Last weekend I was asked, as a last-minute replacement, to speak at a women’s meeting: “Just seven to ten minutes on the topic of forgiveness”.
Easy, right? There are possibly hundreds of books written on that topic and I was asked to sum it up in ten minutes.
It wasn’t as difficult as it might have been, though, because I’ve thought about it a lot and have a definite viewpoint.
I am at a place in my faith journey where I no longer feel that I have any entitlement to judge or withhold forgiveness from those who might cause me pain. I believe that every experience God allows into my life is for my good and his glory. Whether joyful or pain-filled, God has decided to let me have the experience as a gift. He walks with me, if I let him, in the good times and bad, gently pointing out the lessons and blessings in each day.
If I remember to look for the lessons and blessings in even the minutia of my life I have no time to worry about blaming anyone for my hurts.
We are taught in Scripture that we have all sinned against God and He forgives us freely. I asked the women at the meeting to stand if they had never caused anyone pain by their words or actions. No one stood up. We each need to remember that we have, either willfully or inadvertently, caused others pain. In that respect, we are no different than those who hurt us.
Sometimes we may feel that God is the one who needs our forgiveness, since he could prevent our injuries. When someone we love is suffering or dies it is very difficult to look for God’s blessing.
It is important to remember that God’s perspective is different from ours. He suffers with us and yearns to comfort us, but has an eternal view point that places the greatest importance on our spiritual growth and well-being.
Many years ago I read of a tragedy where a pastor’s wife and children had been killed in an automobile accident while returning from a church outing. That pastor was quoted as saying the accident was God’s will for the man’s spiritual growth. That his family was now with God and he would see them again, one day.
When I read that, it made me angry.
I felt that this pastor had suddenly made himself the focus of the tragedy, that for him to say that God killed his family to teach him a lesson was a supremely egotistical response. I doubted his sincerity and the depth of his love for his family.
I think now, that I owe that pastor an apology. First of all, for judging him and, secondly, for not giving him credit for his spiritual maturity in the face of such a devastating loss.
Loss always hurts. Loss of health, wealth, loved ones, pride or possessions all cause various levels of emotional anguish. We cannot avoid these things as we walk through “the valley of death” that is our mortal existence. But our God is with us. The words of the 23 Psalm speak of the lessons and the blessings of our walk, “He makes me lie down in green pastures” (a lesson), “He anoints my head with oil” (a blessing).
Let go of your “right” to judge and hold grudges and you may find a new world of blessings and spiritual growth.
It is not always the easy choice, but it is always the right one.