“So let us throw off everything that stands in our way. Let us throw off any sin that holds on to us so tightly. Let us keep on running the race marked out for us.”
(Hebrews 12:1, NIRV)
The New Year is a time for new beginnings and a fresh start for all of us. As we look ahead, we must ask ourselves what we’re willing to take into the New Year with us. Hopefully another year older has also made us wiser and we can use the experiences of the past to help us mold a better future. The alternative is to repeat the same mistakes by not letting go of those things that keep holding us back. Nothing holds us back more than unforgiveness.
God’s awesome purpose for us sometimes gets derailed. Most often it is because of our sin when we willfully disobey God. Our sin hinders our prayers, kills our joy, robs our peace, poisons our soul, and breaks our fellowship with God. In addition, our sin neutralizes God’s purpose in our lives. His Spirit is grieved when we settle for so much less than what He wants for us.
Other things can foil God’s purpose such as being too busy with smaller things or too fearful to try new things. However, nothing knocks us off track quite like unforgiveness. All of us have a destiny but some never achieve it because a hurtful incident in our past has clipped our wings and we cannot soar as God intended. Do you really want to drag this into another year?
Why Most Resolutions Fail
A staggering number above 90% of all New Year’s Resolutions fail and the reason is quite simple. It’s because we approach a new behavior without addressing what has been driving the old behavior. Our goals for dieting and exercise last only a week or two because we’re trying to accomplish our objectives through sheer willpower. When that wears off, so does our commitment.
The same is true when it comes to unforgiveness. We cannot settle for over-simplistic platitudes such as “Forgive and Forget” or “Time Heals All Wounds” and expect to be set free from our painful pasts. The good news is that forgiveness is but a choice away, and all the benefits of joy, peace, and victory that come with it. If you’re weary of carrying the heavy burden of grudges, anger, bitterness, and resentment, here are four steps you should take with you into the New Year.
First, Release Your Power of Forgiveness
When Jesus was teaching his disciples about the challenge of forgiveness in Luke 17 they said, “Increase our faith!” Jesus responded in verse six, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” In other words, Jesus was saying that they didn’t more faith, they should use the faith they already have.
We may have been a victim at one time at the hands of someone else, but God doesn’t want us to stay victims. He has given us enormous power to forgive. In Acts 1:8 we’re told that we would “receive POWER”. In 2 Timothy 1:7 we’re told that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of POWER” and Ephesians 3:20 promises that God can do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the POWER that works in us.”
I often say that forgiveness has the power to win lost souls, transform empty lives, restore broken relationships, reconcile hopeless marriages, heal broken families, unite divided churches, rebuild entire nations, and change the whole world. And the reason it has so much power is because when we forgive, that’s when we are most like God!
But unless we exercise that power, it is useless. While you’ve been waiting for God to do something, God is waiting for YOU to do something. He’s given you all the power you need. Now release it.
Second, Resolve Your Pain of the Past
It’s comforting to know that “The Lord is close to those whose hearts have been broken. He saves those whose spirits have been crushed. (Psalm 34:18, NIRV) God knows where it hurts and He has been lovingly walking with you through your dark valley. But God also wants you to address your painful past and resolve it, so you can move forward with your life.
If I resolve to do something it requires extra effort on my part. It means I’ve worked through the thought process of the benefits and challenges, and I’m now ready to take action. The reason it requires resolution is because it will mean doing something beyond my normal activity or natural desire. If it came naturally to me I would automatically gravitate toward it, but if it involves something that is difficult, I must be resolved to see it through.
Resolve also requires strength and courage. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Just as a broken arm will not heal by itself, neither will our broken hearts. We must be intentional about our healing. How long this takes depends largely upon us. While we don’t want to rush through this process, we also don’t want it to last longer than necessary. There’s no need for you to drag unforgiveness into your New Year. Make this part of your resolution.
Third, Restore Your Peace in the Present
So what happens if I make a commitment to forgive in this New Year, and yet I’m still feeling hurt? In fact, you may question if you’ve actually forgiven at all despite doing and saying all the right things. But do not trust your emotions.
You need to think of your commitment to forgive much like a successful surgery. If you just had a deadly tumor successfully removed from your body, there would still be pain during your recovery. The pain after the operation doesn’t mean the surgery wasn’t successful. It’s a natural part of the healing process. Just because you still have pain doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven. And the longer you stay true to your commitment, the less and less it will hurt.
Most of all, restoring our peace in the present is about taking control and changing course for our lives.Most of all, restoring our peace in the present is about taking control and changing course for our lives.Click To Tweet The storms of our painful past may have blown us off course in our journey but now we can begin to steer the ship around toward God’s true purpose for our lives. We’ve had enough pain. Let’s get some peace. Who gets to choose?
Fourth, Reclaim Your Purpose for the Future
British novelist George Eliot once said, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” If you have been temporarily derailed by unforgiveness, it is time to reclaim your purpose!
God has a special purpose for each of us, which began before we were born. The Bible says, “Before I formed you in your mother’s body I chose you. Before you were born I set you apart to serve me” (Jeremiah 1:5, NIRV). God was careful when He created the breathtaking landscapes of earth and the majestic stars of the universe, but you are His masterpiece. He created you, redeemed you, gifted you, and laid out an amazing plan for your life.
If you have struggled with forgiveness, think of how much time and energy you wasted that you can now invest into the New Year. God is all about freedom. Jesus said in John 8:36, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” He has always wanted you to be free because He has so much more for you. He has been patiently and lovingly waiting for you and now that you’re ready, God is anxious to take you to the next level to enjoy the fruits of freedom.
Happy New Year!
Copyright (c) 2018 Gil Mertz, used with permission.
Gil Mertz is Assistant to the President at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. His daily commentaries on forgiveness have been broadcast on more than 300 stations across America.