, and estrangement leads to brokenness. And that brokenness is something only God can really put back together, no matter how you try to reconcile.
Just as we experience heartbreak. God’s heart also break for us. We find this in the book of Hosea. It’s the only book of the Bible where a prophet is asked to marry a promiscuous woman so that he could experience the heartbreak God was going through, so he could passionately communicate God’s message to the very people who had broken His heart. While Hosea’s wife was unfaithful to her marriage vows, God’s people were spiritually unfaithful by going after false gods of the people around them. The pain Hosea felt as his wife committed adultery ended up being symbolic of the heartache that God felt when Israel left their first love for other Gods. God’s heart was broken just as Hosea's heart was broken. Hosea passionately loved his wife just as God passionately loved his people.
Judah Smith eloquently describes the struggle of the human heart, the extravagance of God’s love, the beauty of forgiveness by bringing story in Hosea and Christ's sacrifice together.
I’ve since forgotten that feeling of being heartbroken and angry. It makes me wonder though, If I love my parents and family so much, how much more does the God of the universe love me. How much more is His heart broken by my own sin. I hope we don't make God our celestial get out of jail free card. I hope we don't cheapen His forgiveness. He’s a God of relationship, a God of deep personal love. Understanding the cost of forgiveness helps us better understand what Jesus had to endure on the cross: not merely a horrible, brutal and physical execution, but an emotional and mental battle to overcome bitterness, anger, and heart break.
You may be anywhere in this journey. You may be the one in the wrong and are seeking forgiveness. You may be the one who was hurt and stuck with the challenge of forgiving someone you love deeply. You may be in the middle of heartbreak.
Why does God allow us to go through Heartbreak? Why did did God ask Hosea to “Go find her”, the wife who had betrayed him? It’s times like this when I take heart in the promise that “all things work together for the good of those who love him.” We can take heart that God experiences heart break, that God has overcome heart break, that God forgave when it cost the ultimate price. If we are truly image bearers of Christ the world needs to see what it means to love relentlessly and to forgive when it’s costly. Imagine a world where we live radically in this way.