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?