I’ve been trying to forgive my dad for what he did to my family, but sometimes I’m still angry at him, and sometimes I feel love for him. How do I forgive him completely?
The fact that you desire to forgive him is a powerful sign the Lord is working in your heart. But there are two issues involved. The first is about justice—our sense that a person needs to pay for what he/she has done. The second issue is the emotional hurt and ongoing wound that keeps our thoughts bound to the neg- ative and allows the hurt to control us. Here are three steps, which unfortunately I learned the hard way, to help you forgive someone who hurt you and to be totally healed from it.
1. Acknowledge the “payback” (justice) belongs only to the Lord.
He is the only one who sees all sides of a situation and has the perfect perspective. This is a lordship issue, and it’s a vertical conversation between you and the Lord that might sound like this: Lord, I give the demand for justice into Your hands. I know Your Word says, “Vengeance belongs to the Lord, He will repay” (Romans 12:19). Letting the Lord take control is the easiest step. This is not a situation in which the victim pays and the perpetrator gets off. Quite the opposite! It is an appeal for God to redeem the situation.
2. Choose to forgive the person who wounded you (and others).
Most of us have learned to pray this forgiveness prayer: “God, I choose to forgive this person.” Sometimes this can actually become a horizontal conversation—telling the person directly or in writing that we have been wounded, but we choose to forgive. Of course, the kingdom objective to forgiveness is reconciliation. The ultimate desire is for this relationship to be restored to some level and the enemy would not gain the advantage.
3. Pray for and speak blessings over your offender.
This is not only for the other person’s benefit, but for your own emotional healing as well. It requires help from the Holy Spirit, because in ourselves, we don’t want to bless those who have hurt us.
Early in my first pastoral job, an older man verbally assaulted me in public. As he was walking out of our meeting, he was spewing insults and criticism (some of which had some validity). Honestly, I didn’t feel the sting from his words—until about the third day. Then I began to replay them in my head and an offense began to rise up in my heart.
I was dutifully exercising the first two steps outlined above, but the black cloud persisted. Then I cried out to the Lord, and He taught me this third step.
In my mind’s eye I saw a knife in my arm, and the Lord said, “What are you going to do about that?” I pulled it out and saw a wound. He said, “What are you going to do about it?” Immediately, I saw gauze wrapped around the arm to stop the bleeding. As I was seeing this, I heard Him say, “Bless those that curse you; pray for those that spitefully use you,” (Matthew 5:44). Then He explained, “When you choose to forgive, you are pulling the knife out; but your healing comes when you begin to bless and pray for those that wound you.” I did this out of obedience and, over time, experienced a supernatural healing in my heart with love and compassion for the offender.
Truly forgiving someone takes courage and faith, but if you will let God be the judge, determine to forgive, then begin to bless the offender, God will heal your wound. I encourage you to pray for your father and ask God to pour out blessing upon him. You will experience healing and increasing love for him. Ultimately, we can’t control what others do, but by the Holy Spirit’s help, we can control its negative impact upon us.