Imagine driving to work, minding your own business. Suddenly, someone runs a stop sign and with squealing tires, zips in front of your car, forcing you to slam on the brakes and swerve out of the way. You are a nervous wreck but the jerk in the other car never seems to acknowledge his mistake and speeds merrily down the highway.
How would you react? Would you scream, cry, shake your fist, curse him and all of his ancestry? Would you spend the rest of the morning, describing what happened to your coworkers? Would your day be ruined, all because of the senseless, irrational, act of a stupid jerk who thinks the open road is paved for him? And another thing, I am sick and tired of being everyone’s patsy?!!
“Calm down, Larry!”
Okay, I’m calm.
Yet, the other driver — the jerk who caused all of your suffering is happily going on with life having no knowledge of what he did to you. Think about it. The other driver was responsible for the near-accident but your reaction was not his fault. The real damage done to you was entirely self-inflicted. In a word, it is called: resentment.
One definition of resentment is to re-feel the pain. Resentment is like accidentally cutting your hand with a knife and then deciding to avenge yourself by stabbing the other hand. Ouch, that hurts!
The disciples were asking Jesus how to strengthen faith. Jesus said: “If your brother (or sister) sins, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (Luke 17:3,4)
Does this mean we have to forgive the jerk that tried to run over us? No way! Anyway, what does this have to do with faith?
The disciples asked the same question and Jesus said: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” (Luke 17:6)
What? What does that mean?
The mulberry tree has extensive roots that run deep into the soil. It’s nearly impossible to uproot. Resentment has extensive roots that run deep within our soul and is nearly impossible to overcome. Forgiveness is a process that begins as a tiny mustard seed. As the mustard seed of forgiveness grows the roots of resentment, like the mulberry tree are loosened and our faith is strengthened.
Does this kind of forgiveness sound impossible? Sure it is, without God. Yet, one psychiatrist wrote that 75% of his patients could walk out of the hospital if they could understand what it means to forgive and be forgiven. Such is the power of grace. Let me give you an example:
In 1660, John Bunyan was thrown into prison just for being a Christian. He could have let the experience ruin him but instead chose to forgive everyone involved and used the isolation as an opportunity to write Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the most influential Christian books ever written. The power of learning to forgive can produce that kind of sturdy faith within you.
“Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. What it does is enable you to take it, to face it, to work through it and eventually to convert it.” Terry Waite
Here is a good way to work on the process called “Forgiveness:”
1. Relax in the presence of God. Be quiet and trust in God. Stop talking and turn off the television or computer. Take a few, short deep breaths and listen for the voice of God.
2. Name your pain. Admit your failures. Don’t add ifs ands or buts.
3. Relinquish control. Trust that God is listening. Yield to God.
4. Participate in the forgiveness and wholeness. Pray hard and do your part. If you have lied, tell the truth. If you have broken something, fix it. Do what is necessary.
5. Anticipate results.
“It took me a long time to understand what it means to forgive someone. I always wondered how I could forgive someone who chose to hurt me? But after a lot of soul searching, I realized that forgiveness isn’t about accepting or excusing their behavior… it’s about letting it go and preventing their behavior from destroying my heart.” – Author Unknown
Does an attitude of forgiveness ever come easy? Never! It’s a process that we must work at continually but God makes a clear promise that your willingness to forgive will give you a faith that will move mountains and change your life.
Great! Now if I can only forgive that jerk on the highway that almost killed me!