These three little words are hard for us humans to say and mean in our heart of hearts.
Why does the Lord require forgiveness of His followers? Why is it so hard and why is it so important? Do you have someone in your life that you need to forgive? It is difficult because the reason you need to forgive them is because they hurt you!
I was recently reading Joseph’s story again in Genesis; there are 14 chapters devoted to Joseph so our Lord must have considered his story an important one for us. My goodness it spoke to me! Several years ago I knew the Lord was calling me to forgive someone who had deeply wounded me. The hurt was layers deep so He began to tell me to fast. It seemed as though my daily bible readings kept talking about fasting, when I listened to Christian radio the topic was often focused on fasting and then I attended a weekend seminar and guess what the lady was talking about, fasting!
Joseph’s story encouraged me so much because although Joseph loved his brothers; when they showed up on his door step after 20 years, it took him awhile to work through forgiveness. It can take us awhile to process forgiveness as well. At first I just couldn’t forgive the person I knew need forgiveness. I didn’t want to forgive and the desire to be angry was much stronger than the desire to forgive them. Like Joseph I needed the Lord’s help and an anointing of His grace to get there.
When his brothers were introduced to Joseph they did not recognize this Egyptian version of Joseph who was a middle aged, sophisticated man speaking a different language. Joseph knew full well who they were and took advantage of having the upper hand. He had resisted the voluptuous wife of his master and made it his goal to honor the Lord in tempting situations but this temptation to mess with his brothers was more than he could handle. He played mind games with them by planting silver in their bags which they knew could have cost them their lives. He lined them up from oldest to youngest. What was he doing?
He was processing the anger that was bubbling in his heart from being betrayed. And you know what I love about this story? The Lord allowed him the grace to process! The Lord knows it is difficult for us to forgive and is oh so patient with the process of forgiveness especially when the offense is layers deep. The Lord gave Joseph time to weep and grieve. Joseph left his brothers and wept privately more than once.
Is the Lord asking you to forgive someone of a deep offense? One way He tells us it is time to forgive is if we have anger toward someone. Anger is a red flag the Lord uses to tell us we need to do something. It is not sinful to be angry; it is what we do with our anger that matters. In our anger the Lord wants us to run to Him and tell Him everything, every little detail of hurt, unfairness and wrong committed. He will tell us what to do from there. He called me to fast for 5 days and by the end of the 5 days I was so weak and broken there was no more fight left in me and I was ready to really listen to the Holy Spirit within me. The Holy Spirit of God told me things I did not know about the person who hurt me and reminded of me of many good things I had forgotten. He also told me it would deeply hurt the person if I brought all the offenses to them so I should forgive them and move forward loving them. That was many years ago and can I tell you I have an amazing relationship with that person now. The Lord asked me if I would allow Him to cover the multitude of sins committed and trust Him as my greatest Advocate to work it all out for good. I am so happy I said yes because He took away all my anger and gave me the grace I needed to move forward in love.
Joseph needed time to grieve and cry over his losses. The Lord gave him all the time he needed and in the end Joseph was able to reunite with his family. He even got to the place of telling them, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t by angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
Seek the Lord and you will find Him; that is a promise from Him to you. Do you need to seek Him for the grace, desire and strength to forgive someone who has wounded you?
Next week we will talk more about the mechanics of forgiveness.