"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." Colossians 3:12-13
What can help us to bear with one another?
Elaine's dad died recently. He was a predatory pedophile who was addicted to pornography. "He was also an unfaithful husband and a very angry man," Elaine says. "Others, though, saw him as compassionate, giving, and very quiet. I guess it depended on what part of his life you were in. When he went to jail many years ago, several people didn't believe he had done the things with which he was convicted. That's how masking, conniving, and manipulative his behavior was."
When Elaine was struggling with forgiveness, God showed her that Christ asked God to forgive people as they were in the process of killing Him. "At that point, God challenged me," she says. "Could I forgive my dad while he was in the process of abusing someone--because of the phrase Christ prayed from the cross: 'they don't know what they're doing'?"
Elaine believed that if her dad were in his right mind, he never would have done the sinful things he did. "I began to believe if Dad could see himself standing before God and could view the truth of all the ripple effects of damage he created--before he did them--he wouldn't have done those things."
Elaine's dad struggled with mental illness. Her family believes he was abused during his childhood. "This doesn't excuse his actions," she says, "but it helps explain them. It enables us to understand a tiny bit of why he turned out the way he did."
Elaine and her brother had experienced hard and challenging lives trying to overcome their past and learning to trust their heavenly Father. God confidence has been difficult for them.
"But God is faithful," she says. "We have learned to forgive the man who hurt so many people. We even prayed that God would have mercy on his soul. Eternity is a long time to spend in hell.
"Many people expect Christians to forgive and to forget," Elaine says. "But this is faulty thinking. Our history becomes part of our testimony and a powerful witness of the grace and mercy of almighty God.
"Forgiveness is extended when we're no longer holding grudges against others. With God's help, we can actually desire complete healing and spiritual restoration for those who have hurt us."
When we learn to forgive as Christ forgives, God confidence is the natural by-product.
Is there someone in your life to whom you need to extend forgiveness? Take some time right now to ask God to bring anyone to your mind whom you haven't forgiven.
Holding a grudge will create bitterness inside your heart, and it will also make your God confidence impossible. You can't live with genuine faith in Him if you're unforgiving and angry toward someone who has hurt you.
By refusing to forgive those who have hurt us, we limit God's action in our lives. He chooses to forgive us when we choose to forgive others. We may not immediately feel as though we have forgiven someone, but forgiveness isn't a feeling; it's a decision.
You can trust God. He's big enough to help you to forgive.
Lord, I choose to forgive. I'm deciding right now to forgive. Please help my feelings to eventually match my words. Amen.