The Process of Forgiving
Our Sunday school recently studied the concept of forgiveness, a vital act that is red-lettered in Matthew 6:12, "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" and in numerous other scriptures, such as Colossians 3:13, "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye."
We quickly concluded that this concept of forgiveness is easier "read than done," so we attempted to develop strategies to fulfill this commandment. We discovered that forgiveness is not always like lightning and thunder but more often more like a work in progress.
We studied testimonies of brothers and sisters who had to climb a mountain of forgiveness and remain in fellowship with the Lord. The following is a condensed testimony of a brother climbing his mountain of forgiveness, specifically his struggle to forgive the individual who, under the influence of drugs, was directly responsible for the death of his 9-year-old granddaughter, Kristen:
A Dream and Forgiveness (by Brother Frederick M. Keener, Spartanburg)
I was having a problem with forgiving the person I considered responsible for the death of our beautiful grandchild. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:14-15, if we cannot forgive, God will not forgive us.
Kristen, whose very essence was love, attended The Church of Jesus Christ with us and loved Jesus. As time went on, I found myself more and more wanting to join in full fellowship with the community of spirituality and love that epitomizes The Church of Jesus Christ. I had been asked on a number of occasions if I would make that commitment, but I knew I couldn't ask God for forgiveness until I could forgive.
I went to God in prayer about my inability to forgive and asked Him if He really wanted someone as flawed as myself. Shortly afterward, I had a dream that I awoke from and remembered quite vividly and in great detail.
In the dream, I was standing and facing the figure of a man I somehow knew was a messenger from The Lord. I was reluctant, even fearful, of going closer to the messenger and began, slowly and sadly, turning to leave. Though I don't remember any movement from the figure, he suddenly, but gently, wrapped his arms around me from behind, pressing a handkerchief anointed with holy oil over my heart.
Even though his grasp was very gentle, I was powerless to move. It didn't happen instantly, but my reluctant heart and my resistance gradually melted as my afflicted heart was healed and a warm glow suffused my entire body. In my dream, I was relieved and joyful to realize that God was telling me He really did want me.
I awoke at this point to those same feelings and a dawning knowledge that I should and could forgive and ask for forgiveness. Clinging to blame and resentment would not bring Kristen back.
Forgiving, for me, was not a release of the pain that accompanied the most profound and lasting hurt I have ever experienced. The pain was something I would need to learn to deal with over time, and I'm still working on that. Instead, forgiveness was a conscious and deliberate process of letting go of the anger I felt and the blame I had assigned to the point that I could offer prayers for that person's betterment.
Forgiveness and time help with the healing process, but there are continuing reminders of what could have been. Whenever there is such a reminder, such that I feel the angst beginning to return, it helps to offer a prayer for the person I chose to forgive.
What a great strategy: Pursue forgiveness by praying for that individual.