Forgiveness and Its Alternative

By: Kristen L. McNulty

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In his book, What's So Amazing About Grace?, author Philip Yancey writes that "the only thing harder than forgiveness is the alternative." Reading that can be kind of scary and confusing because isn't forgiveness itself hard enough? And it's one thing to forgive when the one who has wronged you asks for forgiveness or has clearly changed, but what happens when we are faced with the idea of forgiving someone who has hurt us and never apologized? Or worse, continues in the same pattern of behavior?

Forgiveness is one of the bigger issues I've struggled with since becoming a believer. Somehow deep down my sense of fairness doesn't want to accommodate for it. Besides why should I, the one who was wronged, be forced to make that step? There are many reasons why- God's love and forgiveness toping that list, but the reason that changed me is what Philip Yancey refers to as the alternative.

For too many years I was stuck in anger and bitterness towards someone in my life who had both hurt me and deeply disappointed me. As an eleven year old this type of anger and resentment didn't bother me as it served as part of my rebellion, but once I reached fifteen it was getting old. Yet no matter what I did I couldn't get rid of it. Even after turning my life over to Christ, this attitude didn't change.

In fact, only when I heard a good piece of advice was I finally freed. The advice? Every time you think of the person who you're having a hard time forgiving, pray for them. Yes, at first my prayers were shallow, but over time they deepened and brought me to a place where I could finally forgive the person who had wronged me. And by doing so, the freedom that I experienced was incredible.

The truth is, in this life there are going to be people who hurt us or disappoint us. Yes it hurts and yes it can cause bitterness to take root in our lives, but maybe that's what is so powerful about forgiveness- it truly frees us from the baggage that others sometimes dump in our lap.

Besides, as Christians forgiveness is something that we need to practice. God will never ask us to forgive someone more than He's already forgiven us. If Jesus hanging on a cross isn't a picture and example of forgiveness then nothing is. God Himself has set such an amazing example for us to follow. It's not easy, but it is the right thing to do and it will free you!

Maybe today you're struggling with unforgiveness and if that's you, I can't encourage you enough to follow the piece of advice that was given to me. Start praying for the person every time you think of them. Before you know it, not only will you have the privilege of seeing your prayers answered, but that bitter root of unforgiveness will finally be removed.

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This devotional was aired as a part of the Making A Difference Christian Radio Show.