I Forgive You, But…

Day 1 of 5 • This day’s reading


"Life Can Be So Unfair "

Barbara came to church not long after my husband, the founding pastor, had unexpectedly died, and I had taken over his job as pastor.

Barbara caught my eye because she seemed unhappy and downtrodden. Her shoulders were hunched over, she didn’t make eye contact, and looked as if she would cry spontaneously. 

When I greeted her, she looked down as I shook her hand, murmured “thank you,” and walked away. I wanted to speak with her longer, but she slipped away.

One Sunday, I finally managed to catch her and asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?” She started to shake her head, but somehow mustered up the courage to ask, “Could I meet with you sometime?” 

I agreed, and we set up a time to meet.

At our meeting, Barbara was dry-eyed and matter-of-fact as she spelled out how from the age of two or three years old, she had been abused physically and emotionally by several male family members.

As a result, her adult life was a mess. Her three children each had different fathers, and none of the men had stayed. Now she was struggling not only to raise three children but to form relationships with anyone, even friends and coworkers.

If you heard her whole story, you would understand why. She had no normalcy in her past, no way of knowing how to engage with people in a healthy way, and it affected every area of her life. My heart broke for her. 

After meeting with her several times, I was at home praying for her one night: “Father, this is so unfair! It’s not Barbara’s fault that she was born into this abusive family, yet her life is a mess because of what those horrible people did to her. How can I help her? It can’t be hopeless. Is there an answer?”

And the Lord said, “Yes, there’s an answer.”

I said, “I knew it! What’s the answer?”

I was totally surprised. He said, “Forgiveness.”

That stopped me short. It wasn’t what I was expecting. I said, “No way! Are you sure, Lord? It doesn’t seem like forgiveness will help her get over everything that’s happened.”

And then the Lord told me something that I’ve never forgotten. He said, “Forgiveness is how my relationship started with you.” Wow, that’s something to think, isn’t it!