Feelings, Forgiveness and Peace
Angelique had never really known her father. He had deserted her mother for his homosexual lover when Angelique was just a toddler. But it often pained her when she saw other children’s fathers at their birthday parties or picking them up after school.
“Why doesn’t my daddy ever come to see me?” she asked her mother.
Her mother looked down at her sadly and said, “I don’t know, honey. According to Jesus, you have a Heavenly Father who loves you, you know.”
Nevertheless, the situation caused heartache for both mother and daughter. When Angelique was nine, her mother went to visit a friend in another state. As they drove through the countryside, Angelique’s mother talked about her friend, Donna. “Aunt Donna grew up in a broken home, too,” she said. “She never knew her daddy either. So I’m sure she would understand how you feel, Angelique. You can talk about it with Aunt Donna.”
The day after they arrived, Donna took Angelique out for breakfast. As she looked across the table, she felt a kinship with the sad-faced freckled little girl. She listened attentively as Angelique poured out her thoughts and feelings.
“Nobody seems to understand how much I wish I had a daddy to take me places,” she said. “I try not to get angry at my daddy. But just this morning I felt really bad toward him because he has never come to see me or sent me presents.”
“I understand that myself,” Donna sympathized. “I went through the same thing.”
“Well, I knelt by my bed,” Angelique continued, “and did what Mama told me to do. I prayed to Jesus and I forgave my daddy. And it made me feel better.”
Donna was quiet for a moment, remembering the battle she had had with pain and forgiveness. Not only had she needed to forgive her father for deserting her, but she also had had the even harder task of forgiving her mother for the awful physical and emotional abuse the latter had put her through while she was growing up.
Then Donna said gently. “One thing you must realize, Angelique: These feelings will pop up again at certain times in your life…like when you graduate from high school and your father is not there…when you get married and he doesn’t give you away…and even when you are my age and you watch your children having fun with their daddy such as you never had. At such times you will again have to look to Jesus and forgive your daddy. For the Lord Jesus can help you forgive again and again, and He can take the pain out of your heart, even as He has done for me.”
Donna realized that Angelique wouldn’t fully understand what she was saying until those unhappy feelings about her father’s absence assailed her on future days. But she knew from Angelique’s attentiveness that she would remember what was said and would be able to deal with the situation when it arose again.
Feelings and forgiveness
Often when we have dealt Scripturally with bad feelings that have been aroused by a certain situation, we like to believe that we will not suffer them again. In some cases, we don’t. But, as human beings, we may experience situations in our lives that stir up painful feelings about certain persons or events. Those feelings in themselves are not sinful. But if we respond to them with unremitting anger and hostility, they can rob us of fellowship with the Lord, His peace and joy, and abundant life. Psalm 37:1 advises us not to fret because of evildoers (Psalm 37:1). We mustn’t dwell on the grief others have caused us. Instead, we are to seek the Lord’s help–and forgive again.
Samuel Johnson said, “A wise man will make haste to forgive, because he knows the true value of time, and will not suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain” (The Rambler).
Painful feelings may involve a missing or abusive parent, an errant or abusive mate, an ungrateful, uncaring child, or even something wrong that we did in the past. As an example of the latter, some women I have counseled have told me of their guilt and self-accusation concerning abortions or the breakup of their marriages that have haunted them for years. Even though they had asked the Lord’s forgiveness, they had not been able to forgive themselves–until they realized the depth and reality of God’s forgiveness.
According to the psalmist, God has removed our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Forgiveness is a key remedy for relief from painful feelings. If those feelings are caused by another person, we are wise to follow Jesus’ advice when He said we are to forgive those who sin against us a limitless number of times–”until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22).
Two ways to go
Jesus gave us this teaching perhaps as much as for our sakes as for those we forgive. How can we enjoy His love, peace, and joy if we harbor wrath, malice, anger, bitterness and hostility toward someone else, or speak slanderously of that person? According to Ephesians 4:30-31, we grieve the Holy Spirit when we do that. And the Spirit is the source of love, peace, and joy (Galatians 5:22). The proper response is given in Ephesians 4:32–being kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving “even as God for Christ’s sake forgives us.” How can we do that?
The Son of God knew all things; so He also told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). According to Roget’s Thesaurus, “persecute” means to molest, wrong, or torment–”to annoy or disturb with hostile intent or injurious effect.”
When I’ve found it hard to love someone who has hurt me, I hold that person up in my hand to the Lord and ask His help. As I pray for that person I realize what a miserable person he/she must be to cause others pain. This gives me sympathy for that person, and the love of God fills in the rest.
Bitterness and anger at God and others because of past experiences cause many people misery for years. Such hurtful feelings can mar their lives and those of others close to them. How sad that they have thus wasted their lives on self-pity! The best way we can reject bitter thoughts and feelings is through forgiveness. “Make every effort to live in peace….See to it that…no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:14-15). Wise Christians put their trust in the love and power of God and reject bitterness and self-pity. Like little Angelique, they have in childlike faith forgiven those who have hurt them. Like Donna, they continue to forgive whenever hurt feelings rise again, and turn their thoughts to better things. In so doing they have achieved Christ’s abundant life in spite of whatever has happened in their lives. And they enjoy the peace of God that passes all understanding.