Committing to this post-abortion recovery journey would certainly bring back old memories and emotions – that was for sure. I would certainly have to deal with some things that I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to… But I also knew that as I did these things, I’d find immense relief and healing, and finally be able to move forward fully with my life.
After finally understanding that the root of my anger came from the circumstances surrounding my abortion (you can read about that here), I started longing to forgive. Anger had taken root in so many areas of my life that situations completely unrelated to my abortion were affected. Holding on to anger required so much energy and completely drained me both physically and emotionally.
I think that’s why I started yearning to forgive. I wanted to forgive the people that had been targets of my anger for so many years. I wanted to forgive myself. I wanted to release the anger that I had been so desperately holding on to and find the peace that only forgiveness brings. I was ready to let go and claim responsibility for my decisions and actions.
People often say “forgive and forget”, but I had to learn that forgiveness is not forgetting what happened. I would never, and could never, forget what I had done. I could never forget the actions of others in my abortion circumstance. But the memory of my abortion is actually what allowed God to use my story for His glory and to further His Kingdom. I had an abortion when I was 19 years old and I couldn’t change that – what I could change is how I allowed God into my circumstance.
Although I desired to forgive my ex-boyfriend, I really struggled with this idea. I wasn’t ready to invite him back into my life. I didn’t want to talk to him – I really didn’t want anything to do with him. I was married now and I really didn’t want to bring the past into my current relationship. What I didn’t understand yet is that forgiveness and reconciliation are two very different things.
Forgiveness is a decision we make to stop feeling anger towards someone. Reconciliation brings two things (or in this case two people) back together again. I had to learn that I could forgive without reconciliation – and for me, that was freeing in itself.
I have to take a moment to say that sometimes reconciliation is required as a compliment to forgiveness – and quite honestly as an added gift to forgiveness. Each situation is different, so I strongly urge you to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit and listen for His prompting. My situation is unique to me, and reconciliation with my ex was not required for me to forgive him.
Do you remember the story of Joseph and his brothers in the Bible (Genesis 37-50)? Long story short, Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him (he was the baby) and so they sold him into slavery (Genesis 37). The Lord was with Joseph over the years and he ended up in a position of power in Egypt (Genesis 41). Around this time there was famine in the land and people came from all over to buy grain from Joseph. And who do you think showed up on his doorstep? You guessed it – his brothers (Genesis 42).
I love what happens as Joseph reveals himself to his brothers (Genesis 45). He says, “I am your brother Joseph, who you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father for Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt…” He kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him.
What a sweet picture of forgiveness and reconciliation! And further, Joseph realized that although his brothers intended to harm him, His Heavenly Father intended his circumstance for good. God did not cause his brothers to sell him into slavery, but He certainly orchestrated something grand out of the situation to preserve life for Joseph’s family and for the people of the land.
As I think about my own situation, I realized that while the deceiver was heavy at work to kill, steal and destroy my life and the life of my child, my loving Heavenly Father could use my circumstance in a similar way to Joseph’s – to preserve life and further His Kingdom.
That is part of why forgiveness in this healing process is so important. The other part is because Jesus commands us to forgive.
Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”] (Mark 11:25-26)
I love this quote from the recovery study I went through, “True forgiveness is seldom easy. It can be quite costly, but it’s a powerful weapon for tearing down strongholds in our lives and hearts.” Un-forgiveness holds us in bondage to our past, to our sin and to our circumstance.
As I reflected on how I held onto my anger over the years, I realized that it was related to how I was growing (or not growing, rather) with my husband. I held on to feelings of anger and distrust towards men that unsuspectingly seeped into my marriage. As I moved past this place of anger into forgiveness, I was amazed that the areas of my life that began to blossom – including my relationship with my husband.
Forgiveness is a gift from our Heavenly Father through repentance. How beautiful is it to see the relationship between how our God forgives us and how we must also forgive. We are able to forgive when we realize that we, too, are forgiven.
One of the difficulties in forgiving others is feeling like we are letting the other person “off the hook” and that they might not have to pay for what they have done to us. We’re often seeking retribution. But we must remember that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross paid the price for all of our sins and it isn’t our place to seek that retribution. We have to trust that God will work in the other person’s life in the same way He works in ours.
I think that’s also why it’s so hard for many of us to forgive ourselves as well. We think (at least I did!) that we aren’t taking responsibility for our actions by forgiving ourselves. But I’ve learned that it’s exactly the opposite and one of the best ways to take responsibility for our actions. When we don’t forgive ourselves, we’re saying that God’s forgiveness isn’t enough and that what Jesus did on the cross was in vain. The key to forgiving ourselves is to know that we are first forgiven by God and then “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
The story of Joseph and his brothers continued to sweeten even more as time went on (Genesis 50). As their father passed away, Joseph’s brothers were afraid that he would then take retribution on them for how they treated him in their youth, but Joseph responded, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.”
Who would have ever thought that the misfortune of one person could result in the saving of many lives? Who would have ever thought that my decision for abortion could result in God using my story for His glory? Certainly not me. And it wouldn’t happen for a while, I still had more work to do on this recovery journey.
What I’ve Learned
- Forgiveness was required for me to move past the anger that I had been holding onto for so many years.
- I had to realize that I was forgiven by God (through repentance) in order for me to be able to forgive.
- Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing; although reconciliation can be a necessary step in the healing process.
- Refusing to forgive myself was saying that God’s forgiveness isn’t enough. I had to realize that He is bigger than anything in my past – especially my pride.
- What anger are you holding on to from your past? How is this anger affecting your life?
- What steps do you need to take to move past anger into forgiveness?
- Who must you forgive? Why?
- How does repentance play a role in this process?
- What good can come out of your circumstance if you choose to forgive?
If you need prayer or a listening ear, please contact me privately. I am happy to be a safe place and a prayer warrior for you.