One of the first prayers my mom taught me was The Lord’s Prayer. As a small child, I memorized the prayer and was able to recite it on call. I learned to say it, but did I genuinely understand what it meant? What first grader knows what “trespass” means?
“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
In September 1996, I received word that my oldest sister was dead. Her death was quite unexpected. She was a relatively young woman (40) in the prime of her life. She had not been ill. She did not have a life threatening disease. My sister had been murdered. I can still recall the pain I felt; it cut like a knife. The fact that she died was hard, but knowing that someone took her life was nearly unbearable.
I became bitter and angry. I wanted the person that killed my sister to suffer a tragic death. I was angry with God for allowing this to happen and angry with society for not caring enough to prevent it from happening. I would never forgive the person that did this. That was a very difficult period in my life.
As a Christian, to be like Christ, I knew that I had to forgive the person who took my sister’s life. But how? How could I forgive someone who had committed such a horrendous crime that personally affected me?
Forgiveness did not come overnight. But with much prayer, meditation on God’s Word, and support from the people around me, I was able to forgive that person and lift the burden from my heart.
This journey we call life is not always easy. Trials and tribulations come to us all. But God has provided us with tools to help us through every situation that we encounter. God places people and resources in our lives to help us through the hard times.
Can you think of a time when someone has hurt you, you forgave them, and they turned around and did the same thing to you again? How many times do we forgive people?
Jesus gave the answer in Matthew 18:
“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'”
What do you think of that Scripture?
And if you have been through the hard struggle to forgive someone, what encouragement do you have for others trying mightily to get to that place?
Deborah Powell is associate executive director, Women of the ELCA.
Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., used with permission