June 8, 2010
The Blessings of Forgiveness
"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." Matthew 6:14 (NIV)
I sat listening to my Bible study leader as she took us through our lesson in Genesis. I should have been paying attention but my thoughts kept drifting back to hurtful words and bad memories. It had been weeks since I had spoken to the person who had said those hurtful things, but the pain was still fresh.
I wanted to move on, but I didn't know how. I was caught and I could not get free. The hurt replayed in my mind over and over, a never ending film-loop of words and actions.
That day in Bible study we covered the story of Joseph. I will never forget as we got to the place where his brothers cowered in front of him after realizing who he was…and what they had done (Genesis 50:18). In that moment I will admit that in my humanness, I wanted Joseph to hurt them as much as he had been hurt. At the very least, I wanted him to turn them away as they deserved. Even though I knew the story, I still hoped for a different ending.
And yet, the ending went on just as it had before. Joseph offered his brothers—the brothers that had sold him as a slave—forgiveness. He reached out to them and restored them to a place they didn't deserve. He didn't do it because of them. He did it because of God. He knew what it meant to be forgiven, and he knew the power in extending forgiveness to someone else. I will never forget that moment when God spoke to my heart: "You need to forgive as Joseph forgave."
I will confess I didn't want to offer my forgiveness. God showed me that I was hanging onto my unforgiveness like a burlap security blanket. It was time to offer my forgiveness—not because the person had earned it or deserved it, but because God had asked me to forgive out of simple obedience to Him. Just as He had forgiven me. It was, He reminded me, the least I could do.
In my novel, The Mailbox, the main character Lindsey has several people she must forgive during the course of the story. She learns that there is freedom and peace that is released at the moment we forgive, which makes her eager to forgive even more. This happened to me as well. I heard once that unforgiveness is like eating poison while waiting for the other person to die. Better to walk in the freedom of simply doing what God has asked and let Him take care of the rest. God required me to sacrifice my pride in exchange for the blessing of peace in that relationship. It was definitely worth it and I would do it all over again.
Dear Lord, help me extend forgiveness to those who have hurt me, even when I don't feel that they deserve it. The truth is, I didn't deserve Your forgiveness. Thank You for forgiving me and please help me forgive others as freely as You do. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
The Mailbox by Marybeth Whalen
Is there someone you need to forgive? Spend time journaling about what's holding you back, then pray and ask God's help in extending forgiveness to that person.
Why is unforgiveness like eating poison while waiting for the other person to die? Have you ever experienced this personally or seen it with someone else?
Luke 11:4a, "Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us." (NIV)
Mark 11:25, "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." (NIV)
© 2010 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105