"As they continued to stone Stephen, he kept praying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!' Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, don't hold this sin against them!' After he had said this, he died." Acts 7:59-60, ISV
Sunday morning's Bible Study this week got bogged down on the first item of discussion: Forgiveness.
Sometimes it seems like forgiveness is impossible, usually because the offense in ongoing, relentless. How do you forgive someone who, every time you see them, they put you down. How can you expose yourself to continued hurt, time after time, and still forgive?
It seems impossible. Years ago I had a supervisor who put me down because I was a woman. Not just once, but time after time. He was eventually removed as my supervisor by his boss. My relief was overwhelming, and I received the news with such gratitude.
It took literally years to forgive him. I would hand the situation over to God, but then every time someone brought up an even vaguely related incidence, I would re-recite the old story, each time with the same hurts popping up again. Again I'd ask God to help me forgive. Now I retell the story only when I think it might help, and the hurt isn't there. I no longer wish the man would fall into a sink hole too steep and too deep to climb out of. It's been a long time since I've seen him, but I hope he has or will find the peace that comes from God, and I hope he has learned to treat women better.
Forgiving isn't easy, especially when it's in the family. The only way I know is to say over and over "I forgive her/him/them," and hand it over to God. It will help you far more than you will ever realize until you actually do it. If Jesus could forgive those who tortured and crucified Him, and if Stephen could forgive the ones who stoned him to death, maybe we can, too.
Prayer: Lord, please help us to forgive when the forgiving comes hard. Help us to remember how much You have forgiven us and to grant mercy to those who unintentionally or even on purpose hurt us or the ones we love.