i can’t forgive

DSC02870I find it amazing how some people are able to open up to complete strangers. The supermarket delivery guy must have been in my house for less than three minutes on Monday morning but, none the less, told me of a family feud between him and his niece and sister. “They’re holding our Christmas tree ransom in their loft until I say sorry to my niece, but I’ve told my partner we’ll have to buy a new tree ’cause it’s not going to happen.” (All this said with a grin on his face.)

“Oh”, I sympathised. “That’s sad – Christmas is about forgiveness.”

“I know.” Same grin. “There’s no telling some people!”

Then he left – and approximately 0.35 seconds after the door had closed, I kicked myself that I hadn’t offered to pray for him. Why?

Because forgiveness is hard. Sometimes we have to forgive people who aren’t even sorry, or who have no idea they’ve hurt us, or refuse to apologise. Sometimes the people we need to forgive aren’t around anymore. Sometimes we have to forgive actions which have had numerous difficult implications for us.

Actually, I take that back. Forgiveness isn’t hard – forgiveness is impossible. I can’t forgive. I just can’t. But I’m privileged to trust in the God who can. The God who is so able to forgive that He willingly, not begrudgingly, sent His Son to live amongst us, understanding what it feels like to be hated, scorned, betrayed, abused. And this Son is so able to forgive that He was prepared to die so that we could be forgiven…and so that we could forgive.

Sometimes the grudges we bear are so old and so engrained that they become part of our identity, and we hardly notice them anymore. It is then that I love this prayer, found in Psalm 139:23-24:

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.”

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I can’t forgive. You can’t forgive. Let’s not kid ourselves. But are we willing to trust that God can forgive, and that He can enable us to forgive others? Are we willing, this Christmastime, to look at the helpless baby in the manger and acknowledge that we need His help?

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3 Replies to “i can’t forgive”

  1. Forgiveness is something I’ve been feeling challenged about this week. On Wednesday I bumped into someone who used to be part of my life until just over 5 years ago.
    He was my best friend’s first husband and he hurt her quite badly. He was unfaithful to her and walked out on their marriage. I won’t go into the mess he created here. I can say I forgive him but mainly because hindsight is 20/20 and I can see how God made a thing of beauty from the ashes of that marriage. My best friend remarried a real God-given man who treats her like his princess and they take every step of their marriage together with God. Their beautiful daughter Grace turns 2 on Wednesday and will be my flower girl. They are expecting their second child in March.
    I wonder though if I would be able to say I forgave him if my best friend’s story had gone a different way. There was potential for things to turn out very differently and I don’t know that I could have forgiven if they had.
    At times I can see very clearly how, if it were all down to me there would be a lot of unforgiven people in my life. I am glad that I have a God who bridges the gap and forgives when forgiveness seems impossible.

    1. This is a really great story of forgiveness Laura – thanks so much for sharing! Forgiveness is so hard and, in many cases, an ongoing decision, as we continue to face difficult situations where we need to call on our Father for help in forgiving. As you so rightly say, our God bridges the gap – thank God for Jesus!

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