By Liz West
If I were to ask you who is the person you’ve found hardest to forgive, I dare say I would receive a barrage of answers. The topic of forgiveness was discussed amongst our home group this week leading into Easter. Answers ranged from those who have hurt us, those who have hurt ones we love, those who have cursed us or caused us harm etc. Two answers which included mine prompted the longest conversation. I said the person I found hardest to forgive was myself. I was then asked to explain why this was so.
Over forty years ago my younger brother (10) was riding his bike one Sunday afternoon when he was hit by a speeding driver and died later in hospital. I was the last person to talk to him. He wanted to play with me and I said go away, leave me alone. I never saw him again. Suffice to say I lived with the guilt of sending him away to his death for a long time. On the anniversary of his death 20 years later I decided to take my young sons to visit his grave. While they were off playing and looking at all the other graves I sat down and started to weep and ask God to forgive me for what I did. A small voice whispered to me that this was not my burden to carry, that my Heavenly Father knew all about this and to get up from this place free from the guilt that I had carried for so long. I can’t tell you the joy I experienced that day and I have never gone back to that place of shame ever again.
Reading through the account of Peter and Judas again this week it highlighted the difference between the two as they struggled with forgiving themselves. Sad to say Judas could not live with what he did and killed himself, but Peter accepted Jesus’ offer of forgiveness and restoration and became a pillar of the church. No doubt there would have been times when Peter would revisit his denial of Christ, possibly by insinuations from the other disciples or Satan coming and attacking his thoughts. Nevertheless, he chose deliberately to remember those loving words of Jesus, “Peter, do you love me?”
The death of Christ on the cross brings forgiveness to all who ask for it. I have been learning that if I continue to be unforgiving not only toward others but to myself as well, then I am diminishing the work of Christ and don’t fully believe that he has won the victory over my sin and shame. He forgave me and forgave others of their sin and I am to do the same.
This is the freedom He brings - freedom from guilt, shame, sin and the penalty of death. Walk in it, revel in it, share this good news to others.
Liz West - wife, mother and grandmother. Owner of Harmony Gifts and Books. A member of Bracken Ridge Baptist Church.
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