Have you ever wrestled with God? I have. Let me describe the situation.
Years ago a person came to me with a request. “Please forgive me for the things I have said about you. I’m really sorry about what I have said. I realize now the things I said aren’t even true. I hope the things I have said don’t bring harm to you. Will you forgive me?”
The response was simple: “Yes, I forgive you.”
I did not ask for more details. What did you say? To whom did you say it? Why did you say these things?
I did not ask for the apology to be repeated to everyone who heard these potentially damaging words.
I did ask for God’s grace to be upon the person. I asked for blessings rather than revenge to be poured out.
I did ask for God to allow me to in the future treat the person as if this had never happened.
At this point you may be asking, “What is the problem?” The person was humbly confessional. You responded in a Christ-like manner. Situation over.
The problem is that the request was repeated. Over and over the humble confession was made. Again and again the apology was repeated.
Six times. And each time I responded with technically correct words of forgiveness. The problem is that somewhere along the way I stopped meaning the words of forgiveness I was speaking.
Somewhere along the way I began to hear from others details of the words that were spoken and to whom they were spoken. Somewhere along the way I began doubting the person’s humility. Somewhere along the way I began to question the person’s sincerity. Somewhere along the way I stopped being able to act as though this never happened. Somewhere along the way I just knew this was not going to change. Somewhere along the way I became convinced that I could not trust a single word the person spoke.
And so I began wrestling with God. Why God? Why would someone say these things? Why would someone do these things? Four times, God! Five times, God! Six times, God!
And God answered. Emphatically He spoke. Before I tell you what God said, let me tell you that it was not what I wanted to hear. His response was not easy to hear. Let me share with you that I still wrestled with God. And let me confess that somewhere deep within my heart I knew this would end only when God finally pinned me.
Here’s God’s answer –
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible.
Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written,
“I will take vengeance;
I will repay those who deserve it,”
says the Lord.
Instead, do what the Scriptures say:
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink,
and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.”
Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.
1 Peter 2:23
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
And finally, here’s my prayer in response to God’s pinning me –
You are merciful, teach me to be merciful.
You are worthy of trust, teach me to trust You.
You are willing to suffer for the wrongs of others, teach me to suffer.
You are willing to accept insults hurled at You, teach me to do the same.
You are the perfect, sinless God, teach me that I am neither.
You are the final judge, teach me to wait patiently.
You are a just judge, teach me to trust.
You are forgiving. Please forgive.
In Jesus’ name,