I have been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately…
During a recent sermon, the preacher said that the bigger God’s plan for our lives, or for God’s church, the harder the devil will try and ruin it. I wondered what does this means and what the implications are. Is this affecting our church and us? Can we see some desperate opposition from the devil? We don’t like talking about Lucifer. We tend to have the attitude that if we don’t recognize his existence, then we won’t have to deal with how we can constantly succumb to his temptations. I believe that understanding how he operates and seeing his handiwork is important when distinguishing what is from God and what is not.
Most of us have been offended, mistreated, victimized, molested or suffered indignant treatment sometime in our lives. By the same token we often reciprocate by using God and the people around us as punching bags to vent our anger, pain and frustration for what has happened to us and can’t deal with. The most common reaction to hurt is often denial. We bury this hurt far away. As we fill this dustbin in our heart, it starts brewing and seeps into our everyday lives, polluting our relationships, causing havoc with our peace of mind. Without realizing it we deal out our pain as we have received it. Until we deal with our pain.
Next we develop of all kinds of fears and even phobias. We become so scared to live because of all the things that may harm us, so we take extreme measures to protect ourselves, often at the expense of very undeserving people.
We then struggle to maintain relationships, are constantly involved in arguments and gossip, are continually dissatisfied about everything or try to please and gain friendships and relationships without real benefit to ourselves and often at the expense of others.
Unless we stop the mad rollercoaster ride through hell, the devil will have all the power he needs to keep us distant from God.
A few years ago I bought a small café in Springs and employed my godson. One night I was helping him to cash up before closing down. Two young men were playing video games for hours. We told them that we were closing down when they turned around and shot us both with a nine-millimeter pistol.
When this happens to you, many things happen to your mind and you feel as if you have lost control of your thoughts and sometimes of your body. You hate God, people and life in general. I had just given my life to God a few months earlier and things went from bad to worse!
Why did they just shoot us? Why didn’t they at least take one packet of chips? At least then I could say they were hungry!
The fear my godson and I suffered afterwards was so immense we left the country.
The ultimate lesson I have learned from all of this was that healing starts with forgiveness. I have forgiven those boys, completely, with God’s help. And so my fears vanished. Slowly my understanding of the situation and of God grew. God tried to warn me, in no uncertain terms.
For a while before this, and especially on this day, the 1st June 1993, my car would do the strangest things. It would feel as if the one wheel was falling off. I would stop and check, but every time there was nothing wrong. The dashboard lights would start flashing and the car would cut out, but re-start again. I had a definite feeling that day that I should not open the store, but it was month-end and our busiest day. I gave my car to my sister when leaving the country, who never had any problems with the wheels or wiring afterwards.
I knew I should not open the store, but I did not trust God or my faith enough. I believed that I must make money for the day, that God could not provide this also if required – as He has done throughout my life.
The forgiveness I gave to my offenders set me free, I was no longer at the mercy of the devil’s torment. I was at peace. I could again plan for my future, and two and a half years later could come home where I belonged. This hatred and feelings of revenge was gone from my heart and I now learned how to forgive. I then forgave everyone that has ever done me wrong and asked forgiveness from everyone I could that I had wronged.
When sentencing offenders, courts often take the victim’s opinion into account. This is a very sorry state of affairs. Our Department of Corrections has been turned into the Department of Revenge. Society condones this refusal or inability to forgive. But as Christians, we mustn’t.
When our life is in trouble, we come to church most eagerly. We come with our troubles and baggage and then dump it on God and the congregation. Percentage-wise there are more hurting people in the church than elsewhere. This is where we can find carriers for our burdens. This is the ideal place to find someone who understands, if only we learn to be humble.
Thinking how hard it often is to deal with our own pain, it is easy to see how great God is to carry it for us all. Think of the understanding He must have of the suffering we endure constantly from this world becoming more and more evil every day! As we sin against Him, we also sin against each other. He affords us all the forgiveness we could possibly need. We must do the same.
I believe that forgiveness is the first step to a true life in Christ. A life of inner peace; a life that can overcome and rise above our own and the world’s problems. A life that strives to see the bigger picture, that has space for difference, that can respect without precondition, that can accommodate and sympathize with involvement. This is when we start believing that one person really can make a difference. The fact is that we are what we think, and no bigger. If we forgive, then we can attain the peace God offers. Then there is no place in our personal lives or our church for the devil to exercise his power.
But where do you start? How do you spring-clean your emotions? How do you find peace? Just thinking of it all may frighten you to death! The first step is to humble ourselves unconditionally before God, by praying…by asking His help. Since He knows everything already, we won’t even need to explain!
God is the greatest Teacher, if we’ll just learn – then an abundant, peaceful life really is waiting…
Alden Möller lives in Cape Town, South Africa.