While serving as a national officer of a women’s ministry a couple of years ago, I was asked to speak at a regional conference: “Just seven to ten minutes on the topic of forgiveness.”
Simple, right? There are entire books written on that subject and I was asked to sum it up in ten minutes or less.
It wasn’t as difficult as it might have been, though, because I’d thought about it a lot and I 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.
The Scriptures tell us that we have all sinned against God and, yet, He forgives us freely.
I asked the women at that meeting to stand if they had never caused anyone pain by their words or actions. Not one stood up. We each have, either willfully or inadvertently, caused others pain. So, in that respect, we are no different from those who hurt us.
Sometimes we may feel that God is the one who needs our forgiveness, since he could prevent our injuries. When a loved one is suffering or dies it is very difficult to look for God’s blessing.
But, it is important to remember that God’s perspective is different from ours. He suffers with us and yearns to comfort us, but he has an eternal view point that places the greatest priority 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 man was quoted in the newspaper as saying the accident was God’s will for his, the pastor’s, personal spiritual growth.
Reading that made me angry.
I was appalled that this fellow had suddenly made himself the focus of the tragedy; that he was saying God killed his family to teach him a lesson. It seemed to be a supremely egotistical response. At the time, 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. He knew that his family was in Heaven. He wasn’t blaming God for taking his family. But, he recognized that God allowed it to happen as both a lesson and a blessing.
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 Shepherd is with us.
By letting go of our “right” to judge and hold grudges we may find a new world of blessings and spiritual growth.
It is not always the easy choice, but it is always the right one.