The journey might be arduous, repetitive, and sometimes forced, but the road to forgiveness gives a worthwhile reward.
. . .
Start the Trek
We recently watched the movie, “I Can Only Imagine” at church. Based upon his real-life testimony, the movie shows how Bart Millard sees his abusive father come to know Jesus, and works through forgiving his dad. There is a battle between Bart’s desire to fully glorify God, and this difficulty he has in being able to forgive his dad for all the hurt he had caused. However, a turning point in Bart’s life occurs when he writes in his journal – “I choose to forgive my dad”.
There are many reasons why we might find it hard to forgive someone. Perhaps the hurt is too much, it seems unfair, we just don’t feel like wanting to bless them, we try and it seems we can’t let go of what has happened.
Perhaps in saying “I choose to forgive,” we expect to feel an immediate release; for that problem to be instantly dissipated. Forgiveness can happen just like that, but it can also be a journey that develops us more in character.
It might not be easy, but with God’s help we can choose to forgive and make the decision to start the trek.
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Rocks and Potholes
All sorts of thoughts and barriers litter the path of forgiveness. These are just a few of them.
- “They don’t deserve to be forgiven.”
- “I don’t feel I can forgive that.”
- “Every time I think I am over it, the grudge returns.”
- “I’ll just ignore it.”
The problem with unforgiveness is that it harms us. We need to remember that we have been completely forgiven by God and that is a huge thing! If Jesus has not taken the penalty for our sins, we would have to pay the price, and the price of any sin is death. Consider the following passages:
[Mark 11:25-26] – “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
[Matthew 7:1-2] – “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
[Romans 14:12-13] – “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”
We don’t deserve the forgiveness God gives us, but He does it out of His love, His mercy and His grace. We can ask God to help us forgive others. Sure, we might struggle to let go of an offence done towards us, but we can keep submitting it to God in obedience to His commands. We have the ability to discern rights and wrongs, and we have a commission to stand for what is right, but ultimately, judgement is in God’s hands.
One other barrier to forgiveness is ignorance. Sometimes we simply are not aware that there is a hurt, a burden or a grudge that we need to forgive. It is tucked away in our subconscious, but still impacts how we live and speak. In Psalm 139, David invites God to know his heart and see if there is anything within him that needs to change. We can do the same in asking God to show us what we still need to surrender to Him.
[Psalm 139:23-24] – “Search me O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.”
. . .
In the Spirit of Forgiveness
Sometimes we can also help the process of forgiveness. [Matthew 5:23-24] says this:
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
We can always make the first step in reconciliation whether it is a hurt perceived by us or by someone else. God can restore all things; He can heal a broken heart, and change each one of us so that we become more like Him.
Forgiveness not only provides opportunity for healing, but it also provides opportunity for growth. We grow in learning how to love others, we grow in humility, and we grow in trusting God as we reply on Him to change our hardened hearts.