A daily forgiveness
How do we forgive when the pain and hurt still linger?
One of the hardest acts that a Christian must carry out is the action of forgiving those who have wronged us. Yet that is just what we have been called to do.
Jesus says quite emphatically in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive other people for their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive other people, then your Father will not forgive your offenses.” (NASB)
Forgiveness is an absolute commandment in Christianity, nonetheless it can be one of the hardest to carry out.
It is often overlooked just how hard it is to forgive someone when forgiveness is a one-way street with no reconciliation in sight. This does not make the commandment any less emphatic, however it is important to remember how hard forgiveness is and how much it depends on God’s grace and on the daily decision to forgive.
An amazing forgiveness
Many years back, I heard this incredible story about Corrie Ten Boom, a woman who had survived the Holocaust by the grace of God.
She recalls the story of encountering a guard who had been involved in the concentration camp where she was imprisoned. She had the opportunity to forgive him, but everything inside of her did not want to do so.
But by the act of obedience and by surrendering to the will of God, she raised her hand in forgiveness and felt God’s peace surround her.
It is an amazing tale that has washed over my heart many a time. But, the danger with stories like this is that we can think that forgiveness should wash away all memories and hurts and fears. That forgiveness is simply a one-and-done deal, when it is often much more complicated.
Forgiveness is complicated
The human heart and the human brain are complex and intricate as God made them to be. But in a fallen world, sometimes memory comes to haunt the heart and brain like a burglar in the night. Sometimes memories will wash afresh like the hurt is just yesterday.
I used to think that these memories and hurts were a sign that I had failed to forgive. But now I don't believe this is the case.
You can fully forgive someone, but memories can assault the brain in the morning. Sometimes in the morning when memories and hurts wash back into the brain, you must reinforce your decision of forgiveness.
Sometimes forgiveness in the healing process of the heart is like a builder constructing a wall until it is complete. It doesn’t mean that the first brick wasn’t a good brick, but that an ongoing act of forgiveness may be needed until the wall starts to feel stronger.
Matthew 18:22 tells us that even if your neighbor wrongs you seventy times seven that we should forgive our neighbor.
I think it’s important to realize that even if your neighbor wrongs you only once, your brain might remind you that he has wronged you seventy times seven. It may take you seventy times seven to reinforce that forgiveness wall.
A daily forgiveness
Forgiveness in concept might seem like a simple gesture, but it is rife with the complexities and hurts of human hearts. It’s vital to realize two things.
First, that as Christians, we are absolutely called to forgive as Christ forgave us. But two, that forgiveness might be a decision we have to fight for, reinforcing like a warrior bearing his shield against a thousand enemies’ thrusts.
Sometimes, forgiveness is a one-time act as Corrie Ten Boom’s lifted hand. But at other times, it is our decision to raise that hand of forgiveness in obedience every time a memory washes over us that is the truly difficult but beyond valiant task.
Forgiveness is hard, but don’t despair. We serve a mighty God. And through him, we can find the strength to forgive daily. He is the one who is "able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20).