If you live long enough, someone close to you may hurt or betray you. None of us are perfect, and at times, we can be quite self-centered. I had a friend when I was pastoring in the Pacific Northwest, who betrayed me and hurt me deeply. It took me quite a long time to fully forgive him. Our friendship was lost over the offense. I thought of him from time to time, and when I did, I was reminded that my forgiveness of him was not complete, I was still holding onto resentment. I knew this because as I pictured his face or thought of him, I still became tense and could feel the old anger rising. 

I eventually moved back to Southern California and worked as a Bereavement Specialist in San Juan Capistrano. I felt I had forgiven my former friend completely. But the strength of that forgiveness had not been tested.

One day as I was driving to my office, I was listening to James Dobson on Focus on the Family. He mentioned a friend of his who had written a book on recovery ministries. Then he gave the author’s name. I nearly drove off the freeway! The author was the same man I thought I had forgiven years before. I pulled off the freeway onto a side street near my office. I was trembling. My emotions were a surprise to even me. I had my sunroof open and as I was parked on the street I looked up to the sky, tears streaming down my face. “What’s going on, Lord?” I asked. His response was surprising to me — “Have you really forgiven your friend?” He said.  “You have the option to either bless him or curse him right now. The choice is yours. What are you going to do?”

I sat very still for a while, and finally, looking up toward the heavens, I prayed that my former friend would be blessed in all of his life, that his book would sell and that he would be blessed. Then I breathed a huge sigh of relief. All the while I thought I had forgiven him, but it had never been tested. When I drove away to my office, I was filled with joy. I have not ever seen him, nor heard from him, but if I do, I know the blessing still stands, and I could greet him warmly (current COVID-19 rules permitting).

As you search your heart before the Lord, is there anyone you haven’t forgiven?

Chip Whitman
Pastor, Care & Counseling

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