The Two-Sided Edge of Forgiveness

by Lysa TerKeurst


Do you ever find yourself defining life by before and after the deep hurt?

The horrific season. The conversation that stunned you. The shocking day of discovery. The divorce. The wrongful death so unfathomable, you still can’t believe they’re gone. The breakup. The day your friend walked away. The hateful conversation. The remark that seems to now be branded on your soul. The day everything changed.


That marked moment in time. Life before. Life now. Is it even possible to move on from something like this? Is it even possible to create a life that’s beautiful again?


I deeply understand this kind of defining devastation in such a personal way.

Like you, I wish I didn’t have such an intimate understanding of those feelings. But I do.

If you read my book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, you know of the shattering discovery of my husband Art’s affair and the long road of uncertainty I was still walking at the end of that book. The four years of hellish heartbreak that followed the discovery did eventually take an unexpected turn toward reconciliation. I’m grateful, but I have not been spared the slow and grueling work of finding one’s way again after experiencing something that forever marks your life.

When your heart has been shattered and reshaped into something that doesn’t quite feel normal inside your own chest, the word “forgiveness” feels a bit unrealistic to mention.

But friend, can I whisper something today I’m learning?

Forgiveness is possible, but it won’t always feel possible.

It’s a double-edged word, isn’t it?

It’s hard to give. It’s amazing to get. But when we receive it so freely from the Lord and refuse to give it, something heavy starts to form in our souls.

It’s the weight of forgiveness that wasn’t allowed to pass through. And for me, that’s mainly because I’ve misunderstood something so incredibly profound about forgiveness.

Forgiveness isn’t something hard we have the option to do or not do. Forgiveness is something hard-won that we have the opportunity to participate in.

Our part in forgiveness isn’t one of desperation, where we have to muscle through with gritted teeth and clenched fists. It isn’t sobbing through the resistance of all our justifications to stay angry and hurt and horrified by all they did. This is what I once thought forgiveness was, and after already being the one who was hurt, I couldn’t imagine having yet another process to work through.

But when I wrongly think forgiveness rises and falls on all my efforts, conjured maturity, bossed-around resistance, and gentle feelings that feel real one moment and fake the next, I’ll never be able to authentically give the kind of forgiveness Jesus has given me.

My ability to forgive others rises and falls on leaning into what Jesus has already done, which allows His grace for me to flow freely through me. (Ephesians 4:7)

Forgiveness isn’t an act of my determination.
Forgiveness is only made possible by my cooperation.

Cooperation is what I’ve been missing. Cooperation with what Jesus has already done makes verses like Ephesians 4:32 possible: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Forgiving one another just as Christ forgave you. God knew we couldn’t do it on our own. So, He made a way not dependent on our strength. A forgiving way. A way to grab on to Jesus’ outstretched arms, bloody from crucifixion and dripping with redemption. He forgives what we could never be good enough to make right. He makes a way for us to simply cooperate with His work of forgiveness … for us to receive and for us to give.

That person or people — they’ve caused enough pain for you, me and for those around us. There’s been enough damage done. And you don’t have to be held hostage by the pain. You get to decide how you’ll move forward. If you’re knee-deep in pain and resonate with the feelings of resistance I have felt too, let me assure you: Forgiveness is possible. And it is good.

So, I want you to just sit here for a moment today and consider the possibility around this double-edged word, “forgiveness.” Not because your pain doesn’t matter. Not because what they did was right. Not because it fixes everything. But because your heart is much too beautiful a place for unhealed pain. And your soul is much too deserving of freedom to stay stuck here.

God, thank You for sending Your Son Jesus so we don’t have to do life alone. Thank You for caring about my pain and meeting me in this place. Show me how I can cooperate with forgiveness today, even when it’s hard. Help me continue to take steps in this healing journey with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (NIV)




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