Written By Osariemen Faith, Canada
Growing up in church, I watched people testify to what they called, “God’s grace.” From my perspective, what I saw was people sharing about horrible mistakes and poor choices they had made, and how God had seen them through the challenges that followed. And I wondered why a kind God would choose to help those who—in my opinion—didn’t sound very kind themselves.
The testimony of God’s grace from these people created doubt and confusion. But instead of seeking God and bringing my questions to Him, I chose to live in ignorance. It took years before my misunderstanding about grace was corrected, and it happened in the most painful way.
Four years ago, I started serving in my church, and I put my trust in certain leaders who I believed to be loving Christians.
Unfortunately, overtime, I started to notice a lack of accountability and an unwillingness on the leadership’s side to acknowledge faults and offer correction. Also, some of the teaching worried me.
A few months ago, when I (and others) voiced our concerns, we were essentially shunned for speaking up, and cut off from the positions we were serving in.
I felt so hurt—like my zeal to serve God and His people had been misguided. I also felt manipulated, and was tempted to believe I was crazy for having concerns in the first place. I refused to see how I could forgive these people, and I held onto this hurt because I believed there was not enough grace to forgive them.
The pride in my heart kept reminding me that I had every right to be upset. Every day I replayed the incident in my head and questioned if I deserved the betrayal. The answer I always came up with was, “no.” That led me to bitterness, which started hindering my relationship with God.
I kept telling myself, “When God wants me to forgive, He’ll take this feeling away.” As weeks passed, it became hard to worship. I felt so heavy. I was carrying something that I didn’t know how to let go of—something I wasn’t sure I could let go of.
I became severely depressed and bitter. Why were the people who hurt me allowed to be happy when I was struggling? I finally couldn’t take it anymore and one day, I broke down in tears. As I was bawling, I heard a still voice in my heart remind me, “go to Him and He’ll give you rest.”
I cried myself to sleep after that and when I woke up, I decided I was going to let God into my pain. I knew His way wouldn’t be easy or pleasant, but after spending time in God’s presence, I realized that although these people genuinely hurt me, the best thing was to follow Jesus’ instruction and extend grace and generous forgiveness (Matthew 18:22).
His grace is sufficient because He’s a merciful and forgiving God. God is so great and mighty, that there was enough strength for me to lean on Him while I let go of the offenses.
The first step was coming to Him—intentionally, humbly, and consistently. In an instant, or with time, God can make a broken heart whole again. For me, it took about three months to fully let go and in the process, God redefined my understanding of His grace.
The Holy Spirit helped me realize that my pride was standing in the way of extending forgiveness. I was embarrassed for not picking this up earlier. He helped me see the ways God extends grace to me every day. Like every time I promise to do something and don’t, He extends His grace by still loving me.
It was easier to forgive my church leaders when I understood that extending grace didn’t mean there wouldn’t be any consequences for their actions. What it meant was that I wouldn’t hold them as condemned in my mind. Just like how, in Christ, I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1).
This brought me to a greater understanding of God, because I realized that when I show grace, I am more like Christ.
God’s grace is all about showing kindness not based on a person’s values and actions, but simply because God wants to show us favor. His mercy—another form of grace—covers us when we deserve to be condemned. Instead of condemnation, He forgives, comforts us, and reminds us of His love.
Although the situation that brought this realization of God’s grace and forgiveness wasn’t an easy one, I can now tell you that it was necessary.
In the past, when I listened to those testimonies of God’s grace from people I felt were unworthy, I failed to realize that we all have our shortcomings.
Now, I’m working on being more gracious to others—on giving them as many chances as God leads me to offer. Because that’s the space where they, too, can grow into a more Christ-like version of themselves.
I am now able to pause and ask myself, “How would I want to be treated?” before reacting or calling out other people’s shortcomings. Even when the frustration, pain, or hurt that I’m seeing and experiencing is real, I know our Father has more than enough strength and grace for me to lean on Him while He grows me to become wiser, more whole, and more forgiving and gracious.
My prayer for you today is that you allow the Holy Spirit to teach you about God’s grace, that you don’t get lost in the trap of bitterness, but that you keep the truth of God’s grace close to you so that you may meditate on it day and night. I pray that you learn to forgive others, forgive yourself for falling short, and run back to the forgiving arms of our Father. He’s waiting for you!