Making Sense of Forgiveness: Moving from Hurt toward Hope

Brad Hambrick
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Foreword by Rachael Denhollander

ClichŽs, glib answers, and quick solutions are shared all too often with those who are struggling to forgive or embrace forgiveness. We know Jesus calls us to forgive, but it can be hard to know what that looks like in complicated, messy relationships. Pastor and counselor Brad Hambrick helps readers to understand that forgiveness is the start of a journey that doesn't erase the past, but honestly confronts hurt and clears the way for a hope-filled discussion on how to move toward healing.

Too often forgiveness is viewed as the culmination of a journey, but when someone says, "I forgive you," they are not saying, "Things are all better now." They are saying, "I have decided to relate to your offense towards me differently." Hambrick helps readers make sense of forgiveness biblically and relationally by addressing a variety of common questions that arise when we have been hurt: Does forgiveness mean restoration of trust? Am I supposed to "forgive and forget"? What is the role of biblical wisdom and boundaries on the road to forgiveness?

Making Sense of Forgiveness speaks to those who are struggling by acknowledging the seriousness of their pain, explaining the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, and helping readers understand the relationship between forgiveness and emotional freedom. The author explores the characteristics of God's forgiveness toward us and how that shapes our own forgiveness.

Includes a foreword from lawyer, activist, and former gymnast Rachael Denhollander.


Brad Hambrick, ThM, EdD, serves as the Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church in Durham, NC. He also serves as Assistant Professor of Biblical Counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, a council member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, and has authored several books including God's Attributes: Rest for Life Struggles and Making Sense of Forgiveness, and served as general editor for the Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused curriculum.

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"With gentleness and sensitivity to the real suffering that has taken place whenever the question of forgiveness is raised, Brad lays out a concise and comprehensive approach to understanding forgiveness and what it entails. Much as I did, you will wrestle with what forgiveness isÑand what it is not. With insightful reflection questions and practical steps to help wisely guide the process, Brad couples careful exegesis with day-to-day application, bringing clarity and direction to a critical concept too often mired in misunderstanding and unhelpful practices."
Rachael Denhollander, Speaker; victim advocate; author of What Is a Girl Worth?

"The practice of forgiveness is central to life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. But it is not easy, nor is it always clear how to proceed. Brad Hambrick is a trustworthy shepherd who leads us carefully through a nuanced and practical discussion of this complex topic. Whether you are a person who has been sinned against and are wrestling with forgiving the one who hurt you or an offender receiving forgiveness from the one you hurt, Brad's biblically-saturated guide will help you take the next wise step."
Michael R. Emlet, Dean of Faculty and counselor, Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF); author of Saints, Sufferers, and Sinners: Loving Others as God Loves Us

"Extending and receiving forgiveness is sometimes like a sprint. More often it is like a marathon. Running well and finishing the race requires a well-planned strategy. It also is significantly aided by helpful companions. This book is one such companion. It is a reservoir of biblical wisdom. I cannot commend it more highly."
Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

"There are few voices I trust more than Brad Hambrick. This is especially true as he navigates us through the deep and often tumultuous terrain of forgiveness. From the suffering saint to the seasoned counselor, anyone who reads this book will immediately benefit from its rich teaching on a most important topic. I can say confidently that this will be a resource I will turn to with frequency and joy. I trust the same for all who read it."
Jonathan D. Holmes, Executive Director, Fieldstone Counseling; pastor of counseling, Parkside Church

"Before reading this book, I thought that everything that needs to be said about biblical forgiveness had already been said. I was wrong. What makes this book unique is how Brad goes beyond the basics to dig deeply into the struggles and the questions we all face when being called upon to forgive those who have hurt us. Brad draws from his extensive counseling experience to address almost every imaginable situation and to correct common misunderstandings. I also appreciate the high regard he shows for Scripture as he offers wise answers to important questions."
Jim Newheiser, Director of the Christian Counseling Program and Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary; executive director, The Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship (IBCD); author of Money, Debt, and Finances

"Brad Hambrick has done the body of Christ a much-needed favor by addressing the topic and practice of forgiveness with thoughtful nuance to the realities of trauma and abuse. His tone and empathy will be welcome words to those who have had forgiveness required of them in ways that are harmful and unwise. As he clears the debris of unhelpful notions of forgiveness, he paves the way for a robust, redemptive path to forgiving."
Tim S. Lane, President, Institute for Pastoral Care and Tim Lane & Associates

"Making Sense of Forgiveness is a one-of-a-kind, comprehensive resource that addresses both the common and complex matters of forgiveness. With expert clarity and theological accuracy, Brad explores the many spiritual, personal, and relational implications of forgiveness while sensitively taking into account the various and unique circumstances that can confuse the process. It is a healing approach to forgiveness that is sure to help many people."
Eliza Huie, LCPC, Director of Counseling at McLean Bible Church, Vienna, VA; author of Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World, Raising Kids in a Hyper-Sexualized World; coauthor of The Whole Life

"Making Sense of Forgiveness helps readers consider often overlooked but essential aspects of forgiveness. Brad's eye-opening insights are critical for those who are committed to preserving unity within the body of Christ, restoring broken relationships, and helping others understand how to forgive as they've been forgiven by our Lord."
Sam Hodges IV, Vice President of Publishing, Church Initiative

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3 Reviews

  • 4
    A Very Helpful Resource

    Posted by Weston Alford on 12 04 2021

    Helps strugglers walk through knowing and wisely extending God’s forgiveness in Christ to others. The section toward the end on scrupulosity and assurance was worth the price of the book. “Doubt your fears” is a very useful phrase.

  • 5
    A hopeful, helpful, honest journey for the hurting

    Posted by SHIRLEY ALARIE on 10 26 2021

    Moving from hurt toward hope is author Brad Hambrick’s quest in Making Sense of Forgiveness and he hits the mark with precision. Hambrick’s hopeful, helpful, honest journey for the hurting takes the complex concept of forgiveness and breaks it down into relatable topics that can be digested as quickly or as slowly as needed for the reader’s journey to the peace forgiveness offers. The pastor and counselor in Mr. Hambrick come across professionally and articulately as he walks through the sometimes tough truths and “gritty work” required on the difficult road to forgiveness. Biblical forgiveness is the foundation of the book and is covered in such topics as embracing God’s forgiveness, is God’s forgiveness unconditional, and leaving room for the wrath of God. In practical terms, Mr. Hambrick covers the gamut of what forgiveness is and what it isn’t, the concept of “forgiving and forgetting”, boundaries and forgiveness coexisting, emotional freedom, and much more. Each chapter ends with questions for reflection and the book ends with guidance for counselors, pastors, and church leaders. Making Sense of Forgiveness includes many truths that have the potential to be life-changing for readers, such as, “Jesus was exceedingly gracious, but no doormat,” and “Forgiveness is like a marathon; there is great merit in finishing, regardless of how long it takes.” This book feels like the balm to a painful, festering wound. Who would enjoy this book? Anyone who is struggling after being hurt would find useful information and guidance in this book. I can see this book being a life-changer for a reader who truly wants to get their life back after a painful betrayal. Also, the supplemental material included at the end for counselors, pastors, and other church leaders, makes this book valuable for anyone who counsels people. How this book affected me: Making Sense of Forgiveness provided just that for me. I was impressed with the way Mr. Hambrick broke the concepts down into brief, digestible pieces, that would walk a hurting person through all the scenarios, roadblocks, and challenges that forgiveness might entail. This will be my top reference book for those who are struggling with life beyond being hurt. Our Christian Book Reviews: The book reviews at Finding God Among Us focus on Christian books – adult and children, fiction and nonfiction. Our specialties are newly released Christian books on faith and Christian picture books. We’re proud to be included in the Top 20 Christian Book Review Bloggers. I chose to read this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

  • 3
    For counseling professionals

    Posted by Joan Nienhuis on 10 13 2021

    Christians know forgiveness is essential. We are told to forgive as God forgives us. But forgiveness is hard. It's not a momentary experience as there are feelings and other aspects that remain after making the choice to forgive. Hambrick helps those of us stuck on that road of forgiveness. He covers topics like obstacles to forgiveness, what forgiveness is and isn't, which kinds of acts require forgiveness and which don't (we forgive sin, excuse mistakes, overlook quirks), and what forgiveness means for future relationships. “Forgiveness does not commit me to an unwise or destructive pattern of relating.” (51) I appreciate that Hambrick says forgiveness is not ignoring the hurt, it is not letting the culprit off the hook, it is not forgetting, and it is not necessarily trust or reconciliation. It is understanding God's forgiveness in new ways and remembering gracefully. I am not sure this book is suitable for the average Christian. I found Hambrick's writing style a bit complex and hard to understand at times. There were some sentences I had to reread a few times to grasp the meaning. The text has more of a psychological bent and may be best read by professionals in the field. There is one area where I would urge caution. Hambrick writes, “...unless we repent (a condition), God does not forgive.” (30) I have images of laying awake as a child, going over my day, trying to ask forgiveness for every misdeed lest I die in my sleep and be sent to hell for a sin I failed to remember. I find it interesting that he includes a chapter for professionals about individuals who have an obsession, such as continually asking for forgiveness. (137) I can see how such an obsession could form considering Hambrick's emphasis on the condition of repentance for forgiveness as quoted above. I would rather we pay attention to Jesus asking God to forgive those who crucified Him because they did not know what they were doing. (Luke 23:34) I would also like to think that Jesus is doing the same for me now, interceding for me when I fail to remember a sin and repent of it. (Rom. 8:34) Trusting Jesus' continual intercession for us may help relax that obsession of trying to remember every sin to assure repentance and forgiveness. This might be a good book for Christian counseling professionals to read to understand the complexities of forgiveness and to help people go through the entire process. In fact, there is a section in the book specifically for pastors, counselors, and church leaders. If a lay person plans to read this book, I suggest another be asked to read along. An objective co-reader could help clarify some of the author's ideas and suggestions. There are questions at the end of each chapter to help readers reflect on the material. I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

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