You can always tell when the Lord is trying to teach you a principle because on-task real-life on-the-job experiences come in multiples. Lately, I have been inundated with opportunities to forgive.
Christ’s answer to Peter when he asked, “How many times do I need to forgive?” has entered my mind at least once a day for months. “Seventy times seven” is a lot of times.
Once should be enough. After all, the entire situation was not my fault in the first place. They got their facts messed up and misread my intentions.
They were the ones who should be asking my forgiveness, but “am I a man or a mouse?” How deep does Christianity really go in my heart?
I guess the Lord wants me to know the answer.
Among other things, some friends wrongfully accused me of bad intentions toward them and blamed me for unkind words that I never said.
One friend said, “I will never trust you, and no matter what you do to try to fix this, I will always see phoniness in your actions.” Wow, what do you do about that? I was devastated.
I had only had one enemy before. That too was a misunderstanding. I knew what Christ said to do about enemies: “Pray for them.”
The first enemy brought me back into good graces because I prayed. It was a sweet miracle. I had prayed for this good woman for months. One day, I had the impression that I needed to go to the Social Hall.
I didn’t know why; I just felt impressed to go. So I did. There was my enemy decorating for a reception for one of her daughters. I said, “I am here to help.”
Tearfully, she thanked me and our friendship was renewed. The thing about praying for your enemies is that the Lord is on your side and He can help with the work of heart-softening.
I have been praying for these two new enemies fervently for a couple of years, and I am not sure where they are with me now, but they at least speak to me.
I have taken them produce from my garden, jumped at every chance to serve them, and it has made a difference. I have totally forgiven them.
It wasn’t easy, but I came to the conclusion that I might have felt the same way with the facts they were given. That is a lesson I am still learning, but the Lord isn’t through with His forgiveness-tutoring process.
We have had two ugly divorces among our children, one where the wife just packed up without warning and left, and one was a domestic violence divorce.
A grandson was born out of wedlock, and my husband’s job closed without even a “thank you” after eight years of him trying to build a state-of-the-art program for the college. Now, we have an unfounded lawsuit pending from our former daughter-in-law staring us in the face.
What lessons are we to learn? Certainly, there is a message because the tentacles of the same theme thread through every case.
We have been praying for those who have wronged us, and we have seen miracles. At Christmastime we had my son’s new wife, the woman who had his baby and his old girlfriend, all sitting on the couch oohing and ahhing at the new baby.
There was no malice, jealousy or hatred in the room. Everyone was completely content to be there.
I am not sure how to sort that all out. Aren’t there some unwritten rules about territorial feelings, about how people are supposed to act and feel in these situations?
I don’t know how to judge this state of affairs. God has softened our hearts and their hearts as we continue to pray and work at it.
The Lord has blessed us with a sweet new daughter-in-law and her baby twin girls. From the unwed mother, we have two new grandsons who come to play every Friday. What unforeseen blessings.
Only the Lord knows how to turn manure into flowers. Our daughter who went through the domestic violence divorce has found someone who will take care of her and treats her like a queen.
Who can ask for more? The Lord really does mend the fences as long as we seek His help.
We are still getting over my husband’s job loss and the lawsuit. I am not sure how they will turn out, but I know the Lord will intervene for justice as long as we continue to pray and are willing to take however He chooses to answer our dilemma.
We just need to be patient and fill our hearts with gratitude for the blessings that will be hidden in these new clouds of adversity.
I must look back to my heroes for strength. Abraham Lincoln, standing in the dying smoke covering the cemeteries and battlefields of Civil War and saying, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, ... let us strive on to finish the work we are in, ... to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” (Second Inaugural Address, Mar. 4, 1865)
I see Jacob and Esau as estranged brothers who fought as children and young men. There was so much animosity between them that Jacob, as a grown man, feared to face his brother.
He sent gifts before him to soften the way, but the Lord had already prepared the way.
Esau welcomed his brother and his family with open arms and a heart of total forgiveness. He too must have come to the realization that forgiveness is the best policy (Genesis 25, 27, 32, 33).
I think of Joseph who knelt in the darkness of the pit where he had been thrown by his jealous brothers.
I ponder the prison where he served for a crime he didn’t commit and finally stood in the halls of Pharaoh’s court to embrace his brothers who had wronged him and said in essence, “It is not your fault. God has worked His miracles and has saved the whole world” (Genesis 37-50).
Now I don’t think the Lord plans for people to sin or make mistakes. I don’t think He expects us to rejoice over wickedness, but I do think He, as an all-knowing and loving Father, redirects the course of our lives to bring harmony when we truly desire it.
For example, Joseph’s brothers didn’t have to throw him into the pit to make God’s plan work. Joseph could have traveled to Egypt another way and still fulfilled God’s plan. God simply redirected the circumstances for Joseph’s best good.
The brothers learned some big lessons also. They learned to feel sorrow and they learned to be humble. The Lord uses every circumstance to help His children learn.
I can see His hand in my life giving me mini-lessons on how to become like Him. Sometimes the lessons come one at a time.
Sometimes they come in volumes. It’s like a classroom teacher planning a unit to cover one theme and teaching many mini-lessons on the same subject to be sure the student gets it.
I guess that is why the Lord expects us to forgive “seventy times seven.” That is 490 times. It will take that long to get all the animosity out of our hearts.
It will take that many prayers to make miracles happen. It will take that many stays and staples to mend the broken fence.
I have learned four steps to being able to help God mend the broken fence.
1. We need to assess the situation from the perspective of the person who has wronged us. Ask: If I had the facts that were presented to them, how would I react? I will always see some part of me that would react negatively.
2. Pray fervently and daily for your enemy until the problem is solved. It might take years, but it works. Every time you pray for that person, it is telling God that you really want to work out the problem and that you want to be worthy of His forgiveness.
3. Find ways to serve the person who has wronged you. It is not easy, but the Lord will prompt you because you are asking to be prompted.
4. Be grateful and look for the miracles. They will surely come. PD