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On Forgiveness: I Can't Do It On My Own

I marvel really, because I know it’s not me…not my strength…I haven’t got what it takes to repeatedly release the pain that sometimes comes with relationships; the heartache that visits me with mere breathing and having someone I love be unhappy with who I am, letting me know in no uncertain terms that they feel that way. I just don’t seem to have what it takes.

Haven’t you ever felt weary from others’ expectations of you? Or perhaps they don’t meet your expectations? I certainly have and it’s no easy burden to bear. I’ve been on both sides of the coin. Whether it’s a husband, child, parent, sibling, friend, co-worker, or an enemy…if held onto and nurtured by our wounded emotions, these thoughts can produce all kinds of draining, exhausting fruit.

Spoiled fruit, I guess we’d have to call it. It’s marred, it’s damaged, and it shows on the outside. A lack of forgiveness shows through our words, our body language, our very countenance. It’s an ugly place to dwell, where WE end up being the ones who suffer. Scripture warns us of the result of harboring unforgiveness.

Jesus knew it…He knew we’d be hurt. He knew we’d hurt others. And He knew we’d suffer from both scenarios. That’s why He’s so explicit in His Word about how to handle it when we find ourselves on either side of the situation. The one in pain because they’ve let someone down…or the one who’s been let down, disappointed, or downright angry. He tells us how to handle it.

Time and again I’m amazed at how good Jesus is when I come to Him. I bring my pain, my expectations, and my inability to climb out of the dark places I may find myself in when I’m hurt. Sometimes, when I’m especially weary, my feathers can be significantly ruffled. My first reaction, after conflict has taken place and lodged itself firmly into my thoughts and I’ve ruminated on it a while, is to ask WHY IN THE NAME OF HEAVEN AND A HOLY GOD should I be the one who has to lay down my pain, my rejection, my hurt? Why should I be the one who lets my offenses go and my offender off the hook? WHY?? Especially if I endured it without any retaliation and kept quiet through it all. It feels so unjust!

Let’s look at why. And maybe…hopefully…we’ll see WHY more clearly as we focus on the TRUTH that, without a doubt, Jesus knows best.

He’s acquainted with the pain of rejection. He suffered it.

He’s acquainted with the pain of hurt. He suffered it.

He’s acquainted with the pain of not meeting someone’s expectations only to have that one turn against Him because He isn’t what they think He should be. He suffered it.

He’s acquainted with your pain and mine. He understands it. He lived it. He took it on Himself. He made a way for us to climb out of the dark places, rather than sinking deeper and deeper, only to find ourselves embracing a spirit of pity. Pity…it mars a beautiful countenance, doesn’t it?

Jesus paid the price for us. In doing so, relating to us, feeling our pain, taking it on Himself, He became the way out Himself.

You know what I’m about to say. And perhaps you’re tired. You’re tired of hearing what, at times, you may consider “Pat Answers."

I’ve heard it called “Christianese.”

What an insult to the truth of God’s Word.

There’s a huge difference between “pat answers” and the truth of a Holy Word, given to us by a good God who loves us so much and, because of that love, knows what’s best for us.

I’m so grateful for the Lord’s Word. In times like these, especially knowing there’s NO WAY I can work out forgiveness in my own strength, I’m relieved Jesus has made a way out. And if I have to cling to certain portions of His Word every day, again and again, so be it. It beats the alternative~being consumed by anger, hurt, disappointment, rejection, bitterness, or whatever nasty emotion tries to take up residence within my heart and mind.

So this morning, I began searching the Word. WOW! What a storehouse of verses there are! They show us, clearly, the provision and instruction He’s given with a heart of love, just for us, when we’re faced with this pain. I could fill pages with precious words of hope to those who choose to forgive the way the Lord has shown us.

And I could also write countless verses on the other side, of those who choose not to forgive, and the consequences of handling it ( or not ) our own way. It isn’t pretty. We lose in the end.

What choice will I make? What will you choose?

Let me gently sound the reminder that if a lack of forgiveness and even justifiable hurt are held onto, it will begin to seep a subtle, quiet poison into our hearts. Before we realize it, the tenacles of unforgiveness…roots of bitterness, the Word calls it…will begin to wrap themselves around our hearts and minds and choke out the beauty that living with a heart of forgiveness offers us.

I think of two people. The first one I think of, as I sit here pondering on forgiveness and the examples of those who have gone on before us, is Corrie Ten Boom.

She, along with her whole family, hid countless Jewish people in their home during the Nazi regime in World War II. Their residence was invaded by the Nazis; the entire family was captured and she and her sister, Betsie, were sent to the notorious Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. She watched her sister die at the hands of a brutal guard. Corrie alone survived.

After her miraculous release, she went on years later to travel to 60 different countries, where she shared, again and again, the precious forgiveness that was hers because of God’s love poured forth into her own heart.

At the close of one her meetings years later, she came face-to-face with the man who was responsible for the death of her treasured sister, Betsie. As he put his hand forth to shake her hand, she recoiled. Let me write her story word for word as I found it on YouTube:

Corrie says: It was some time ago that I was in Berlin. There came a man to me and he said,

“Ah, Miss Ten Boom? I am glad to see you. Don’t you know me?”

Suddenly I thought…that man…that was one of the most cruel outseers (guards) in the concentration camp.

“I am now a Christian. I have found the Lord Jesus. I read my Bible and I know that there is forgiveness for all the sins of the whole world. Also for my sins. I have found forgiveness for all the cruelties I have done. But then I asked for God’s grace for an opportunity…that I could ask one of my very victims for forgiveness. And Fraulein Ten Boom, will you forgive me?”

And I could not…

When I was in the concentration camp, one of the most terrible things I had to go through was that they stripped us of all our clothing. And we had to stand naked. The first time was the worst.

I said, “Betsie, I cannot bear this!”

And suddenly it was as if I saw Jesus at the Cross. And the Bible tells me, “They took His garments”. He hanged there naked. And I knew He hanged there for me, for my sins. And by my suffering I understood affliction of the suffering of Jesus Christ and it made me so thankful that I could bear my suffering.

I remembered the suffering of my dying sister through him. But when I saw, when I experienced that I could not forgive, suddenly I knew, I, myself, had NO FORGIVENESS!

And I knew that…

Jesus said, “When you do not forgive those who have sinned against you, My Heavenly Father will not forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:26

And I knew, Oh I am not ready for Jesus’ coming because I have no forgiveness for my sins. But I was not able! I could NOT! I could only HATE HIM!

And then I took one of these beautiful texts, “The love of God is shed abroad into our hearts through the Holy Sprit, who is given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

Thank You, Jesus, that You have brought into my heart God’s Love, through the Holy Spirit who is given to me!

And thank You, Father, that Your love is stronger than my hatred and unforgiveness.

At that same moment I was FREE!

And then I said,

“Brother, give me your hand!” 

And I shook hands with him! It was as if I felt God’s Love stream through my arm. You NEVER touch so, the ocean of God’s Love as when you forgive your enemies. Can you forgive? NO! I can’t either, but He can!

As I allowed this recording to soak into the deep places of my heart, I thought of the second person I mentioned earlier. It’s ME.

Through listening to this powerful and precious testimony, I was ashamed that I would ever allow the dailyness of difficulties and struggles of heart-to-heart communication cause me to wrestle with unforgiveness, self-pity, or a heart that’s quick to see the beam in the eye of someone I love, not recognizing the log in my own eye.

We may never face the anguish and terror that Corrie and her family had to face at the hands of the ruthless Nazi regime. Surely we can say her ability to forgive would have to be divine.

But I, too, stand in need of forgiveness and the ability to forgive no different than Corrie needed forgiveness toward that Nazi guard. My forgiveness and the ability to forgive others comes from that same precious Savior who poured it into Corrie’s heart. Jesus knows what we need.

When we face our day-to-day conflicts and struggles, can we remember Corrie and the grace and mercy given to her to forgive the murderous man ( also now forgiven ) who tormented her and her dear sister?

And like Corrie, may we be quick to soak in the Truth of God’s Word. May we allow it to sink deeply into our hearts, seeing clearly that Jesus hung on the Cross for our very own sin. He knows the pain, the hurt, and the rejection we sometimes feel.

Jesus lets us know that for us He chooses forgiveness. He longs for us to choose forgiveness, as well, not only for ourselves, but for those who have caused us pain.

I pray we all, if and when we are faced with these times, will extend our hand and heart as Corrie did, and have the privilege of feeling the LOVE of GOD stream through our arms; may we experience the ocean of God’s Love Corrie speaks of as we, too, are willing to forgive everyone, including those who are so dear to our hearts.

On this journey together,



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