Forgive and comfort.
Quite honestly, I don’t like those two words next to each other.
Not at all.
In fact, if it were up to me, those words would be as far away from each other as they could possibly get.
“Forgive and then ignore,” I like.
“Comfort those who are always kind to you,” I like.
“Forgive and comfort,” I don’t like.
However, we are called to Forgive and comfort those who have hurt us. It’s in the Bible.
I know. I was shocked too.
A few weeks ago, one of my friends hurt me, and hurt me bad. She didn’t mean to, but it still hurt. I had been reading through Fervent by Priscilla Shrier and I knew there was a chapter on hurt coming up, so I skipped to that chapter.
She starts of the beginning of the chapter saying,
“If I were your enemy, I’d use every opportunity to bring old wounds to mind, as well as the people, events, and circumstances that caused them. I’d try to ensure that your heart was hardened with anger and bitterness. Shackled through unforgiveness.”
Already I was squirming in my seat. I didn’t want the enemy to get the best of me. To succeed in recalling past hurts to mind, as he had been doing all that day.
I kept reading.
Priscilla shared a story of a time when she realized her prayer life wasn’t the same as it used to be, and she couldn’t understand why. Her prayers felt empty instead of full of life like they used to be.
One of her friends recommended a book on prayer to her, and she instantly began to read it. That book had the following scripture in it.
“If anyone has caused you pain… you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to affirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything… so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”
(2 Corinthians 2:5, 7-9, 11 ESV)
And the instant I read that scripture quoted in Fervent and saw the words “forgive and comfort” nestled there side by side I leapt off my chair and muttered emphatically to myself, “The Bible does not say that.” I grabbed my Bible and flipped it up to 2 Corinthians.
And saw to my dismay that the Bible indeed says that.
I don’t know how I missed those simple commands, “forgive and comfort,” before. I know I’ve read that passage before because 2 Corinthians 2:12 was underlined in my Bible. I guess I had just been blind.
Priscilla goes on to say:
“Unforgiveness is a strategic ‘design,’ craftily implemented by your enemy to ‘outwit you,’ to cripple your effectiveness in prayer and your power to stand against him victoriously. Which is why, if I were your enemy, I would do everything possible to keep you from forgiving anyone and everyone who’s done you wrong.”
Our enemy does not want us to be effective in prayer.
He wants to destroy our winning weapon against him and he does this by helping us harbor hatred in our hearts.
Which is why our call to forgive and comfort is so key. It goes against the grain, against every natural inclination our flesh has. In our sin, we long to protect ourselves, to harden ourselves towards those who have hurt us before so they could not possibly hurt us again.
Satan does not want us to forgive.
While we are building walls around our hearts and clinging to our bitterness and hurt and pride, he succeeds in what he wants most of all: When we are focused on the people and events and circumstances that have hurt us, we forget that Satan is our real enemy.
Satan would much rather us dwell on Billy Bob and how Billy Bob hurt us so dreadfully instead of recognizing that sin is the root problem and realizing that Satan and sin has ultimately been defeated.
“Not because it’s easy but because your enemy gets exactly what he wants from you otherwise. Forgive anyway. Not lightly and quickly but ferociously and fervently. Not only for the other person but mostly for you- so you can be free and full and whole and complete.
Forgiveness is hard. There, I said it. Forgiveness can be so difficult that we shrink from it in fear as if forgiveness could hurt us as much as the offence itself, like the sting of a band-aid.
We don’t have to do this alone. God enables us to forgive our enemies like He did when He died on the cross for our sins. “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13b ESV).
You may be asking, “How in the world can I forgive like Jesus forgave me??”
“His forgiveness of you is what makes your forgiveness possible toward others...Remembering what Christ’s redemption has done for you will make you eager to do it for another… And the forgiveness you don’t have any desire to give right now can be amazingly enabled through prayer.”
Now about that comfort part…
In Priscilla’s case, she felt led to comfort her offender by taking her a home-cooked meal to start amending the relationship.
Priscilla explains this concept of forgiving and comforting by saying,
“Is the Lord possibly asking you to comfort your offender as well? Maybe. Maybe not. There’s not one answer to this. I’m certainly not saying that a gesture of goodwill is always necessary or even possible. And the truth is, we’re never guaranteed a positive response when we do. Yet your willingness- your obedience, if it’s what the Lord is asking you to do- to go, to express kindness, to smile, to nod, to be generous and show concern is a tremendous test of godly surrender and humility.”
But why? Why must we comfort those who have hurt us?
Have you ever just voiced that you forgive someone without really meaning it? Your mouth says one thing, but your heart feels another? (*Raises my hand*)
When we comfort our offender, we’re able to discover if we’ve truly forgiven them.
“It’s a way of finding out if the forgiveness you claim to feel towards someone contains roots that run deeper than the roots of resentment did” (Shirer 162).
Forgive and comfort.
A concept that seems so easy in writing but can be so much more difficult to put to practice.
Just remember, the enemy wants us not to forgive nor comfort those who hurt us. He wants us to constantly feed on our hurt and pain because then we won’t be nearly as effective for the Kingdom of God.
Jesus, however, set us an example when He forgave us for our sins. His forgiveness hurt Him too, it took Him to the cross. However, He didn’t back down and neither should we.
Shirer, Priscilla Evans. "Your Hurts." Fervent: A Woman's Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer. Nashville: B&H Group, 2015. Print.