I struggle a lot with forgiveness. I pray for God to give me a heart that wants to forgive them. My head wants to and knows it ought to, but my heart is still trying to get outside of its hurt and its desire for justice. It's funny. I'm leading a small group and this very discussion came up this week. I want the wrong to be righted. I want to be vindicated. THEN I'll think about forgiving them.
But it doesn't work that way.
Because if it did, we'd all be damned.
And I know that. I know the hypocrisy of my heart in its refusal to forgive. I know that it slaps our precious Jesus in the face for I have done to Him infinitely worse than what these people did to me, and yet He loves me, forgives me, heals me.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchhmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.
To whom much has been given, much is required (Luke 12:48). I have been forgiven much, completely without merit. I owe them my forgiveness, regardless of if they earn or deserve it. Wow. That's hard.
I am a work in progress. And God is patient with me. His name be praised. And so I ask Him to help me forgive them to help me WANT to forgive them.
My first step is to confess my sin. I confess that I am harboring unforgiveness toward them. I confess that I know that I am doing this, and yet I still struggle to want to forgive them. I confess that I've made my forgiveness conditional on their accepting responsibility for their part in what transpired between us. Lord Jesus, please forgive me, and help me to forgive them. Each day, I need help all over again with this for even when I try and think I have forgiven them, more is unrooted and revealed in my heart.
My second step is to stop living in fear. My heart stops in my chest every time I see their name or something that reminds me of them. I fear the next attack lurking around the corner. I fear how this situation has, is, and will affect my son. I fear that my words give them another chance to hurt me.
But letting this fear rule keeps the pain alive, the wound open and gaping. It causes me to continue to try, judge, and sentence them in my heart every time I let this situation have power over my decisions. It leaves me in the past of pain, rather than the future of hope and promise (Jeremiah 29:11). God removes our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Love keeps no record of wrong (1 Corinthians 13:5). We are told to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44) for what is it to just love those who love you?
The forgiveness we have been shown is merciful and boundless and unconditional and undeserved, and so ought the forgiveness we give be. Surrendering to fear gives sin power in my heart . Fear is the enemy of forgiveness.
Fear is born out of the conviction that we need to protect ourselves from something. But therein lies the beautiful truth. God holds my future, and theirs. HE is my protector and defender, and theirs. He knows the beginning from the end. Nothing I do can thwart or delay His plan for us. Whatever comes our way is something that He has permitted. So if He sees fit to allow another attack, so be it. If not, so be it. But whatever does or does not happen will not be because I did or didn't do anything. He has promised to work ALL things together for good (Romans 8:28). God's providence exceeds my fear, and my feeble attempts to protect myself. I needn't hide crouched in a dark corner, with my arms crossed over my head as a a shield. Faith calls me to stand in the light, with arms outstretched and open. Vulnerable. Fearless.
So, here I am.
I know this breaks down a little. I know there are things to be said about lifeboats and hospitals and availing ourselves of God-given resources in any given crisis. I certainly don't dismiss our responsibility to steward our resources, to be shrewd and discerning in our decisions, to utilize the gifts God gave us, and to avoid being careless. But this is bigger than that. This is the stuff of my soul and the only one equipped to prune it properly is my Jesus.
So, here I am.
Out of these ashes,
Beauty will rise...