How many times have you walked into a room and forgot what you came for? Have you ever forgotten where you put your car keys, or where you parked your car? (If you can answer “never” to these questions- just wait- your day will come!) Forgetfulness is frustrating and unnerving! But there is another aspect of forgetting that I want to explore. Is it possible to forgive and forget?
Forgiveness of Sin
That amazing forgiveness of sin that comes by God’s grace also comes with a bonus. God tells us He not only forgives our sins, but he also says he forgets them.
“I will forgive their sins. I will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:34.
How is this possible?
Forgetting doesn’t happen on a human level. We remember feelings of hurt and painful memories. We may carry emotional pain and negative feelings.
Or we may forgive others and ask for forgiveness. But forgetting is impossible.
Nothing is Impossible for God
God’s forgiveness is so complete it’s as if we had never committed our sins.
To forget means you cannot bring something to your thoughts. Does God lose his memory of our sin? Why and how does God forget them?
We find a possible answer to the “why” in Isaiah 43.
The prophet is discussing God’s mercy and Israel’s unfaithfulness. The Israelite’s hearts were not right with God and their prayers were half-hearted.
God told them, “you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses. I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (verses 24-25)
Did you catch the “for my own sake” part? He doesn’t forgive and forget our sins for us. He considers our sin as being fully paid for by Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.
It’s not to make us feel relieved or unburdened. We have to work through the forgiveness process in our own heart.
God Forgives and Forgets
Forgiving and forgetting shows us how he manifests genuine kindness, mercy, and compassion. His unlimited and eternal love is on full display as an example.
He removes our sin from his presence and hurls them into oblivion- “as far as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12.
His mind is unfathomable. Who knows? He may remove our sin from his mind like erasing a hard drive on a computer. All things are possible with God, so in that aspect, I think if He makes the choice to forget our sins, he can.
What I do know is that once He forgives, He never condemns us for that sin again.
It is the debt we owe for our sins that he forgets:
“God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14 (NLT)
No wonder forgiving and forgetting can be so hard for us!
Our minds are finite compared to his infinite one.
We have a sinful nature, and He has a perfect nature.
But God’s word is clear. We accept the saving work of Jesus Christ that forgives our own sins, so likewise, we should forgive like him.
The Apostle Paul reminds us of Jesus’ law of forgiveness:
”Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32.
His forgiveness includes canceling the debt owed, not showing anger or seeking revenge.
How To Forgive and Forget
That’s where I think the key in the process of forgiveness lies for us- to forgive and then think of that person as forgiven as our heavenly Father forgives us.
We can show emotional forgiveness by replacing any negative emotions with God’s love, compassion and grace towards the person. Praying for them is a wonderful release that can bring peace.
Live in Peace
•Don’t harbor secret thoughts of retribution or anger, revenge or superiority. Or as Romans 12:18 tells us: “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”
Holding on to unforgiveness and dwelling on our past hurts can negatively affect our mental health, leading to stress, anger, and anxiety.
•Don’t you love the grace of God? He tells us in Matthew 10:14 to do our best, knowing sometimes it is best to “shake the dust off your feet“ and emotionally move on.
Jesus spoke those words to the disciples when they went out to preach the gospel. They were a symbolic indication that they were not responsible for the outcome, but were to show responsible obedience to God.
They were to surrender those people to the Lord and then emotionally let go.
•Don’t, however, mistake forgetting the sin done against you with “stuffing your feelings” into a deep place in your mind. When we experience emotional or physical hurt, we have to work through them.
I’ve been the queen of the “Scarlett O’Hara” thinking process- “I’ll think about it tomorrow.” It’s not denial, it’s “I don’t want to deal with it right now.” It may be common, but it’s not healthy.
I once had a counselor tell me that not dealing with negative emotions is like trying to push a beach ball under the water. You may be able to hold it there for a while, but it will always pop back up to the surface.
I’m also guilty of harboring anger and wishing ill will even after I’ve convinced myself I have forgiven. That’s like keeping a tiny flame of discontent fed in your core.
I found a verse that helps me forgive and forget like Jesus.
Hebrews 12 describes what living out our Christian life should look like. We are God’s people. We are to live by his standards.
Verse 15 speaks about “no bitter root” growing up to “cause trouble”. When we forgive and then cast that wrong done against us into the deepest part of the ocean, no hostility or resentment should spring up out of our hearts.
If a root of bitterness grows, pull it from the soil of your heart. God honors our efforts and knows our hearts.
We honor God when we work on true forgiveness. We will be a work in progress our entire lives. In the meantime, I am always grateful for the great love of our Father and his ultimate example of forgiving and forgetting my sins.
Is there anyone that you need to forgive and then forget their wrong?
Related Post: The Power of Forgiveness in the Bible
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All Scripture is taken from the NIV unless specified otherwise.