Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet, we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5
It has been said that, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” I believe that is true. Forgiveness is something that only God can do through us. Oh sure, perhaps we can find it within ourselves to forgive the slight offenses against us, but we cannot forgive on the level that God does unless His grace accomplishes it in us.
The worst offense I have ever had inflicted upon me happened a few years ago. It involved betrayal by friends, being lied upon, my family being treated unjustly and a few other assorted unkind acts thrown in. I realize that I am certainly not the only one to have endured this, and it is certainly not as bad as circumstances that perhaps many of you have had to deal with. I only share this because I want to testify to the healing power of God’s grace that enables us to forgive. He helped me, He can help you.
It is not important that you know the details of the situation. I came out feeling humiliated and broken with a strong sense of loss and failure. I will admit that even though I knew I shouldn’t, I carried anger and resentment toward those who hurt me. I would try to deal with it, but I found the “old feelings” would still resurrect themselves given the slightest opportunity. Not long after, one of the parties involved was killed in a tragic accident. I am ashamed to say that a small part of me felt vindicated that this had happened. (This shows what unchecked bitterness can produce in us.)
I am learning that forgiveness is not always a “magic wand” that we can wave and make the hurt go away. I am learning that it is a healing process that God provides for us by His grace. Here is what I mean.
I had often read and even memorized the text I quoted above. I had even preached it on more than one occasion.
I knew that this healing was much more than mere physical healing, even though God is certainly capable of that too. I also knew that the sins we commit can leave their mark on us, but God’s grace is capable of healing that.
I had an epiphany one night, riding down the road and contemplating this scripture. It suddenly occurred to me to “connect the dots”. Jesus felt the pain of transgressions inflicted by others. Not only did He bear the pain of sins I have committed, He also has borne the pain of sins inflicted on me by others. I don’t have to carry that pain any more. When I claimed this truth, and surrendered this pain to Him, I felt a release like I had never experienced in my life. I could literally feel the hurt and bitterness leaving me. That night, I found the grace to forgive those who had hurt me as well as to admit my own wrongful contribution to the situation.
This is why God tells us to forgive others as He has forgiven us, for Christ’s sake. God is under no obligation to forgive us, but because Jesus bore the pain of our sins, God is willing to forgive. If He can forgive us for that reason, can we not turn loose of our pain and pride and forgive others for the sake of Christ?
My prayer for you that are carrying bitterness toward others in your heart is that during this Easter season, as you reflect on the ultimate sacrifice of our Savior, that God will give you the strength to turn loose of the pain and resentment. I pray that you will find the spiritual healing in Jesus that can lead you to forgive those who have sinned against you.