Do Justly, Love Mercy

Forgiveness is a struggle.

And I have never struggled more than in this season.

When I first came to the field, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, full of hope and the satisfaction of dreams fulfilled. The memories of those first months, despite the difficulties, still fill me with joy. I had waited a long time to put my boots on the ground, so to speak, and nothing was going to hinder me. But, as I am sure many others can relate to, how I imagined it was going to be is not how it turned out. Some of those things were for the best and others took a while to get over, but nevertheless, I kept pressing on, knowing that I was doing what God had called me to do.

The thing that gave me strength amid all the challenges and changes was the community around me. Everyone said we were a big family and it truly felt like that. And so, when those same people turned around to hurt me and to walk away when I needed them most, I was crushed.

I had heard other workers say that the biggest cause of people leaving the field is due to conflict with co-workers. Even though I understood the concept, I didn’t think much of it. I figured that I could get along with everyone. But I wasn’t prepared for the competition, the jealousy, the betrayal and the comparison that unfortunately so often happens on teams overseas. Not only that, but I found myself disappointed at the blind eyes turned by leadership when there was a serious problem.

I found myself in my first year of a cross-cultural marriage, pregnant after 5 months, and walking through the greatest work challenge of my life. I carried my baby during 9 months of incredible stress to the point where I felt I was going to break and no one would be able to fix me. I was heartbroken and I was wounded.

God has brought my family and me out of that dark place and into a place of life and joy again. We continue to serve here, although with another organization, and are forming a new community. Our baby arrived healthy and he has been such a joy to us. However, the pain and the wounds of this time remain.

The question resounding in my mind these past months is – How do I forgive?

My problem with forgiveness is that it seems unjust.

My heart has always longed for justice. I can’t stand to see others experience injustice. And I don’t enjoy experiencing it myself. Everything inside of me screams to right that wrong. People should know. Someone should speak out. Something needs to change. I struggle with what to do. Do I let go and forgive? Or do I speak up? Is it possible to do both?

I think God’s heart is for justice too, but He sees things differently than we do. And I’m still learning how to have His heart in these matters.

In Matthew 18, there is a story of the unforgiving debtor. In short, the king forgives this servant of all his debt. But when the servant goes out from the king’s presence, he goes to a fellow servant who owed him a debt and demands payment. The man begs him for a little more time, but he doesn’t listen and has the man arrested.

I am like this man.

God has forgiven us of so much. We will not receive what we deserve, because He paid our debt in full. Yet how quickly we can forget this. How quickly I forget this. I want to demand that those who wronged me get what they deserve. This seems just. But if God would have demanded this of me, the answer would be death. There would be no mercy, no forgiveness, no grace.

So how can I reconcile God’s justice and His mercy? Micah 6:8 says,

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

How do I do what is just? How do I maintain the cause of justice and also love mercy? These are my questions for God right now. I don’t have all the answers, but I believe God wants us to place the cause of justice in His hands.

If we refuse to forgive, we hold a bitter seed in our hearts that will grow and produce bitter fruit. If we do not let go of those who have hurt us, we continue to hurt ourselves and that is a great injustice. I believe we can do what is right, we can speak the truth in love, but we can also show mercy. This is the way of Jesus.

How have you stood up for injustice while still forgiving those who were wrong?

Photo by Kayle Kaupanger on Unsplash

7 Comments

  1. Elizabeth October 13, 2021

    Thank you for sharing. Everything written in this article is what I have experienced to a T. I still struggle with forgiveness and hurt. The worst thing is the experience has caused me to not trust and to shy away from relationships. I am working through things and pray healing will come.

    1. Sarah Marie October 13, 2021

      I totally understand what you mean about trust and relationships. I am struggling with this right now too. We want to work with other people again and find a good community to be a part of, but it is really hard to trust. Praying God helps you in this as well.

  2. Ruth October 14, 2021

    Sarah thank you so much for this. Beautiful and honest and so needed. Sorry that you had to walk through such a difficult season. Thank you for this needed reminder to forgive even when it is hard

    1. Sarah Marie October 14, 2021

      Thank you Ruth 🥰

  3. Kailey October 14, 2021

    This was a very timely article for me to read. I was seriously hurt by teammates and mentoring missionaries. The greater pain I feel because of the ways that they handled sensitive issues with local friends of mine with harshness. After seeing how people are treated and generally not cared for, my husband and I decided after months of praying, that this organization is not for us.

    I still feel so hurt and so confused. I’m left not even sure of what or who to forgive, but so angry and sad about our sin that brings pain to us and those around us.

    I’m amazed at how as I’m going through these heart struggles, I’ve found myself in 2 Samuel, after David’s sin of adultery and murder and seeing all the chaos that came as a result. Even this beloved “man after God’s heart” sinned so grievously and his sin caused a ripple effect of suffering for others. But God forgave. We will also hurt others, or they may be hurt because of the consequences of our sin. May God teach us to extend grace and mercy.

    1. Sarah Marie October 14, 2021

      Hi Kailey… that sounds so much like what we experienced as well and it is truly heartbreaking. I like your point about David. We tend to look at it from his perspective rather than those who he hurt or wounded. How difficult it must have been for them and to still see the favor of God on his life. God’s mercy is so great and also hard to understand at times but I am thankful for it. 💜

  4. Kate October 19, 2021

    Yes, yes yes!! So like our first years on the field. We are a couple years removed from the situation, but the scars are still there. I resonate with your thirst for justice! It just isn’t right, some of the the things that happen, and that people say, and what they do. I fought so hard to defend my justice and my rights and found the situation worse. Considering the story of the servant in debt is perfect! I learned so much from that season and still do as my heart continues to heal. The biggest thing He showed me — He is my defender. He is the defender of all who call on His Name. He knows the truth, and His truth will set us free. I had to let go of my fight and learn to rely on Him to defend my righteousness and teach me in the process. He delights in us and He won’t leave us in the broken place forever! His steadfast mercy never ends!! And because it never ends, I feel safe to trust Him. And like Jesus said about the sinful woman who anointed His feet, “She has done a beautiful thing for me. She has done all she can, and it is beautiful.” Thank you for sharing! I will pray for you even as I pray for my own heart healing ❤️

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