Forgiveness isn't easy. During my mom's illness, I had a situation with a friend that's hard to describe. Our relationship went from bad to worse, then absolute dissolution--with lots of hostility attached.
After my mother died, all the resentments, all of the things that felt so unfair at the time started to surface.
With an absolute inability to get angry with my mom for being sick and dying, I let that anger fester against this person.
I had terrible thoughts. I fantasized a lot about all the things I'd wished I'd said to my friend when my mom was sick. I wished I'd defended myself, I wish I'd literally told my friend off in countless, colorful ways.
I spent a lot of dark time alone, daydreaming bad things.
Then something happened. I was lying in bed one night praying and God told me to forgive. Like a stubborn child, I said, "No. I don't want to."
The next time God told me to forgive, I said, "I don't want to. Will you help me want to?"
Then, I wanted to. And in my prayer journal, I literally wrote prayers for my friend. Then internally I'd do an about face and start re-hashing the hurts. This was an impetus for confession.
Time went on and the cycle continued, prayer, anger, confession.
It was a struggle.
Then God said, again, forgive. I said, "Please just show me how."
On Mother's Day, I drove to visit my mom's grave. I dropped to my knees and cried my heart out. I didn't get up to leave her until I was all dried up.
On the drive home, I discovered a Christian radio station and a song came on called "Bring on the Rain."
The song is a conversation with God, explaining gratitude for life's hardships. As long as God is glorified in the end, bring it on.
Then something strange happened.
My heart was filled with mercy and fervent prayer for my friend. In that drive home, I wanted nothing more than for God to grab hold of her heart and simply bless it. In that short time, I was given a brief glimpse into the freedom of sacrificing my anger and hurt feelings.
It's not that I was completely in the clear. I wasn't. But at least when the cycle would begin again, I had a reference point and full faith in Who to hand my heart over to through prayer.
Not too long ago, there were a couple of days in a row where I prayed, "God, I know I'm supposed to live by faith. But could you just please let me know You're here?"
Nothing happened the first day.
I prayed again and nothing happened the second day.
On the third day, I ran into my aforementioned friend.
My heart started to beat fast in my chest and I felt a feeling of dread. My deer-in-the-headlight eyes probably darted for the nearest exit.
Then a funny thing happened. She embraced me, said kind things to me. She was uplifting, supportive.
At that moment, I had a choice. Either cling to old, deep hurts, or see it for what it was: an answer to prayer.
And as soon as I accepted it for what it was, God's full reassurance that He could be trusted, I was free.
Thank goodness I didn't have to rely on myself to get the job of forgiving done.