Have you forgiven someone, only to be accused of harboring unforgiveness, because you’ve had to establish necessary boundaries for healing and protection? If you’re feeling guilty about having less contact because of an unhealthy or abusive relationship, the guilt is not from God. God does not want His children to be doormats. How can we forgive others, while keeping boundaries in place? How can we do both, while continuing to please God, as we daily walk with Christ?
We can recognize that God set boundaries and expected them to remain in place: “Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors” (Prov. 22:28 New International Version). We can take comfort in knowing that Jesus, himself, set boundaries: “And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith” (Matt. 13:58). We can take godly steps towards forgiving others, by seeking Jesus, as we put boundaries in place:
1. Set aside time to step away from your offender. Even Jesus retreated, and stepped away from the crowds of people in order to spend time with God, and pray. If the offender lives with you, step outside to clear your head, or go visit a friend. Walk away, and give yourself some space. If you need a quiet spot to talk to God, and can’t get away, find ten minutes to pray in the bathroom or your closet. Sit in your car, and read a Psalm. Retreat. Jesus is an example.
2. Pray this simple prayer: “I forgive (name of offender) in the name of Jesus.” We can’t do it alone. That’s why Jesus died for us. He died to forgive us of our sins, and to forgive others. Through Jesus, we can forgive others, grow our relationship with him, and show others the way to salvation. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matt. 6:14). Jesus is forgiveness.
3. Ask God to remove your pain, and fill you with His Holy Spirit. It hurts when people sin against us, whether directly, or indirectly. Ask God to remove your pain. Then ask Him to go to the empty spot where pain once resided, and fill it with His love for you, until it’s overflowing! Jesus is a healer.
4. Ask God for wisdom in establishing healthy boundaries. God gives wisdom freely to those who ask. Wisdom will help you to discern what kind of boundary you will need to allow for healing: some contact, little contact, or no contact. You can do any of these, while still continuing to walk with Christ. Jesus is a teacher.
5. Ask God to give you strength and courage to keep the boundary. The devil will do everything possible in order to try and make you remove the boundary. He will find people to spread lies, gossip, strife, fear, and chaos. His intent is to plague you with anxiety, so that you will not change. He wants you to settle for staying in your old, familiar rut. If he can keep you ignorant of truth, you won’t go forward and learn about how Jesus can heal you and change your life. Jesus is strength.
6. Ask God to provide you with support. The devil has the goal of isolating you. He will use rejection, depression, doubt, and any other fiery darts he can throw at you, to try and convince you to remove your boundary. He knows the boundary is there for your protection, healing, and growth. He hates that God is going to heal, change, and use you to win others to Christ. God will put people in your life to replace those you’ve lost when you established the boundary. Your support will be comprised of Christians who know your heart, pray for you, and encourage you in your walk with God. They will fill in the missing gaps. Jesus is a friend.
7. Ask God to reveal truth in the hearts of those who come against you. The devil will deceive well-meaning people into believing that they are helping, when they come to you, trying to convince you to break down your boundary. They may not have knowledge about the whole truth of your situation, so they don’t understand. They may accuse you of being unforgiving, cruel, fake, or even anti-Christian. God knows your heart, and that is all that matters. However, God knows our need for love and fellowship, and He will provide everything we need. Don’t be afraid! God knows what He is doing! Jesus is truth.
8. Know that when you’re most tempted to break down your boundary, God is about to give you a big break-through! Keep your boundary. Continue to forgive others who hurt you, disrespect you, or shun you. God has a plan. The enemy wants to destroy you, but God means to use it all for good! Live your life, honoring God, knowing that the boundary is there for good reason. If it needs to come down, GOD will show you, and He will make it obvious. Be ready when God says it’s time. You will have a heart that has already forgiven, and your past pain will be behind you. Jesus is courage.
9. Read or listen to scripture, and pray. Scriptures keep us wrapped in truth. When we are struggling, God’s word lets us know that we are doing the right thing. Knowledge of the bible keeps us ready for the battles that will come our way, when we are doing something against the grain of what everyone else thinks we should be doing. God’s word is living and healing. It helps us to see others through the eyes of God. The bible helps us to see that Jesus loves everyone, even people who hurt us. The bible changes our thoughts. We can begin to develop love and understanding for our enemies, even if we don’t approve of, or accept their behavior. Jesus is comfort.
10. Pray for salvation for those who have hurt you. God says to pray for our enemies. The goal is for others, no matter how much they’ve hurt us, to gain salvation through Jesus Christ. Our prayers, and yes, even our boundaries, can help another person to receive eternal life. Jesus died for everyone. Pray that those who have hurt you will come to know Jesus. If those people are already saved, pray for their walk with The Lord. Realize that many people who profess to be Christians, are not really saved, and do not have a relationship with Jesus. “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers’ ” (Matt. 7:22-23)! Jesus is salvation.
11. Seek your own relationship with God, while the boundary is in place. During a time of separation from someone who has wronged you, allow God do His healing work in you. You will begin to see the damage in the people who hurt you, and realize they are broken just like you. This doesn’t excuse what they’ve done. It does give us insight into what Jesus did for us. Our sins put Jesus on the cross, and he died for us, even though we didn’t deserve it. It’s love beyond measure. “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:22-23). Jesus is love.
12. TRUST GOD. Understand that your boundary may allow time for the offender to draw closer to God. Recognize that the person who hurt you, is also deeply loved by God, and needs a relationship with Him. He or she may need time to dig deep down, and repent of his or her own sins. The boundary may create a void of loneliness and desperation, which only Jesus can fulfill. Your boundary may bring someone to true repentance, and draw that person towards a relationship with Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, your offender can heal, receive forgiveness for sins, and receive eternal life. This allows him or her a chance to live a godly life on earth. Only then, can true reconciliation occur. Jesus is protection.
There is a silver lining…God is in Control! Though your offender may continue to try and hurt you emotionally, physically, mentally, or spiritually, God is your protector. His Son, Jesus, heals our pain. Recognize that people may be struggle with jealousy, anger, or fear, when you place boundaries between them and yourself. Some people lash out in frustration, when they lose access to their ability to manipulate and control you. The devil thrives on ruined relationships, but God is All Powerful! “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). God is the one who is ultimately in control. With God as our protector, strength, and shield, we have already won every battle.
Though reconciliation is the ultimate goal, it’s not always possible. You do not have to allow an abusive person back into your life, to prove your forgiveness toward that person. This could even delay all the work God is doing in your life, and in the life of the abuser. Pray against guilt in the name of Jesus. We need godly relationships in our lives. Often, we need to step out, and let God step in and do His work. Sometimes we need to let others catch up, before we can be in a relationship with them.
It’s difficult to create a boundary, and even more difficult to keep it in place. But God’s silver lining is found in the amazing things He has planned for you during the storm. God will use your experience to make you stronger, healthier, and joyful. He will use your experience to bring glory to His name! God knows your heart. Forgive, leave your boundaries in place, pray, and continue to follow God. God will let you know when, and if, the boundary should be removed. Trust Him! He knows what He is doing! Jesus is Savior!
“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Ps. 16:6