Nov 15, 2018

Struggling to Forgive? God Brings His Strength to You in Word and Sacrament (Part III of III)

By Katy Cloninger


Forgiveness (both the giving and receiving of it) is an essential aspect of the Christian life. In Parts I and II of this series, we’ve discussed the need to forgive our neighbors and explored some truths about forgiveness that, once realized, can help us let go of our anger and forgive. Today, we will look at the very source of our ability to forgive—that is, where we get the forgiveness of our own sins and the strength of the Holy Spirit to forgive those who sin against us.

Stay grounded in the Word of God, the Sacraments, and the whole life of the Church. First of all, we should go to church every Sunday. In the readings, the sermon, the hymns, the Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper, our loving and forgiving Lord comes to us and heals us. Through His Word, He convicts us of our sins and makes known to us our forgiveness. Our brothers and sisters who sit with us in the pews can also give us great comfort and support when we are hurting.

Individual confession and absolution can also be tremendously helpful as we process our pain and anger. Here we confess that we, too, are sinners who deserve the wrath of God and eternal punishment. Yet as the pastor places his hands on our heads and pronounces forgiveness in the stead and by the command of Christ, the burden of our sins is released and we find freedom from guilt and shame. When we know and believe that our sins are forgiven, it is much easier to then forgive our neighbor. Of course, talking with our pastors outside of a formal confession setting can be immensely beneficial as well.

Reading the Bible daily at home is also important, for we need to be fed every day. The psalms in particular reflect a wide range of human emotion while teaching us to trust in God to bring about justice and His will. The psalms lead us to confess our sins and to acknowledge God as the One who will vindicate us in His own time and way—either bringing our offender to repentance in this life, or punishing him in the next. (Of course, we should pray for the former, for that is what God in His mercy desires for all of us.) Whatever book of the Bible we read, we can find much comfort and help in processing our emotions. As we read about God’s actions in history, His will for us, and His promises which we have received through Baptism, the Holy Spirit will work in our hearts and lead us to pray, “Thy will be done.” In God, we find all our needs met and all our anxieties and distresses put to rest.

Singing hymns can also be a wonderful way to heal our souls. Good hymns are anchored firmly in the Word of God and are memorable enough to learn by heart and sing out loud or to ourselves. They can be very comforting and remind us of God’s goodness and mercy. A few that have helped me particularly are “O Little Flock, Fear Not the Foe,” “I Know My Faith Is Founded,” “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” “From God Can Nothing Move Me,” “What God Ordains Is Always Good,” “The Will of God Is Always Best,” and “Jesus Lives! The Victory’s Won”—among many others. By singing hymns over and over, we meditate on the truths they express, and the words will often come back to us in hours of darkness and gently encourage us to put our trust in the Lord.

Forgiveness is not always easy, but with God, all things are possible. The same Triune God who raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, healed the lepers, and made the lame to walk is also able to heal our pain and help us truly forgive our offenders from our hearts. Like all good works, forgiveness is not something we muster up in ourselves apart from the Holy Spirit, but it is a good fruit that follows faith, which is itself a gift from God. Though our Old Adam resists this work of the Holy Spirit in us, with God’s help, it is possible to “finally overcome [the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh] and win the victory.” Forgiveness is the true victory, and it is freedom. With God’s help, we can put aside our bitterness, hurt, and anger and walk in His glorious freedom.



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Katy is a sister, daughter, and mother, as well as a freelance copyeditor and a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Columbia, SC. She has a BA in English from Newberry College, loves studying theology and teaching it to her son, and is currently enrolled in the school of hard knocks.

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