How Can I Forgive and Forget?

Sharon Jaynes Forgiveness, When You Don't Like Your Story 32 Comments

We hear the term, forgive and forget, but how can we forget? Don’t you wish there was a delete button for our brains?

There was a world of hurt in my family growing up. When I became a Christian, there was a world of forgiveness that needed to take place. It took me some time, but I eventually forgave my dad for all the things he did. However, every time I remembered what was done and how it was done, I felt the hurt all over again. I wondered, Have I really forgiven him if I can’t forget the pain? The answer is yes.

The key to understanding biblical “forgetting” lies in the way God “forgets our sins and remembers them no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). Have you ever wondered, how does an omniscient God who knows all things all the time “forget” anything or “remember” anything? Consider these verses:

  • “God remembered Noah” (Genesis 8:1).
  • “[God] remembered Abraham” (Genesis 19:29.)
  • “God remembered Rachel” (Genesis 30:22).

In each incident, God remembering someone meant He was about to do something—He was about to act on their behalf.

If God remembering means He is about to act, then God forgetting means that He is not going to act. When He forgets our sins, He chooses not to act on them by punishing us.

The psalmist declared, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

While we cannot forget the wounds of our past, we can choose not to act on them.

We can choose to forgive the person who has hurt us and not allow the memory to control our lives. In that sense, we can forgive and forget.

Paul wrote, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…” (Philippians 3:13). What did Paul have to forget? He had been unjustly beaten with rods, flogged with whips, pelted with stones, locked in prison, persecuted by fellow Jews, and threatened by Gentiles he was trying to help. He often went without food, without clothes, and without a pillow on which to lay his head (2 Corinthians 11:23–29). This is a lot worse than someone hurting your feelings. And yet, Paul essentially said, “I let it go so I can move on to something better.”

When Paul talks about “forgetting what is behind,” he does not mean that he somehow wiped the past from his memory. Instead, he made a conscious refusal to let [the past] absorb his attention and impede his progress. He didn’t allow the past to paralyze his potential for the future. Instead, he used the past to fuel his faith as he moved toward what lie ahead.

Yes, I remember the wounds from my past, but I can honestly say I no longer act on them. When I remember, I don’t feel the resentment, bitterness, or shame of my early years. My past may color my present, but it no longer controls it. Because the memories have so little power over my actions and emotions these days, they come to the surface much less often. This is how I “forget” what is behind and recall how God has redeemed my story at the same time. That’s one way our worst chapters can become our greatest victories.

Lord, I know I can’t wipe the hurt from my memory, but I can wipe the bitterness from my heart. Help me to see my pain as an opportunity to grow better rather than bitter. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

What if your worst chapters could become your greatest victories? I know that they can!

Everyone likes a good story, but not everyone likes their own story. My new book,  When You Don’t Like Your Story, challenges us to ask: What if God doesn’t want us to rip out our difficult chapters but repurpose them for good?

In fact, the worst parts of your story might just be what God uses the most. 2021 might just be the year to turn your story around and write a different ending. Click here to join Sharon’s FREE online When You Don’t Like Your Story Bible Study running February 15 – March 26. Better yet, grab a group of girlfriends and do the study together! It includes weekly video teaching and much more.

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Comments 32

  1. The Lords timing is ALWAYS perfect. This devotional is spot on, almost like it was crafted for me. Bless our Lord and Thank you, Sharon Jaynes team for sharing!!
    Great reminder to …”Set our affections on the things above, not on things of this earth.”

  2. Thank you so much for this biblical truth that explains how forgetting is not truly forgetting but choosing not to remember and allowing it to control our lives. My pastor Bill Sturm and Hickory North Carolina has discussed the same thing that an omniscient God cannot forget but chooses to not remember and count our sins against us! Praise be to God for his grace!

    1. Amen! this is how I feel about a specific incident that occurred in my life. I’ve moved on but the person I’ve been in conflict with hasn’t and it hurts to the core. Because I love her like a mother loves a daughter.

  3. Wow! Thankyou Sharon! A light bulb moment for sure when I read those scriptures! How our God “chooses” not to act and punish us for our sins…so just as we’ve been forgiven we too should forgive! Choosing not to take someone’s sin against me and not letting it into my ‘bubble’ so to speak, is sooo freeing! This little action will remove the offence as far as the east is from the west and I am free to live my live in His great love..free from all bitterness and pain.

    1. How painful for you Nicole. I am sorry. I have a girlfriend who went through this as well. It took time and finding her shelter in Jesus, but I’m happy to report God got her through it and she found her joy again. You will too. God will get you through it. For me God reminds me that forgiveness is not condoning the wrong. I find this freeing. I’m lifting you in pray right now.

  4. Thank you for this! I thought I wasn’t doing something right, because even though I had forgiven my husband for his affair, I still have almost PTSD type thoughts. I’m ashamed of them because I feel like being a Christian covers those thoughts. I work on it, and pray about it daily, and I’m hoping that those thoughts won’t come to the surface forever. It’s been 3 years since our marriage was restored, and I know that it hurts less today than it did 3 years ago, so I’m hopeful! Thank you again for your article!

    1. I was encouraged by this devotional yet I really would like to know more. I would love some specific ideas on how to do live out this devotion when the person who has hurt me most (and still does) is my spouse and thus I am living in the situation every day and they are not repentant of the things they do that hurt (emotional and verbal abuse to me and the children and in the past has even wrecked things on purpose)

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      2. I feel your pain. I lived with an abusive husband for 17 years. The best thing you can do for yourself and your children is leave him. God will provide for you and your children. He does not want any of his children to be in such a horrible situation. He is faithful. My husband is gone and my son and I have experienced so much peace. God has taken such good care of us. I know how hard it is to leave but believe me it is worth it. I would not do it alone. There are Organizations that help women to leave an abusive environment.

    2. Kim,

      I could have written your same comment. I’m in your exact shoes too and it’s almost been 3 years. I love Sharon’s books. I have read all of her marriage books and the praying for your husband from head to toe, I reread them often because they help me so much. I just wanted to reach out and say I understand.
      Saying a prayer for you!

    3. Kim, I pray for you! I lived a life of abuse; physical, emotional, sexual, a forced abortion and lack of love. I totally
      understand where you are coming from. Even after becoming a Christian some 44 years ago, I struggled with this and
      especially the feeling of not being loved. It was in 2003 that I finally realized that I am loved _ loved by my Lord and Savior!
      Our precious Lord will indeed help you. Keep your mind on positive thoughts and don’t let the devil taunt you with the
      past. “What ever is pure, lovely, of good report….think on these things…”
      I had PTSD but I feel the Lord has mostly released me from it – however, I still jump drastically when startled; no nightmares, bad dreams anymore though.
      May God bless you and bring you total deliverance.

    4. I’m in a very similar situation as you Kim I didn’t ever think I’d hurt less. This was a great reminder because I still struggle with what I would say are flashbacks from the trauma that was caused and I think that really holds me back from loving my husband unconditionally. I continue to pray that one day I won’t ever think of that time again. My husband has done alot of work on himself in the past 4years and the closer we get to Christ I think the enemy just likes to poke his head in places he doesnt have authority to be in. Sometimes I trip up and dwell and I have to remember who is the cause of my distraction and it’s not my husband. We are not eachothers enemy but we need to continue to be one and fight against our adversaries. Peace Love and Hope such a great devotional today thanks.

  5. Im dealing with the hurt my from my x husband. I really don’t think I have forgotten him for all that he has done to me. I know I need to it’s just do hard. But I know I want to let go of it all.

  6. This is such a great reminder, for me. I struggle with past hurts. I want to walk in total freedom. Free of resentment from those who have hurt me.

  7. I appreciate your writing, have a couple of your books that are highlighted throughout, but I really winced when you characterized some of the traumas and hurts we’ve experienced as someone “just hurting your feelings”. I work in the county jail with women there who have experienced complex trauma throughout their lives, and I have personally experienced this as well (and I know you have, too). Minimizing and comparing our traumas isn’t helpful, and ultimately does nothing to encourage healing.

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      Hi Jeanne. I had to go back and read the post to make sure that I was understanding your comment. I never meant to imply that the trauma’s and pain we’ve experienced as simply having our feelings hurt. When my child died or my dad beat my mom, I did not characterize those trauma’s as hurt feelings. I wasn’t minimizing or comparing traumas. What I was saying is that many women can’t forgive something as small as hurt feelings. I hope that helps.

  8. Thank you for this wonderful insight. I fight with the hurts especially at night but I finally ( I think) have turned it over to the Lord. I have told my husband that I won’t leave him because of my love for him and that he sinned more against the Lord than he did me. So it is his problem and God’s not mine any more. I truly believe he has turned it over to God as he seems to be his old self and tries hard at making our marriage (54 years) as it should be. But this insight is so helpful and I hope to share it with others.

  9. This is a clarifying moment in my life. Such a powerful message. You have explained what I have been struggling with for years, both forgiving others and being forgiven by God. What a blessing you are! Thank you for this message this morning.

  10. Exactly what I needed this morning as I am down the road of a nasty divorce. I have held onto this bitterness for so long, but why? Thank you for the encouragement I needed to forgive and learn how to forget. <3

  11. Thank you for sharing this, and wonderful timing. One of my challenges is when there is loss of respect when I forgive and forget… that it will happen again (especially when it does)… and how that relates to trust.

    Distancing myself has helped to ease the charge, and letting God untuck my heart.. because at the end of the day, that’s the most important relationship.

  12. I think Paul also had to forget (and forgive himself for) his actions in his past when as Saul, he persecuted Christians. That perhaps was a harder thing to forget and forgive, don’t you think, Sharon? Forgiving ourselves for past actions is sometimes the hardest thing to do.

  13. My husband has had two affairs. Last one he admitted to. First one is second affair partner texted me to hurt me and divorce my husband. She was constantly cruel to me throughout their affair. I treated her as a daughter too since she is 32 yrs younger. Now she is contact with my husband after being fired and remarried even. My husband answers her calls. How do I forgive what’s still going on and when I was so kind and loving to both of them? I’m really looking for answers thru this study. Thank you Sharon for your insight. God bless you.

  14. Thank you so very much! I was encouraged by this devotional yet I really would like to know more. I would love some specific ideas on how to live out this devotion. Especially when the person who has hurt me most (and still does) is my spouse and thus I am living in the situation every day and he is not repentant of the things he does that hurt (emotional and verbal abuse to me) and in front of our 21 yr old daughter. I would like to take part in the bible study but do not know how or when?

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  15. Thanks Sharon for your wonderful words of encouragement. I loved what you said previously that, Satan wants to use our past to paralyse us and God wants to use our past to propel us. The choice is ours..

    My story in a nutshell-My mum passed away when I was 19, arranged marriage at 24, had to give up my career at 35(doors closed completely, and forced to be a stay at home mum) Now when I look back as a 51 yrs old and after 27 yrs of my roller coaster married life, I know, that I know ,that I know, it was only Gods plans..I am Thankful for not giving up and I am blessed to have a wonderful husband and 2 children both studying medicine.I was angry at God for this forced life, I never had any choices.. But I know that if I had a job, I would’ve walked away from this marriage and the 2 kids that we had and went behind my career..

    Although, at the age of 35, I gave my life to Christ the transformation process took Time.. I read the Bible and had more quiet time with Jesus, studied on forgiveness, trust, power of our words, emotional healing and the understanding that I CANNOT change my spouse…I NEEDED that change! John 10:10, became my favourite verse..The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy;I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full…..

    Don’t be deceived by Satans lies..He doesn’t want any families to be together, he will put bad thoughts into our minds, our thoughts become our words that can hurt our loved ones. Our words becomes our actions, when we put the barrier or live in that emotional bubble with our everyday ups and downs.. when this happens, there is no sex, no sex leading on to that gap between you and your spouse more and more and then feeling lonely, no one to share, blame ,more angry words..(cycle continues) separation…divorce.. Kids struggle in between all our roller coaster decisions.. Satan knows exactly when to pull the string of strife and to continue with that angry undercurrent. Actually I felt like Satans puppet. Thank God, I learned from My mistakes and understood to take responsibility of my own life instead of blaming others or circumstances before it was too late. I pray that all of you will hold on to Jesus more, Trust him fully… Pray about EVERYTHING..,Take your eyes off your problems and Look up to Jesus, He loves you and HE HAS THE BEST PLAN FOR YOU! NEVER EVER GIVE UP!!!

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