A few years ago, one of my cousins suddenly stopped responding to all emails and voice mail messages. He lived with his elderly mother, my great-aunt, in her house in another state.
In spite of what seemed like “normal” sounding excuses, several months go by with still no contact.
We called a local sheriff in their county and asked if they could check on the house.
It was a heartbreaking discovery.
My great-aunt’s body was found in a container on the secluded property.
The county did everything they could to figure out the cause and time of death but was only able to find out a few details. It was clear, however, that someone had stored her away in a freezer, only recently dumping her body.
More and more evidence was leading to my cousin, her son, as the suspect who caused her death…or at the very least, helped cover it up.
When the sheriff pulled up to the house to question him, he walked out of the front door. He said he would rather die than go to prison.
He then committed suicide on the front porch before anyone could stop him.
So many unanswered questions.
It was so senseless how it robbed an entire family of so many precious little things like sweet goodbyes and joyful hellos we often take for granted.
We had to morn two deaths at once, never knowing if my cousin had anything to do with her death or if he was hiding something else.
There would be no explanations or going back. Never again would we be able to think about them without remembering what happened.
So many heartbreaking thoughts and emotions crashing over and over my body like a shore at high tide.
But I had to forgive.
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. ~Matthew 6:14-15
That’s tough to read.
I have to constantly remember this and clean out my heart and mind from the clutter that builds up when we withhold forgiveness.
This junk that piles up inside becomes stumbling blocks and ravines that separate us from God.
As hard as this seems, there is freedom through forgiveness.
When you make the choice to stop allowing other people and their actions to control your future, you are moving out of the way so God can enact His righteous justice.
We may not always see the fairness in this or ever know what God does behind the scenes to make it right.
However, one day everyone will stand before God and have to answer for their life. This includes my cousin and your offender.
This includes me and you.
I don’t want to have to answer why I forgave some people but not others, when God always forgave me when I didn’t deserve it.
Once you forgive and let go of the pain, God will begin to heal your heart, restoring His peace to your life. You then can begin to tell your testimony to others.
Never underestimate the power of your story to help another person going through a secret pain.
Words have power.
Forgiveness is not excusing or ignoring the offense.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t hold them accountable for their actions or report them to the authorities when necessary.
In the case of my cousin, I would have wanted to see him answer for his crimes even though I had forgiven him.
Forgiveness is not reconciliation or trust.
Forgiveness is instant. It’s a choice we have the power to make.
However, reconciliation and trust is a separate and on-going process. It requires the offender to be repentant, a complete turning away of their bad behavior, an authentic apology, and a genuine willingness on their part to be patient with you as they slowly regain your trust.
If the offender is continually hurting you and/or others, reconciliation and trust may not be possible or advisable.
Your pain is not in vain!
20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives ~Genesis 50:20
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose ~Romans 8:28.
I have been able to use my painful experiences to help comfort others going through similar circumstances.
Because I have experienced such deep pain, I have a powerful testimony of how Jesus restored my heart, my mind, and my joy.
Going through more sorrow and struggles in my life than most experience in an entire lifetime, has prepared me to better serve the Body of Christ. It has prepared me to be a better mom, wife, and friend.
I am wiser, calmer in the midst of pressure, and can handle difficult situations better than I ever would’ve before.
If I have to give up the person I am today, or give up all of THIS in order to go back and never experience any of the pain…I wouldn’t do it. Ever.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” ~Isaiah 55:8-9
God knew He was preparing me for what He was calling me to do with my life. As strange as it sounds, I am thankful God was wise enough to not shield me from life, other people’s sin, and my own mistakes.
So very thankful.
I encourage you to pray for your offender. The more you do, the easier it will be to forgive them…and yourself.
What is your story of forgiveness?