A few years back, the Lord taught me a life-changing lesson on the issue of forgiveness. Learning this lesson and applying it to my life was one of the most freeing experiences I’ve ever known. It was as though I had been bound by heavy chains, and the Lord handed me a key that would open the locks and set me free.
The book of Job is a sometimes heart-wrenching story of one man going through some very difficult times. Job had been quite prosperous, but then lost pretty much everything he had—except for his nagging wife who encouraged him to “curse God and die.” There are different interpretations of Job’s plight, but whatever theological camp your tent-stakes are in, it’s apparent that in the midst of his hardship, Job learned learned a good deal about the nature of God, and the nature of himself, as well.
Chapter 42 starts with Job admitting that God is smarter than he is—a revelation that some folks haven’t had yet—and Job then repents of the complaints against God which he had made a few chapters before. Then God tests how serious Job really is about his repentance.
Earlier in the book, three of Job’s “friends” visited him with untrue and unfair accusations against him. It is apparent that they were out of line, since God told them so in Job 42:7. God also commanded them in that verse to go to Job and seek forgiveness, offering a burnt offering (an appropriate act of repentance for them). God told them that Job would pray for them, that they might be forgiven for their misstatements about God and their mistreatment of Job. These three went to Job, repented of their sin against him, and Job proved that he meant business, by praying for his three friends that had wronged him. That had to be a difficult thing for Job to do. After all, when he was most in need of comfort and support, these “friends” rubbed the salt of judgment and condemnation in his many wounds, telling Job that it was all HIS fault.
Challenging though it may have been, Job forgave his friends. I know that for sure, because Job prayed for them. You can’t seriously pray for someone when you’re holding something against them. God heard—and responded to—Job’s prayer, so Job must have genuinely forgiven his wayward friends.
The best test of whether you’ve really forgiven someone who has wronged you is to pray for them. Pray that God will bless them richly, with His highest of Blessings. If you can do that, without having your words bounce off the ceiling and fall back on your head, you’ve crossed over the line and have really forgiven. Only then can the process of healing and restoration begin. Look at verse 42:10: “The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold.” It was not until AFTER Job forgave his friends who had wronged him that God began to restore what Job had lost. I’m thoroughly convinced that, if he had refused to forgive his friends, Job would have just sat there for the rest of his days, a poor, bitter man in sackcloth and ashes, remembering the “good old days.” When Job put Grace into action and forgave his friends, God’s hand was loosed and Job was restored— with TWICE as much as he had lost!
So it is with us, when we refuse to forgive those who have wronged us. We hold ourselves hostage in a prison of hatred and bitterness. We are unable to grow, unable to move forward, unable to worship God fully. Though we may blame others for our situation, WE are the ones who hold the key that will open the prison door and set us free. If we will let go of our bitterness and forgive as God has forgiven us—totally and unconditionally—we can unlock the chains that bind us and prevent us from growing and healing.
Are you at a Spiritual “plateau”, where you can’t seem to go any farther? Examine your heart. Perhaps you need to unlock the chains that are holding you back. It’s easier than you think. Just use the key of Forgiveness.