Forgiveness – Challenge & Gift

Pastor Joan Gunderman
Spiritual Director & Retreat Leader

I asked Pastor Joan Gunderman to write today’s blog post. Joan and I have been friends for 13 years, ever since she started coming to our first bed & breakfast, Country Comforts, in the late 1990’s. Joan is a Lutheran pastor, retreat leader, and spiritual director. 

Joan will be leading three retreats this summer at Whispering Winds, along with a book discussion group and a spiritual formation group. I asked her to tell us what to expect in her first retreat, “Forgiveness – Challenge & Gift.”

More information is also available on our website (

If you would like to register for this retreat, please call me (608-212-6197) or email me (


I suspect you are much like me.  Things have happened in my life which were so unjust, so painful, that even the thought of forgiving the person or people behind it seemed out of the question.  Painful memories and anger served me too well.  Somehow it felt like justice.  And how could I stomach forgiving someone who would not admit he/she had done anything wrong; who insisted it was all my fault?

Yet, I regularly proclaim to God’s people:

In the night in which Jesus was betrayed…(and abandoned, by his closest friends)…

He gave himself to them, and to all people — his body (bread), his blood (wine) —

For the forgiveness of sin…

And when he was dying a torturous death on the cross, Jesus says, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

For him, it seemed so easy (though I’m not at all sure it was).  But for you and me, forgiving may be the most difficult challenge of our life of faith.  There are so many legitimate reasons why forgiving someone who has hurt us is so hard.  Yet, Jesus calls us to do so.  But how?

I am so looking forward to the one-day retreat on Saturday, April 28, when we can begin to explore the gifts and mercies the Spirit of God offers us as we struggle with the challenge and the gift of forgiveness; as we open ourselves to God’s holy love at work in us, moving us from fear, anger, resistance — to forgiveness.

We will look with great intention at some questions which most of us ask:

  • Is forgiveness a one-time event?
  • Does forgiveness mean we forget, or condone, or dismiss what someone has done to hurt us?
  • Is forgiveness part of Christ’s command that we love our neighbor?

In the quiet and safe environment of Whispering Winds, we will explore together, in a rhythm of group time and personal time, both the difficulties and the spiritual and emotional gifts of forgiveness.  We won’t just be dealing in theory.  We will experience and practice some sacred and practical ways to begin the journey.

I am praying for this retreat, and for the people God might move to attend — maybe you.  God’s greatest love is freeing us from all that keeps us in bondage, all that keeps us from embracing the abundant life Jesus came to give.  I hope to see you Saturday, April 28.

3 responses to “Forgiveness – Challenge & Gift”

  1. I always wonder about forgiveness when the person who has hurt you remains in your life, and continues to do thoughtless or hurtful things over and over….a relative, a co-worker….I will not be able to attend the event, but that is always my question of how to continue to live in a spirit of forgiveness when the wound keeps getting re-opened?

    1. Joan Gunderman Avatar
      Joan Gunderman

      Hello, Laura. Since I know none of the particulars which prompt your question — like, whether it’s a reality for you or for someone you know — and since this is a public blog so we won’t want to get too personal, let me respond to you in some broad strokes. And I’ll use 3rd person.

      My first question would be, does this thoughtless, hurtful person remain in her life by her permission? My concern is remaining in a toxic or abusive relationship, accepting, while trying to forgive, the behavior when it just keeps on coming. God has given no one the right to use another person cruelly (mentally, emotionally, physically, or verbally), as a personal whipping post or for other selfish ends.

      Forgiveness is:
      • a process, not a one-time act. It is a process we ask the Holy Spirit to undertake with us because we need the power of God’s love and peace “which passes all understanding” to strengthen us. Interestingly, it is a process in which the Spirit begins its healing work in us. Only as we are healed can we move toward genuine forgiveness.

      Forgiveness is not:
      • resigning ourselves to a victim or martyr role, continuing to accept behavior which is not ok;
      • excusing or condoning unjust or hurtful behavior (“Oh…well…that’s ok…”);
      • a way to make ongoing pain easier to bear; nor does it require that we remain in a relationship, or be reconciled with a person, who has or continues to hurt us.

      It is also important to remember, “They may dish it out, but you don’t have to eat it.”

      There is so much more to say, pray, and learn — hence the idea of a retreat! We’ll give it another try in the fall, when we’ve had more time to get the word out. In the meantime, I hope this is a bit helpful.

      Joan Gunderman
      Spiritual Director, Retreat Leader

  2. Thanks for expressing a concern that I’m sure is shared by many people. My friend Mim says it helps her to remember that Jesus loves that person as much as He loves her – as hard as that is to believe… Does anyone else want to share any thoughts related to forgiving someone who continues to hurt you?

    Sorry you won’t be able to participate in the “Forgiveness – Challenge & Gift” retreat on Saturday. I’ll be sure it’s posted on this blog if we offer it again.

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