|Brian Kershisnik, But Ruth Clave Unto Her, 2006, Found here|
It's been a rough week. As I wrote earlier, I've been struggling with forgiving someone who has rejected my efforts of kindness and hurt me badly. Ephesians 6:12 kept popping into my mind, for I have been wrestling with the forces of darkness.
I spent several days engulfed in these dark feelings, nursing my wounds at the bottom of that pit and fighting to let go of my pain. I felt justified in my anger, and wanted everyone to know how I had been wronged. But at the same time, I knew that revenge would only continue the cycle of unkindness; it would not make anything better. I also knew that I wanted to escape from these angry feelings and feel the peace of God again.
I found hope in Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place, an account of her experiences helping Jews in World War II and, as a result, being sent to a concentration camp. She also discusses the way God helped her to forgive and show love during that cold, dark time. My favorite story in the book occurs after the war when Corrie was speaking of her experiences across Europe. At one event, she was approached by a guard she had known in the concentration camp; he recognized her and asked for her forgiveness. She writes,
I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give Your forgiveness.So many times I have uttered that same prayer - Lord, I can't forgive this person. Give me Your forgiveness. And like Corrie, I have been aided by my Father in Heaven. The more I feel His compassion for my offender, the more my heart softens and is able to love. But it is His charity and forgiveness, not mine, that has made the difference.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happpened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand, a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.
My husband has been a great help as well. He has listened to me rant and complain and cry. He has even sympathized with the person who hurt me and helped me to understand their point of view. He has helped me connect to God when I was too hurt to reach Him on my own.
"You have tried so hard honey," Brandon said as he stroked my hair. "You did nothing wrong." It was at that moment that I began to sob because that was what I had wanted to hear all along - that someone acknowledged my sorrow and my efforts to do the right thing.
It was at that moment that I began to heal. God surely knew what He was doing when He asked us to "mourn with those that mourn." (See Mosiah 18:8-10)
We often speak of "the miracle of forgiveness" in the context of the Atonement, of Christ forgiving us for the vilest of our transgressions. After my struggle to forgive one person of a small offense, I am amazed at the Savior's ability to forgive me so readily, and even more so at the fact that I can someday become like Him.
But this experience has also taught me about another miracle of forgiveness - the freedom and healing we receive as we let go of our anger and let Jesus teach us how to forgive. I was in bondage, and none could deliver me but the Lord my God. (See Mosiah 24:21) He has made my burden light.
I still feel hurt when I think of what my offender did, and I suspect that the pain will always be there. I know that my journey is not over, for forgiveness is not a single event but a lifelong decision. But I know I have the help of my Father in Heaven, and that with Him, I can be victorious.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." -Romans 8:35, 37-39