Are any of you having trouble forgiving the person that came to mind during Pastor Conrad’s sermon last Sunday? I want you to know that you are not alone. Forgiveness isn’t easy and like some of you, I’m struggling to forgive the person that came to my mind. Cognitively, I understand why I need to forgive them; in my heart, I want justice for the pain that this person put me through.
At the very heart of it, our desire to hold onto our anger stems from the desire for justice. We also believe that in the act of forgiveness we are somehow pardoning the acts of the person who has wronged us or somehow saying that what they did was, in the end, okay. Listen to what Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family, has to say about that belief:
“Forgiveness never excuses the wrongs against us or waters down the awful nature of an offense. Forgiveness doesn’t pretend that something didn’t happen. Forgiveness acknowledges the ugliness of the sin against us, no matter how dark, then sets us free, not the other person. Forgiveness releases our heart, heals our pain, and allows us to move forward through life in peace.” [x]
Forgiveness is freeing. Forgiveness takes the bitter pill that we are nurturing on our hearts and destroys it. Forgiveness means that we trust God to take on and help us through the healing that must happen in our hearts to heal from our pain. Most importantly, forgiveness means that we are following in the steps of Christ, who told his disciples to pray “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”, adding “For if you forgive other people when they have sinned against you, you heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:12,14)
Forgiveness is a process. Jim Daly says that we forgive to the extent that we can at the time. As we grow, we can forgive more deeply and meaningfully until we find that we have completely forgiven the person who has harmed us. Forgiveness, however, must consciously begin somewhere; for me, I am seeking to forgive through prayer. Since Pastor Conrad’s sermon I have been asking God to soften my heart against the person that I am holding anger toward. I have been asking Him to help me trust that He will work all things for my good, and to help me believe that in forgiving my person I am freeing my heart from resentment. I have also been asking him to trust that He’s got all of this worked out, and that my suffering has not gone unnoticed by Him – that He suffered at the same time I was suffering and wept while I wept. I have been trying to pray for that person as sincerely as I pray for the people who I love the most, and, on top of that, I have been praying that God use this person to advance His kingdom.
If you are struggling to forgive someone, I invite you to pray this simple prayer: Lord, just as You so generously forgive me, help me also to forgive others and not keep any form of hate, anger or revenge within my mind. Bestow the power of love upon us all and just as I forgive so too would everyone. In our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ’s name I pray: Amen.