Why Forgiveness Is Hard

I’ve been thinking about how hard it is to forgive others, and this has given me fresh appreciation of the forgiveness God offers.

Here’s a test: Think of one person who wronged you whom you struggle to forgive. Now, think of one person who wronged you whom you have utterly forgiven.

Now which person came to mind more easily?

In my case, it’s the first. One or two folks quickly come to mind who have wronged me, whose actions have cost me in some way. Those memories are hard to forget. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the grudge-holding type. I can let go of things pretty easily. But if I’m honest, I have to admit that there are a few people in the world who I would be content to never bump into again. As long as that’s the case, I can’t really say that I’ve forgiven them from my heart. But, I can think of something that’s even harder than forgiving someone else…

Needing Forgiveness is Harder

At least for me.

I know that somebody somewhere in the world thinks of me when they think of people they struggle to forgive.

I hate that. But, I don’t blame them. I know my life.

Regrets? Yeah…

Needing God’s Forgiveness is Hardest

So, this just makes me think about the forgiveness God offers us. It’s amazing to me that God forgives at all, because He’s not a “No problem,” “No worries,” “Don’t sweat it” kind of God.

You may remember the story of David, the ancient King of Israel of David and Goliath fame. Once upon a time, one of his own personal scandals was exposed. Can you say adultery and murder? Now, that’s two very hard-to-forgive offenses against at least two people (Bathsheba and her husband). And yet, when David prayed for forgiveness, he wrote, “Against You, and You alone have I sinned…”(Psalm 51:4). Why did he say that? It’s not that he misunderstood what he had done, it’s that he knew that God alone was the lawgiver and judge of lawbreakers.


So if, as my example shows, it’s hard for imperfect people to forgive one another, then how much harder must it be for a perfect God to forgive undeserving people…

like me, for example?

Forgiveness isn’t Cheap

How did He pull it off? How can God offer forgiveness to undeserving me, without abandoning His perfect justice? Like any human judge He can’t just let me off just because I’m repentant, because I say I’m sorry.

It must have cost Him. I can’t even imagine how it must have cost Him.

On the cross where Jesus hung, infinite justice met infinite obedience. The Lawgiver looked on a perfect Lawkeeper who offered Himself as a substitute for innumerable lawbreakers.

And God accepted the price.

He counted his justice against me satisfied. For His Son’s sake He offered me unconditional, eternal forgiveness.

But it killed Him to do it.

This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. – Jesus (Matthew 26:28)

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6 thoughts on “Why Forgiveness Is Hard

  1. Lon, I am faced with a situation of a friend of many years who will not tell me how I have offended her, or wronged her. She won’t tell me other than to say, “I didn’t like the way somethings was handled”. I don’t even think it was me! But, I am speculating. I have tried to reach out in all ways. She saw me in a public place, came up and hugged me, met my fiance, and smiled, was very friendly. I said, “are we good?” and she shook her head “no”, but she came up and greeted me like a friend would!!!

    Even after that, I tried to reach out and she hasn’t responded. (sigh) How do you not be angry at that? I think whatever I did negates what she is doing now. I have gone on without fretting over her actions, but in the back of my mind…that is the relationship that stands out as unsettling.

  2. Hey Kathy, yep that is strange – and painful. I’m sorry for that. Forgiveness always costs somebody something. Jesus commands us to forgive from the heart, and to verbally offer forgiveness if someone asks for it (e.g. confesses the wrong they did to you). I think the first is the harder, which makes the second hard to do honestly. And even when we truly forgive, it may not mean a relationship is restored. Sometimes there is wisdom in setting boundaries for the sake of our emotional safety. All of this complication further magnifies for me the simple, powerful forgiveness God offers us in Christ.

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  4. Is it wrong to want “justice” I have seen people recieve justice for a loved one that has been killed in car accidents etc…all christians and they go to court say they have forgiven and they have but they get recompense. money or whatever ,justice to the offended! Why do some people then feel it is so wrong for me to want justice /recompence in some instances? All are christians ,all have been wronged but I am told “forgive” I have but I do believe some should be held accountable! Am I wromg for feeling that way? HELP

    • Katie, Thank you so much for your comment. I’m not exactly sure what has occurred in your life, but your pain is obvious. Forgiveness is hard. It’s complicated. It costs you something. God is both a God of justice and forgiveness, and these do not stand in contradiction to each other. God’s forgiveness for people is only possible because Jesus took the justice people deserved. I don’t know your situation, but by way of illustration, I think government is responsible to uphold justice and defend the cause of victims. At the same time, God can give victims the moral courage to forgive (in the sense of letting go of wrongs) those who wrong them. And yet, forgiveness (in the sense of creating/restoring a relationship) should not be offered verbally to a non-repentant person.

      As I said, it’s complicated. I have a resource that may help you think and pray this through. If interested, just reply with the email address I should send it to. Lon

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