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That's a Good Question

How to Forgive When It Hurts: Navigating the Path to Healing

December 5, 2023

Jon Delger


Bob Hudberg

MitchellBefore we jump into this episode of That's a Good Question, this week's episode addresses a sensitive topic that might not be appropriate for young ears. This would be a great time to put in headphones or to listen to the episode before you let young ones listen. Let's jump in.

JonHey everyone, welcome to That's a Good Question, a podcast of Peace Church. This is a place where we answer questions about the Christian faith in plain language. I'm John, I serve as a pastor here at Peace, and I also get to serve as the weekly host of this show. You can always submit questions to And today I am here with PB.


Hey, so good to be with you, John. Thanks for asking me to come. Yeah, thanks for being here.


So PB, just so everybody knows, stands for Pastor Bob. We call him P.B. Sometimes when I see Pastor Bob written somewhere in an email or something, I don't know who they're talking about.

PBWell, you know, people have said to me, too, oh, hi, Pastor P.B. Oh, yeah. Yeah. So it's like, it's all right.

JonIt's all right.

PBWe'll double them up here. It's a little confusing sometimes. Yeah.

JonThat's good. Well, thank you. Yeah. So P.B. serves as our care pastor here at Peace Church and has just had a long career of serving as a pastor, getting to walk people through difficult life situations, and especially thinking it through a question like what we're talking about today. So, producer Mitchell, you wanna give us a question for today?

MitchellYep, here we go. How do we forgive someone who has hurt us badly? Abuse, affair are two examples they give.

Question #1: How do we forgive someone who has hurt us badly?

PBWhat if a person doesn't want anything to do with us?

JonYeah, powerful question. And basically, to me, two parts, two key parts that we'll talk about is, you know, the first half is how do you forgive somebody? And then, so let's tackle that. And then we'll get to what do you do if after you've forgiven them, if they don't want anything to do with you. So let's just talk about that first part there. How do you forgive somebody?

PBWell, I think that's a really fair question. But I also was wondering, and I think we got a little bit of background, is it someone who is still around? Is it a relative? Or is it someone who's passed away? Or whatever it may be, but I think there is that possibility when you say, how do I forgive this person? Let me go to the negative first. The negative is sometimes we say forgive and forget. And that's not healthy. And secondly, from a negative is that we think we need to forgive because we're a Christian which is true But I don't think it really solves the issue of even dealing with repentance and everything else that comes with that, too So if we just gloss it over sometimes as a follower of Christ We don't really forgive. Yeah. Yeah, it's not as simple as yes or no, right? Do I forgive you and it's a process forgiveness isn't just a one-time act, but it's a continual process. When Jesus said to Peter, seven times seven, even more, it just meaning when there's repentance, then you have the opportunity to forgive and continue. Forgiveness never negates the natural consequences of the act. So unfortunately, whatever has arisen from this person has affected them and where they're at in their walk, too.

JonYeah. So, to talk about, just real quickly, you mentioned a Scripture passage, and I was going to bring it up. So, some of the key passages that you could look at, you referenced already. So, Matthew 18, verses 21 to 35, is Jesus' parable about the unforgiving servant. And then right before that, what leads into that parable is his comment to Peter. Peter says, you know, how often should I forgive my brother when he sins against me? And Jesus says, I do not say seven times, but 77 times. So that's that passage. And then there's a few other passages in Scripture that talk about this. One is Ephesians 4, 32, where the Apostle Paul says, be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. So Scripture, you know, grounds it in God's forgiveness for us, leads to us forgiving other people. So there's some key passages that come into play.

PBCan I give one more? Yeah. Luke chapter 17, verses 3 and 4, and it says, Pay attention to yourselves, if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. You know, and then it says, And if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, I repent, you must forgive him. Those are powerful passages. Because when you look at the word, even rebuke, it's all about reconcilingation of relationships. And I think sometimes we don't know when that person, that we've hurt someone, and other times, like this question, they know pretty much when it was done to. Right. So you brought in a really key element that I don't think it gets talked about enough in forgiveness is the idea of repentance. You want to talk a little bit more about how that fits in? My word, repentance is such a hard thing. It is about saying, I was wrong and I'm not going to go that way again, but it's our sinful nature that leads us to do it again, unfortunately. So I must confess, I have had to repent quite a few times over some things. I know the rest of you two guys are perfect. You've never had to do that. But just to say, when God convicts you of something, then it becomes necessary that I go to that person. Even though I didn't mean it with the intent to hurt, there's sometimes that I have to repent from that too. In fact, when I was kind of just reviewing this today and thinking about this, God brought up a situation that I need to approach a man and ask him for forgiveness. But I thought I had dealt with it, and God was saying, hmm, you didn't deal with it. You need to get this right. And it really came with the fact that of rebuking, which is a loving charge. It's not a harsh thing. It's about loving. God loved that other person so much that he just willingly went to rebuke and restore the relationship.

JonSo let's talk about that. Would you mind walking us through an example? And, you know, the example given by the listener question here is a very intense, powerful one. But let's just start with like, I hate to call it lesser, but a lesser, you know, maybe a lesser example. Let's say, you know, let's say, you know, there's a there's some kind of conflict in a relationship between you and another person. Somebody says something hurtful, something mean. OK, and you got to walk through the process. You might just kind of like walk us through what that looks like.

PBI think part of it is and this has just been what I've tried to learn over the years is I have to determine why am I offended by that? What really happened? And was it with malice that they said that? Or was it just an offhanded thing that they did? If it was with intent, then I think the responsibility I have on my part is to approach that person. When I am hurt, I need to go to that person because if I value the relationship enough, I want to restore it. I want it to happen in such a way. So it is the fact of saying, okay, God, why am I hurt? Why am I being defensive here? And then if he reveals, like, okay, you have legitimate cause to do that, then approach that person and say, okay, you know what? What you said hurt me. And either they'll say, well, I didn't mean it or whatever. I've been known over the past so many years, I won't tell you how many, to be the one to use a phrase, I was just kidding. And in Proverbs 26, it says, like, the man throwing firebrands and swords is the one who says, I was just kidding. And God really convicted me of that, because my words, I would say something, I would say something to you, John, and then I go, oh, I'm just kidding. Well, there's always truth in jest, right? There's always truth in jest. So it is that fact of saying, you know what let's go on and let me approach that person in a way that is loving and caring. Yeah, that's the difference too, a sin. So if it's a sin, then you have a route to go with Matthew 18. But if it's just an offense, like maybe it wasn't a sin, then I think there's a choice on my part to say, you know what, Lord, I'm going to give this to you, and I'm not going to pursue it any further. I can't allow it. Because I have let things in the past, when there has been something that someone has done to me, dominate my life and control my thoughts and it's there every day until I, it can really offer forgiveness. So I think once we can give it away and say, okay God, it's yours, I'm done. Now, let's be honest, it may take every day to do it. It may take 10 times a day, but at least you're going to the right place with it.

JonYeah, yeah, definitely. That's really good. So, I think that's a great kind of just a walkthrough of how we handle that kind of on an everyday basis. So, now to kind of ratchet it back up a notch to where, you know, the person asking the question brought it of, you know, what if you've got such a painful, grievous situation as abuse or an affair, you know, in that situation. So, what do you think? How do you face that situation of forgiveness?

PBI was molested when I was a child and he was a friend of the family, my parents, and I knew him. But for many, many years he molested me and it wasn't until I was probably, I don't know, in my early 30s that I was so angry at him and what he did. But God said, you need to forgive him. I said, but he never asked for repentance. He's never asked for forgiveness. He didn't think he did anything wrong. So what did I need to do? I just had to say, in fact, I ended up writing him a letter and spelled all the things out that he did and then said, listen, I forgive you. And I never mailed it to him. Never mailed it to him. But it was really healing and cathartic for me to be able to verbalize it to him. Well, there is a price to pay when you offend or you sin in such a situation like we have right now. And so that relationship that I had with this man was never restored to where it was. In fact, at one point, he wanted to take my boys with him on a road trip, and I said no, not going to happen, because so you reap what you sow. And so because of that, so I think forgiveness for this person, obviously God ordained, you have to really seek, don't do it because it's the thing that you have to do, but really wrestle with it and then be able to say, if you can approach that person, but if you can't, then you have to make that conscious decision to say, I will forgive.

PBAnd forgiveness, we've heard this too, forgiveness doesn't make what you've done right,

PBAnd I think that's the whole thing. I can think of many people who have offered forgiveness, they still remember the situation, but they don't remember the pain of the situation. Mitchell

So, PB, would you say that the goal of seeking forgiveness is restoring the relationship back to how it was or can that be different in a biblical context?

PBI think it number one depends on the relationship, obviously, and I think it can be different. I don't think that all relationships are going to be restored to where they were once. You know, if there is an abuse, I'm sorry, that person has to pay the price for what they did. If there was an affair, yeah, there can be, you can be healing, I know of couples who have healed tremendously from affairs. But that takes time, you know, for that to happen too. And so, but I do think that there are some people that you're never gonna have the relationship that you had before with them.

JonYeah, and that's that's only wise right? I mean if somebody has proven that they can do Something terrible like that then it's only wise to say I'm not gonna Put that put myself or you know in your case your children in us another situation where that could happen That's just that's good wisdom to not put it and I've heard some people unfortunately say Well true forgiveness would be to act as if it had never happened and not have any of those boundaries

PBBut that's just not the case no no no and I think I think it's a protection thing for us personally And then obviously it's a protection for them even though they don't want that protection the offender. It's to protect them from Just being aware and and saying okay, you're oh, why are they putting up these boundaries? Well, here's what you've done. And I think it means that we have to confront when we can. And no one, the offender doesn't like that, but it needs to happen if it's very possible. And I'm sure you two have known other people where someone has done something and then the person has passed away that has done it and you can't forgive. But if there's any way possible to forgive and they don't offer repentance, you still need to forgive.

JonWell, and like you said, some of that is between you and the person. That's kind of the person-to-person reconciliation aspect of it, but some of that is simply between you and God, having a right heart before the Lord that is offered up, at least, by forgiveness, even if there's not reciprocation on the other side.

PBYes, exactly. Exactly. So forgiveness is tough, but I don't think we should minimize the offense either. I think sometimes we go like oh They didn't really mean that or then all of a sudden you see the relationship change and it's like oh Maybe they did mean that so never minimize it And then I think I said this before but in a different way forgiving for our own sake You know, okay. I'm just gonna forgive. Well, I think that's a little bit passive-aggressive, too You know, we don't really forgive and we just move on and don't really deal with it either.

JonYeah, that's a great point. You know. Yeah, totally. So, in thinking about if somebody's listening to this and they're they're in the tragic and painful situation of they, you know, they have an abuser in their life, some of the things I just want to be clear about that we're saying to them is, number one, we're saying, you know, abuse is not okay. You shouldn't continue in that situation, submit to that situation. We want you to get help, find a place to go, whatever it takes to get out of that situation. And after that, we're saying that there are some steps to consider and how you can offer forgiveness and yet also protect yourself, not enter back into an abusive situation.

PBRight, right. And you, and obviously that person will know there will be some telltale signs that they would say, I'm not getting back into that at all. Because if you don't deal with the situation at all, you're really able to fall back into a situation and maybe not with that person, but with another person. So you really wanna be careful to say, what was it, think it through. And then if I can encourage, find someone else that you trust that will walk with you through that. Don't try to do it alone. Oh, it's so hard. I don't care if it's a guy or a gal. Try to find someone else or a group of people that will help you that you can be vulnerable enough with to say, I need some help. And don't keep it silent. Please don't keep it silent. Just make sure that they are aware and other people are aware of it that they will walk with you through it too. I think there's great support. Proverbs tells us that there's great confidence in the wisdom of many counselors, you know, and so when you have other people walk with you and The reality is other people will see some things that we may not see in the relationship either And so they can help in that way. Yeah, those are really wise steps

Jonone last thing and then let's talk about the second half of the question one last thing obviously to Keep in mind and then we talked about this at the beginning was all the passages about forgiveness and scripture point us back to the original story of forgiveness, which is God's forgiveness for us. That we were forgiven of immense sin. And so because of that, God calls us likewise to forgive others. But as we've said, there's some wise steps you can also put in place to prevent future harm.

PBYeah, the whole God gave us the plan. He demonstrated the plan, said here's how you're going to forgive, because I'm going to send you my son to die for you, and you will have forgiveness of your sins." And he's like, this is a process that you go through. Now walk in it. You know, you read the passage in Ephesians 4, which I think is a wonderful passage. You know, and when we talk about forgiving one another, it's one of those great reciprocal promises and commands that we have to do, as hard as it is. I will tell you, there's been times in our marriage that I would say to my bride, well, you need to forgive me because the Bible says you have to. And she would look at me and says, you haven't repented yet.

PBSo, but it's been really good to walk with her in this time is because we both have experienced things. As a pastor, unfortunately, I think I was hurt more by the sheep than I were by people outside the church. But, and practice forgiveness from that standpoint. But I think forgiveness also involves humility. Being humble enough to be able to say, okay, I know I need to forgive and not be prideful.

JonSo definitely. That's great. So briefly, with the time we have left, the second half of the question is, so what if you have forgiven somebody? What if you have forgiven somebody? And even though we've forgiven them, they don't want anything to do with us. Are we supposed to do something about that? What is sort of my part and what is their part in healing the relationship after forgiveness?

PBSo there's a verse in Romans, I think, that says, as much as possible, be at peace with all men. So if they've done their part and asking for forgiveness and being able to demonstrate all of that and the other person doesn't want it, then there's not a whole lot that you can do, in my opinion, to restore that relationship. Yes, you want it to be there, you want it to happen, but you do your part. God does the changing of the heart. You can't do that. I can't change anything about another person and this person can't either. It's unfortunate that it's not restored, but as long as they're confident in what they've done, it's as much as they can do. And it may be saying, God, is there more than I need to do? Or just saying, I know what I've done, not going to go any farther. And that makes me sad. That that relationship is just totally gone.

JonYeah, but that's kind of the, you know, we can each only own our part, right? There's the part that you're responsible for and that's the part you can own. So if you've offered up forgiveness, you would love further reconciliation, but that takes two parties.

PBWell, and I think that's the goal, you know, is just total reconciliation, but it's not real. I shouldn't say it's not real. It's not always attainable in the relationship.

JonPB, brother, thanks for the conversation and thanks so much for sharing. We appreciate it a lot.

PBThanks for having me. Appreciate it. Appreciate it.

JonThanks everybody for listening.

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