As the young man dreamed of the birth of his second daughter, due for delivery in just six days, he drove his car around the corner, and in horror, found his pregnant wife slumped over the steering wheel of her totaled car. He reacted as he should, not overly emotional, thinking quickly. Soon, he stood with their 14-month-old first born daughter in his arms, and watched his wife freed from the crushed vehicle with the Jaws of Life. After his wife was life-flighted to one of the top national hospitals, he met with teams of doctors who told him that neither his wife nor his baby may survive.
Why did that other young woman drive through the stop sign at such a high speed? Why did she lie at the accident scene? Thankfully, the police officer confronted her and assessed the scenario correctly. How did she walk away without a scratch when he might lose half his family? How can he forgive her choices of using and distributing drugs when the results impacted his family so tragically? My husband, Burwell, faced these questions in 1999 as he assisted me in recovery from this horrid auto accident. The same questions resurfaced when our daughter, Avery, who suffered traumatic brain injury due to loss of oxygen when my placenta ruptured during the crash, passed away in 2003. If anyone deserved his anger, it should be that woman.
In the Bible, God tells us in Romans 12:17-21 “not to repay anyone evil for evil,” “not to take revenge,” and not to be “overcome by evil.” But how does one truly forgive? Why forgive? What does forgiveness look like?
Burwell and I learned that we all have to take the same steps toward forgiveness, no matter what the offense. A seminary professor, I know, states that it is often easier to forgive the big offenses, and hold onto the smaller things. While there is much truth in this statement, I personally struggled and watched Burwell struggle the most with this large hurt, resulting in the loss of our daughter’s life, and ending many of our own dreams. So, why do we forgive? The answer is simple to comprehend, but hard to apply. We forgive others because Jesus forgave us (John 3:16). God also requires that we forgive in order to be forgiven (Matthew 5:23-24). In this passage, the Lord tells us to go and reconcile with our brother before placing our gift on the altar.
While it is necessary that we forgive permanently (I Corinthians 13:5), it is not an easy process to surrender our desire to get even. Forgiveness is so undeserved. No one deserves forgiveness in Christ, nor does anyone earn forgiveness in Him. He gives it freely. The Lord also gives His children the power to forgive others. It happens through clear and honest confession and communication with Him. In other words, through prayer: talking to God, and hearing from God through the reading of His Word. Often, we need help with forgiving others from fellow Christians. We need others to pray for us, or we need to be able to speak with trusted Christians who will direct us with wise counsel.
Hebrews 12: 14-15 instructs us to “make every effort to live at peace with all men and to be holy…to see to it that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble.” The goal of forgiveness is peace and reconciliation. Sometimes, however, this is not possible. Once “every effort” for peace is made, you can rest in God as the only One who has the authority to forgive sins, He is fair and just. He can be trusted with our deepest sufferings, our most painful wounds, and every offense.
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for forgiveness in your Son. Please forgive me when I hold onto bitterness and anger toward those who have wounded me. Please grant me Your heart of forgiveness toward that person or those persons. Please help me to take the steps You wish me to make toward reconciliation. May You be glorified in my thoughts, speech and actions today and always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.