…the absence of intense, difficult and negative emotions.
Here’s a quote by Bob McDonald in a comment on Lingamish’s post, Psalm 68: Should We Be Singing the Yucky Parts?, which I have been thinking back on as I’ve pondered this concept of forgiveness:
definitely sing, meditate, pray the yucky parts [of Scripture] – but leave the resolution to the one who loves you and knows how to deal with enemies
I have been thinking that a large part of what I am giving up when I choose to receive the full impact of an offense committed against me and the pain that comes with it, is revenge.
In my experience, this has not meant that my heart does not ever cry out for justice to be carried out against those who have committed evil against me, whether individually or corporately. (Sometimes I want justice to be carried out against those who have committed evil against other people, but I think that desire does not so easily slide into a desire for revenge.Revenge seems to me to be an attitude of wanting to see punished the one who has committed an offense against me. Fighting for justice on behalf of another doesn’t stir up the same spirit of vindictiveness I can feel in myself when wanting to see someone pay for evil done against me. I’m not too sure about this difference, but I think there is a difference.)
So, I’ve been pondering the idea that forgiving and not being bitter doesn’t mean that I never cry out for judgment to be carried out against those who have harmed me. I don’t often cry out for that. But at times I have. And when I have, I have found that cry for avengement of the wrong also to be a deep expression of my trust in God. It is a crying out from my place of pain, not so much in anger AT the other person, but a deep anguished expression TO God of my longing for vindication, for the wrong to be made right. The expression of that heart cry is part of my choice to trust him. And out of trust expressed in that anguished way, I am able to come back to resting and waiting and facing head on the pain that is mine.
If I’m trusting God to do his thing in his time and his way, I don’t need to hold on to the fuel that will keep me pumped and ready to seek for and carry out revenge. I can long for God to act with justice in response to the evil committed against me, without it being a weight for me to carry regarding how that should look and when it should be carried out.
I love the picture of being free to cry out for vindication or justice or avengement or retribution (I’m struggling with the semantics and haven’t decided on which word means what I’m trying to say), but not having to bear within myself the burden (or demand) of making that happen. It is not my burden or my responsibility. My burden is the pain of the offense I have received. And I can trust God as I walk through and with that pain. But, I can also trust God that the offense has not gone unnoticed or ignored, and that, ultimately, God is the one who will carry out retribution or mercy. For me, that is a place of rest–not having to hide my cry to God to avenge the evil that has been committed. But also being able to leave the ultimate resolution of that to the one who loves me and knows how to deal with my enemies.
I was deeply moved by Lingamish’s post and question as well as by Bob’s response. The day I first read that post last September, I was thinking about the song Lingamish refers to from Psalm 68:1, “Let God arise and his enemies be scattered.” Here is what I commented back then: “[I] realized there are times that I could sing verse 1 really as an affirmation and shout of praise that I can trust God to take care of my enemies and the injustices I face or see around me. In that place, I experience freedom and gladness that I KNOW I can trust God to take care of “it” or “them”, so I can go on with my life. Othertimes, when I’m battling bitterness, to sing the same song would be feeding a beast inside of me rather than crying out in trust. Bob’s first sentence makes a lot of sense to me. The place to start is knowing I can trust the one who knows how to take care of enemies. From that place, I can yell, scream, cry, plead for relief or justice–with the full range of emotions anchored in trust.”
I don’t have to sit and ponder and dream about how God will resolve the evil carried out against me. Nor do I need to delight in imagining how miserable my enemy will be when “God takes care of him”. That, I think, would be going back to trying to lessen the amount of the pain I feel from the evil done to me by deflecting some of it back (even vicariously or just in my mind) on to the offender. The offense HAS happened against me. And it hurts me excruciatingly. I long for God to relieve the pain and to bring about my vindication. But, no matter what, no matter how he does that or to what degree, I trust Him. He loves me. I trust Him. He knows how to deal with enemies. I trust Him.
I am still at a place where I can’t easily define forgiveness. And I certainly don’t have a checklist of how forgiveness has to look. For me, it’s less of something to do or not to do, and more of a reality of trust that is stretched further than I ever wanted it to be stretched. Will I trust God, even now, even in this situation? When the answer is yes, I think the forgiveness process happens as a gift from God without it having to be something I force to happen or scrape all my strength together and strive desperately after. Forgiveness looks very different in different people and different situations. The emotions out of which forgiveness is lived are many. And they are often very intense. Forgiveness doesn’t get rid of those emotions, but it does change how they look, I think, in a way that is not easily quantified.
I have seen people who are angry, confused and broken, with a bitter unforgiving spirit. But I have also seen forgiveness in the eyes of angry, confused and broken people. I can’t tell you exactly what the difference is, but I think it has something to do with a trust in God that is deeply intertwined and woven through their anger, confusion and brokenness. When I see that, I am reminded of David, Job, Habakkuk and Jeremiah. This is not trite, emotionless forgiveness. But deep, costly, painful forgiveness that somehow ends up radiant, vibrant and full of life and intensity. Forgiveness that flourishes in the intensity and honesty of the emotions surrounding the offense will also be honest and intense.