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  • Writer's pictureMarnie Hammar

How Our Own Brokenness Can Unlock Our Unforgiveness

By Nicole Williams

Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Nicole’s Story

My heart felt heavy that Fall as I saw her leaning in to pray with two other women, reaching for their hands as they closed their eyes together. Three hearts seeking direction and guidance for a situation I knew nothing about. I felt my judgment catch up to me as I turned away to lead another group.

The last few years had been less than exemplary. My mom had been living with my family for four years, and I was working overtime to keep the peace in our home. I spent all my energy focused on what seemed impossible, trying to keep everyone happy, and shocker, I somehow came up short. Lately, I found myself frustrated and bitter. 

Two years earlier, the women’s ministry team met to choose who would be in each of our Bible study groups. We wrote everyone’s name on index cards, prayed over them, and took turns randomly pulling names. On my first pass, I was about to pull from the top of the stack when I realized the name written underneath was my mom’s. I quickly pulled a name from somewhere else in the stack and passed the stack to the next leader. 

No one else noticed, but God was right there. He immediately prompted my heart, and I started silently praying for forgiveness. I quietly poured out my heart to Him as we continued drawing names. Each time the stack came around to me, I prayed, “Lord, please let her name still be there. I’m sorry for not trusting you.” But with each pass, her name wasn’t there. When the stack came around for the final time, I could see her name on the top again, and I picked it up with a smile, grateful for God’s mercy over me.

When I confessed to the other leaders what I had done, they gathered around me and lifted me up to the One who knows us more deeply than anyone else. They knew so many of the struggles I was facing living with my mom for the last few years. They didn’t judge me; they accepted me as is, even in my brokenness. 

I had the privilege of having my mom in my small group for three different Bible studies. I witnessed how she supported women and brought lightheartedness to our conversations. I’d like to say these good things changed my perspective of her, but we had baggage between us that just didn’t seem to go away. We would return home together, but our problems remained unresolved.

That fall, I told the women’s director I didn’t think I could lead my mom again. Seeing my mom now in a different group, bowing her head in prayer with these other women, made me feel like I had failed. Even though I asked God to give me another chance to pick her name, I hadn’t truly extended an olive branch to her.

Unforgiveness has a powerful way of nurturing resentment and bitterness.

I mistakenly thought being a peacekeeper and avoiding conflict was the best way to love and honor her. But unresolved childhood hurts, as well as ongoing ones, kept me stuck in unforgiveness. Turns out that avoiding conflict was my way of refusing to trust God to heal our relationship.

If we don’t want unforgiveness, resentment, or bitterness in our lives, exploring the condition of our hearts is a good place to start. It’s a dance to do, but its fruit is so sweet. If we can be honest with ourselves about our hurts and practice turning to God as our source of strength and comfort, we might be able to stop holding things against other people who’ve hurt us. 

That fall, as I let go of trying to control the whole situation and vulnerably admitted my struggles, God opened my eyes to see something I’d never noticed before.

As different as my mom and I were, there were so many similarities between us. 

We both experienced life-changing loss.

We both had unmet expectations.

We both hurt people and let them down.

We both loved the best we could.

Just two imperfect women loved perfectly by God.

Being honest with God about my feelings led to a radical perception change. God’s goodness brought me to repentance. Instead of holding life against her, I realized she was made in the essence of God’s image of love, and I could see His beauty coming through her eyes. The judgmental scales on my eyes and the heavy baggage I carried just slipped away. I could finally see how much God loved both of us. After wrestling with unforgiveness for years, God taught me how to forgive.

It felt like a new beginning, but that winter, our lives changed forever when my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. She decided against chemotherapy, so our time left together was short. While our relationship had dramatically improved, I couldn’t shake the feeling I had wasted so much precious time being stuck in judgment and unforgiveness.

Where I thought I failed, God built something beautiful. The women from her fall semester small group rallied around her, bringing dishes, making quilts, and sending cards. I watched this community of women love her in a deep, tangible way. She felt completely loved and seen in a way she had never experienced any other time in her life. Stepping back allowed room for other women to step in.

Even if we fail, God always makes a way.

I’m forever grateful that neither my failings nor my mom’s are marked as permanent. We’re just two women made whole by Jesus.

“And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren,’” (Luke 22:31-32, NKJV).

Photo credit: Unsplash, Nine Koepfer.


The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest essay series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.

Don't miss any posts in this series! Subscribe to receive each new essay in your inbox, posted every other Thursday. When you subscribe, you'll receive a FREE download of a Prayer Planning Worksheet, a resource to help you prepare your heart to listen for His voice in prayer.

New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!


About Nicole

Nicole Williams, an author, speaker, and forgiveness coach, is committed to helping people transform their lives by letting go of resentment, anger, and paralyzing unforgiveness. She's developing a six-week course, Forgiveness School: Finding Freedom From the Things that Hold Us Back, to help people in difficult relationships go from struggling to empowered. She is also the author of Rise Up: Believing God When the World is Falling Apart.

Nicole lives in Houston with her family and is celebrating 30 years of marriage this year.

You can connect with her on Instagram and Facebook, and subscribe at Nicole's website to get access to free devotional resources and stay updated on the launch of Forgiveness School.


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