There's a place in all our hearts where we've been hurt by someone.
Whether it's our family, friends, or within our churches, words and actions have damaged relationships and brought on emotional distress like a lightning bolt splinters a tree-bark shatters, branches fall, crevices marking the path down along the trunk.
It often hits unexpectedly, without warning. The most painful when it's someone we trust or look up to.
The responses are as varied as our personalities, silent retreat, angry outbursts, or buckets of tears. Some reactions are sinful if we choose to slander the offender among others or allow bitterness to harden into hate.
Our wounds may be raw and oozing, or they could be scabbing over and itchy. Through the pain and difficulty, how have we been growing in our ability to forgive?
I Forgive You: Finding Peace and Moving Forward When Life Really Hurts by Wendy Alsup is a guide when words of forgiveness, and the reconciliation that could follow, feel far out of our reach.
"What would you say if I told you that forgiveness is not out of your reach-that we have a God who loves reconciliation, a Savior who came into the world to reconcile us to himself, and a Spirit who works change and healing among us? That there is hope-even for you?"
Wendy takes us through the life of Joseph, his losses, loneliness and pain, inflicted upon him by others, to point us to the gospel of Jesus. She reminds us of the names of Joseph's sons, how Manasseh shows us he hadn't forgotten his heritage, and in Ephraim, that "God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction" (Gen 41:52).
What great love and mercy of God, that in our hurt and wandering through painful wounds God would continue to be at work in us. She writes, "we are most fruitful in the land of our affliction when God transforms us internally."
One way this begins, is doing our own self-examination, because our response to sin done against us may in turn be sinful. So, recognizing our own sin toward others, naming it, repenting, and making restitution is our act of faithful obedience to God.
The cost of a debt forgiven is taken by the one who was offended, she writes, "forgiveness is fundamentally lopsided." It's an act of sacrifice. Just as our own forgiveness came at a price, the blood of Jesus bids us to respond likewise.
She goes on to say,
"The path of reconciliation is not for those who want to avoid pain. It is for those willing to walk through the pain, believing that God has called us to something better than our status quo of broken relationship."
While our hope and desire may be a reconciled relationship, the truth is we can't control others, nor force them to walk the same faithful, obedient path in the Lord. Romans 12:18 reminds us "if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peacably with all," so we trust the Lord's work in our own hearts and make the effort to be reconciled and trust him again with all the rest.
Forgiveness isn't popular in the "cancel culture" we live in, that when someone offends us, we unfollow or avoid them. It takes a convicted heart, turned toward the gospel to remember first our reconciliation to God in Christ, that we may be filled with the love and strength to do the same for others. This book, I would say, is primarily directed toward reconciling personal relationships; though she touches briefly on the systemic reconciliation needing to take place across social injustices and racial reconciliation, the application is for the smaller circle around each of us and navigating our own woundedness.
I'm sure you have tension or wounds with those around you, and if the Spirit is nudging you to take a deeper look, I'd really recommend this book. Her words are kind and challenging as she speaks from her own experience.
# of pages: 128 pages
Level of Difficulty: Easy
My Rating: 5 stars
*A big thanks to the Good Book Company for the complimentary copy of this book, and the opportunity to post an honest review.