I have to admit that forgiving others is sometimes a struggle for me, even as a Christian. I don't have any difficulty forgiving someone for what we might call a "minor offense" or something fairly insignificant. However, if the offense is something that affects my life in a major way, I struggle. In fact, if I'm being honest, I want just the opposite—-I want revenge. I want to somehow make the other person go through all the turmoil and anger and bitterness that I've experienced. I know that's the wrong attitude but, again, I'm being honest. I really came to a crossroads a couple of years ago when I had struggled for so long with bitterness and anger toward a particular person who caused unmentionable grief for my family and me. Was I going to really practice my faith and honor what the Bible teaches about forgiveness, or was I going to forget this principle of the Christian Faith and act in a manner I would later regret?
The Lord reminded me one day of an event that happened on one of my many camping and hiking trips as a young person. On this particular hiking trail, we encountered a medium sized stream that was dammed by fallen trees; rocks; and debris. The water above the dam was slow moving and almost stagnant, even dirty looking and polluted. There didn't appear to be any fish or much life at all. Below this natural dam, I noticed where the stream had found a small gap and had broken through. There, the water was clear and sparkling and rushing around rocks and around the boundaries of the banks quickly working it's way downstream. What a difference a few feet on the hiking trail made!! I witnessed the same water transform itself from dirty stagnation to clean refreshment.
I was reminded that not forgiving others, no matter how great the offense, simply dams up my my own life and pollutes my Christian walk. I become stagnant and stale; bitter and miserable; hurtful and dirty. I discovered that by not forgiving others, I only hurt myself, not the person that I was still angry with. As soon as I forgave this person–truly forgave them, it was as if the dam broke. Suddenly, my Christian faith was like the water running down stream, after the dam. It was clear and clean and beautiful again. It was an unbelievable feeling of freedom.
Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive? Do you need to break through the "dam" of unforgiveness in your life? I encourage you to forgive that person; don't stay paralyzed with bitterness. I can promise you that there's much better scenery downstream with a free-flowing stream, than there is stagnant in a pool of dirty water.