July 14, 2020
When Forgiveness Leaves Justice Up to God
by Candy Arrington
“Are you ever going to get over it?”
I was surprised by the question and a little annoyed.
“I certainly hope so,” I replied. But did I really want to move beyond what happened? I was a victim. Didn’t I rather enjoy recounting a litany of injustice?
Once a collaborative project I had worked on for several years was complete, another person swiftly moved to claim sole credit, leaving me stunned and wounded. I felt used. When I attempted to discover the reasons for this behavior, I was answered with anger and verbal abuse. I was mystified by this unexpected twist that ended our relationship.
A year later, I was still reeling with hurt and ranting about injustice. Like a dog worrying a bone, I’d grabbed the subject at every possible opportunity, gnawing it again and again. I wanted others to see the unfairness of what happened and sympathize with me. Although I had recorded my feelings in a journal and prayed for resolution, I had no sense of peace.
One day, while asking God to help me forgive, he surprised me by pointing out that what I really wanted was revenge. God reminded me forgiveness and revenge cannot coexist. Forgiveness involves releasing offenders from paying for the injury they inflicted. Since I still wanted my offender to pay, it was impossible for me to forgive.
Still, I was reluctant. The word “justice” hovered like a banner across my mind. But as I continued to pray, I began to see that not only would I never put the hurt behind me if I didn’t do what God asked, but I’d also be guilty of disobeying him. So, in heartfelt prayer, I relinquished my desire for justice to God and asked him to give me the grace to obey and trust him. I felt a spiritual weight lift as I took the first breath of forgiveness.
God changed my heart, but not immediately. It was a process. When I was tempted to recount injustice, God gently reminded me to be silent. Sometimes I listened and obeyed, other times I couldn’t seem to resist diving into the familiar tirade again.
God brought to mind times when I’d hurt others through careless or deliberate words, indifference, or purposeful exclusion. Painfully, I began to see myself as guilty of wounding others as I had been wounded. When I started seeing the “logs” in my own life, my offender’s “specks” didn’t seem quite as significant (Luke 6:41-42 NASB).
Finally, God prompted me to offer blessings instead of curses. Initially, that seemed like too much to ask, but in a willful act of obedience, I tried. At first, my prayers were tiny, stiff, and peripheral. I prayed for God to bless my offender’s family, but avoided praying for my offender. But those prayers paved the way, so eventually, I could pray more directly and sincerely.
I may never know exactly how God handled justice, but to my amazement, I don’t feel the need to know. My heart is no longer crushed and weighed down by resentment. My mind is not clouded by thoughts of revenge, and my tongue no longer spews venom. I have experienced the freedom of forgiveness, a place I would never have reached without continual dialogue with God through prayer.
Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the Lord to handle the matter. -Proverbs 20:22 NLT
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About the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.
Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.
Join the conversation: Have you ever struggled to forgive? How did it finally happen?