"And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses" (Mark 11:25, ESV).
Many relationships can get stuck in a downward spiral. Every step forward is quickly followed by two steps back. Bad times and lonely times overwhelmingly outnumber the times of true joy. It can feel like no matter how hard you try, the pain of past conflict is just too close to the surface for anything good to grow. It’s hard to feel hopeful when your mind is filled with vivid reminders of hurt and failure.
What can help you turn the corner in severed or strained relationships? What can break the cycle of neglect, confrontation, injury, and withdrawal? What can heal the past and start forward momentum?
One thing: forgiveness.
There are no enduring relationships without forgiveness. We humans hurt each other. Deeply. If you want to make it to your golden wedding anniversary, it will require several major forgivenesses and a truckload of minor ones. If you want to nurture close friendships that extend over decades, if you want your family to thrive—you will have to learn to dole out and thrive in forgiveness. You can forgive, and God wants to help you. Never are we more like Christ than when we choose to forgive.
Forgiveness is much easier to talk about than to do, yet it is a God-given mandate that brings incredible healing. Our Lord has commanded us to stay busy in this matter of forgiveness: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Jesus didn’t simply talk about forgiveness. He modeled it in His everyday life. From the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1–11) to His final words on the cross—“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)—forgiveness is what Jesus was and is all about.
How about you? If you profess to be a follower of Jesus Christ, are you all about forgiveness? No doubt there are countless people who have injured you, said false things about you, betrayed you, or wounded you with their actions and reactions. The offender might be a co-worker, a neighbor or trusted friend, a parent or sibling, a spouse or child. So much of the strife in our relationships is rooted in our unwillingness to forgive.
Forgiveness is a decision to release a person from the obligation that resulted when he injured you. Once you forgive, you release him from what he owes you. You let go of getting even. You don’t want to see him suffer to repay you. You set him free.
Through forgiveness you also release healing into your own life—healing of your soul, followed by the potential for healing in your relationships.
It all starts with one simple yet difficult choice: to forgive.
Father God, please reveal those I need to forgive. Shine the bright light of Your truth into the dark corners of my heart, where I hide unforgiveness. I choose today to forgive. Because it’s something You commanded me, I know it’s possible. And because it’s something that pleases You, I beg You to help me. Please help me to forgive, deeply, from my heart, as You have forgiven me. Wherever possible, and as much as it depends on me, please heal my relationships. In the name of Jesus, who paid the highest price for my forgiveness, amen.