If you have been struggling to hear God, to know where He wants to you go, what He wants you to do, and you have been praying, seeking, and patiently waiting, then maybe there is something wrong.
If you are standing at the foot of a mountain, but in spite of your trust and faith in God’s power to move it on your behalf, it remains in your path. Then there may be something else in the way of your prayers and the answers you desire.
I was hurt by a friend recently. She doesn’t know she hurt me, but she did. And I’ve struggled with it for months now. I knew it was unintentional and deemed it unworthy of the instructions outlined in Matthew 18:15-17 for confronting an offending brother or sister.
I had forgiven this individual and felt free from the anger I had previously felt in my heart. But then something would happen and the anger returned. She hurt another friend of mine. Little things here and there reminded me of her offenses and my list of grievances grew and grew.
In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, these are HUGE red flags. These are indications that I need to forgive this person. Again.
Meanwhile, my prayers and time alone with God have been lacking something…. connection, patience, and faith, which carries over to my writing, parenting, and leadership. Could it be that my forgiveness was not genuine, or truly from the heart? Like when we tell our children to say they are sorry for hurting a friend, knowing full well their sorrow is not felt at a deep, heart level? Could it be that some offenses must be forgiven over and over, that it is not a “once and done” thing? Could it be that I never truly forgave her to begin with, but hoped my hurt feelings would eventually just go away?
Don’t we all do this? Don’t we often deny our feelings and refuse to acknowledge the evidence before us? We disregard the irritation, and those negative thoughts that enter the mind when that person’s name is mentioned. We discount the increased pulse, the heat rising to our face, and the impulse to unload an entire laundry list of things they ever did that was hurtful or disappointing because it is easier than dealing with what is causing all of those thoughts, feelings, and physical responses. I can imagine someone might be coming to mind for you as you read this now.
Hey, I’m with you– I get stuck here too!
But we can all be blinded by emotions, misguided, and even deceived by the heart (Jer 17:9).
In my last post , I wrote about the power of forgiveness and the impact it makes on our health, mental health, and relationships. I described two women who through different circumstances in life, had to face the decision of whether or not to forgive— then I shared their respective outcomes. You can read it, here.
However, most of us have not experienced those exact types of broken trust or betrayal by another. And most of us consider minor offenses, not worthy of the same introspection and forgiveness because they seem irrelevant or inconsequential.
Sure, we may not experience significant health problems that result from our unforgiveness. We may not have depression or anxiety, we may not be “stuck” or unable to move forward— and we may not be self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, all indications that we may have unhealed wounds. But we face another risk. And this one’s a doozy.
Jesus explained the necessity of forgiveness after teaching his disciples to pray, but in the parable of the unmerciful servant He went further and described disastrous spiritual consequences of un-forgiveness.
In case you are not familiar with it, the parable went like this:
A servant owed a king a large debt but was unable to repay it. He deserved punishment but begged for mercy and the king forgave his debt. Afterwards, the servant went to collect a debt from one of his friends, who also happened to be unable to repay it and begged for mercy, but the servant denied him mercy or forbearance. When the king heard about this, he called the first servant back and told him he should have had mercy on his friend, like he had shown him, and then sentenced him to torture and full repayment of the original debt. Jesus ended the parable with this statement: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35 paraphrased)
Clearly, forgiveness is not a good idea, or suggestion, but an imperative. We might even call it a command. It was to be given as often as requested by another according to Matthew 18:21-22 (or given without limit), to be offered to others before bringing an offering to God ( Matthew 5:23-24 ), and a likely prerequisite to the moving of the mountains standing in our way.
The week before Jesus’ crucifixion, he taught them that with faith, they could move mountains ( Mark 11:20-26 ). But Mark’s account of this conversation added an interesting caveat: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (v.25)
Why would these two seemingly unrelated issues be placed together in one passage unless there is an important conclusion to be drawn: Forgiveness of others is a necessary pre-requisite to prayers and requests for dramatic results.
In short- if your mountain isn’t moving, maybe it is not a matter of faith, but a matter of forgiveness.
We are reminded in James that God values mercy over judgment:
“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that give freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” James 2:13
I share my story of personal offense because it is NOT one of significant betrayal or broken trust. It is NOT one of abuse or maltreatment. This story is important, however, because I think it demonstrates a kind of unforgiveness that most of us can relate to— something comparatively less traumatic and dynamic, but toxic and destructive nonetheless.
We are clearly told what to do. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.
We forgive because he has forgiven us. We forgive to bring reconciliation and restoration to our relationships (when possible and appropriate), and to bring us into right standing with the One who has forgiven us for much, much more and will continue to do so as much as we need.
Our forgiveness of others is not only best for the one forgiven, it is best for the one forgiving!
But we can refuse. We can deny. We can avoid. And all of those feelings, thoughts, physical responses will only become intensified. Until we DO have health problems, or become stuck, or have to self-medicate because our unforgiving heart is living out of sync with what God has designed and provided for us!
It is quite possible that God has the exact path laid out for you, the very opportunity that you have been seeking and waiting for Him to provide, the answers to the question you have been asking, but that He is waiting to reveal them to you.
It is quite possible that your mountain will not go anywhere regardless of your faith and confidence in His might. There may be something in the way of all that God has planned for you and I and if we don’t take care of it, the cost may be more than we could ever dream!
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13
Let us truly forgive and get busy moving some mountains!