I’m not anywhere near perfect in this area yet but there was a definite time in my life when I learned a big lesson in forgiveness, and went from wanting to kill someone to being able to smile at and talk to them, knowing I had forgiven them, and it changed how I forgave people from then on. Here is my story, with specifics about the situation left out.
Quite a number of years ago there was a man that caused something that hurt me so much that I cried every night for weeks on end. It wasn’t a horrific abuse or anything criminal, thankfully, but it was something that was very hard for me emotionally. I was so upset, hurt, and angry that I really wanted to kill him! I must have felt like this for a long time, because I think it wasn’t till about a year later when I was reading my Bible that I came across something that hit me hard. I want to make a plug here for reading through the whole Bible (I have followed the M’Cheyne Calendar for over 15 years now) – I really don’t know how long it would have taken for me to be convicted on this situation if I hadn’t been reading like that.
The part I was reading at the time was Joseph’s story in Genesis. Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers, which then led to him being cast into jail in Egypt. Of course he did get out of there and ended up 2nd in command in the entire country of Egypt, but many people in that situation would have been bitter and resentful. But what Joseph said to his brothers, and this is what stabbed at my heart, was, ‘You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.’ Genesis 50:20. He forgave them and realised God had a purpose in all of it. I was convicted that I should not be holding this in my heart against this man, feeling bitter, angry and resentful. And even though this man had not repented I felt strongly that God was telling me I needed to forgive him anyway.
So then I thought, ‘How?’. I felt so angry still that it was hard to think I even could. So I prayed that God would help me to forgive him. Later on that day or the next day, I can’t quite remember, I was still praying and thinking about it, and then I just felt that it was OK again. I didn’t feel mad, and I felt like I had forgiven him – God had answered my prayer. But of course this was all in my thoughts – how did I know that it wouldn’t be different if I actually saw him in person? So I prayed that God would give me an opportunity to meet him and talk to him, so that I could know in my heart that I had forgiven him – crazy I know, but I just felt I wanted that assurance!
Anyway, the amazing thing is that the very same day I got an e-mail from a friend asking me to come to an event which he would be at, and I hadn’t seen him for at least a year! So of course I accepted, in fear and trembling. Then when it came time for the event, I prayed that I would have a chance to talk to him and be friendly so I would know that my heart was right, and again God answered my prayer and though neither of us brought up the issue from the past, I smiled and was friendly and I knew everything was OK. And it was a wonderful feeling to not have those feelings against someone anymore!! And what’s funny is that years down the line I can understand a lot more why he did what he did anyway, I just didn’t see all that at the time.
I want to encourage you if you have something against someone not to wait for them to ask for forgiveness but to forgive them in your heart anyway. And also to remember that love keeps no record of wrongs, and covers over sins. While some things that people do mean that wisely we should steer clear of them in the future or do certain things differently, we can still forgive them. And true forgiveness means doing your best to forget it and not bring it up again anymore, just like God: ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’ Ps 103:12 – an amazing verse.