Have you struggled to forgive someone, not for a single offense, but for many, over a long period of time? Or have you wrestled with forgiving only to have feelings of bitterness or resentment return, and along with those feelings the sense of guilt that you are just not able to obey the command to forgive as you’ve been forgiven.
In this life there will always be hurts and brokenness of relationships that call for a forgiveness that we feel powerless to give. The more that we try, the more we realize that the ability to forgive someone whose offenses are along the lines of the “seventy times seven” is something that we cannot muscle through on our own.
There’s an old story of a traveler in Burma, who after crossing a river, found himself covered with leeches. His first panicked thought was to begin tearing them from his body, but his guide warned him that pulling them off forcefully would put his life in danger. Instead, the guide prepared an herbal bath and had the traveler lie down to soak in it. Before long, the leeches began to fall off.
Sometimes I am like the man trying to pull the life-sucking leeches from my body. I know that I’m called to forgive, so I work to let the hurt go, but the feelings of bitterness return and I struggle all over again. And the unforgiveness, like the leeches, drains me of the strength and life that would be waiting for me if I could be free of it.
Years ago, I found myself in that place, faced with the reality that Jesus really meant what he said in commanding that we forgive those who have sinned against us in the same way that our heavenly Father forgives us. There had been yet another fresh wound and I felt depleted in having to continue to fight against the feelings of anger and bitterness that were welling up inside me again.
In time I sensed the Holy Spirit reminding me of the immense love and mercy that had been poured out on me through Jesus. During this season, as I began meditating on all his goodness and kindness to me, there was a change taking place within me. And then one day, I made a phone call to offer forgiveness. Unsolicited forgiveness. We cried together. When I hung up the phone I realized that I was free. The “leeches” of unforgiveness and the weight of bitterness were gone.
That phone call was something that my Father used to show me something life changing. It wasn’t about my trying harder to keep his commands. It was about lying down to soak in his presence and in his mercy. And it was about the work of the Holy Spirit enabling me to do what I could not. In Christ’s command to forgive, we are met by the Spirit’s provision, enabling us to obey.
Spend some time today meditating on these encouraging words:
Christ does not ask us to make bricks without straw. Everything that we need for the fulfilment of the command is provided. The Holy Spirit is given to mould us to the form of mercy which is in Him. (W. Arnot)
Director of Children’s Ministry