Sometimes God won’t leave well enough alone.
It hadn’t been a week since I’d been wronged when, out of the blue, He began meddling with my emotions. After all, I wanted to wallow in self-pity a while longer, thank you very much.
“Forgive as you’ve been forgiven,” He whispered.
“But I’ve never done something so hurtful,” came my reply.
“Don’t be so sure,” I heard Him say a little more loudly.
After all, He’s all about leading us to humility, and my self-righteous response was a tad too haughty.
Truth is, I sometimes want to clutch my grudge, much like a child clings to a security blanket, as though my vice grip on bitterness brings justification.
“See what another’s wrong did to me,” I boast, if not with words, at least with body language—arms crossed one moment only to hang limply at my side the next, vacillating between stoic pride and self-pity.
But on that day–the day God wouldn’t leave well enough alone–He repeated Himself for emphasis:
“Forgive as you’ve been forgiven.”
Blast! He was serious. So, I turned to His Word, thinking perhaps I’d find a small-print clause somewhere, anything that allowed me to argue with Him a bit longer.
Surely strong-willed Peter or perseverant Paul had something to say to justify my resentment, perhaps buy me more time in my oddly comfortable pit of despair.
But what I discovered was in Mark’s gospel. Likely just a teenager when Jesus called to him, “Follow me,” he was the one who grew old and fiery, who experienced mistreatment and, eventually, was bound by a rope and dragged through Alexandria until he died in a dusty street.
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, [and then] your Father in heaven may forgive you” (Mark 11:25 NIV).
Yes, it was this disciple who penned those red-letter words, spoken by the One who’d endured more suffering than we can imagine, who then became sin on our behalf, though without sin Himself—His death offering us forgiveness.
Ah. I sensed my grip loosening on my grievance as I leaned in to listen. And here I’d thought God’s word to me was an If/Then that offered another freedom—someone I frankly didn’t want to see set free. Instead, I wanted her to regret her decision. See the error of her ways. That’s just the honest truth.
But what I read from Mark was something else. Here I was, pleading with God to heal my broken heart and bind up my wounds, so I could wear the bandages like a badge that others might see and sympathize with. How selfish!
These words, however, offered a gracious gift. Instead of exhorting me to forgive that someone else would be set free, this spoke of my forgiveness offering freedom . . . to me.
Oh my, God’s mercy—to work with me in my simple-minded, still selfish state, like baby steps. Though tottering, I took them to discover I was still standing.
And what were these steps?
- First, I said three words aloud: “I forgive her.”
- Then I wrote a letter with “I forgive you” in ink before sticking it in an envelope and mailing it.
Though I didn’t know how it would be received, that wasn’t what God said was important. I’d obeyed, despite feeling.
In time, feeling came to match my faith-steps. Just like a toddler who graduates from tip-toed wobbles to running, I, too, have graduated by more readily shaking off the fetters of my own sin and stepping out in faith to forgive as well as seek to be forgiven.
Indeed, there’s power in forgiveness, and it’s true–
God simply won’t leave well enough alone.
Why? Because He knows and wants so much more. Beyond “well enough” is the wellspring of abundant life that Jesus offered. Through His death, He forgave our sins, which enables us, likewise, to forgive.
And forgiving? It’s the crossroad to freedom just beyond an empty tomb.
Dear Jesus, thank you for forgiving me and for offering us freedom when we, too, forgive. Now, Sweet Savior, help us do it!
** This devotion was inspired by events that happened years ago after our family suffered the loss of a girl we were to adopt. More about this in May when we focus on A Mother’s Love.