Pastoral Perspectives

Set Yourself Free

Two Sundays ago, Americans marked the tenth anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on their soil. On that day, the country stood still and watched haplessly as two airliners turned the twin towers of World Trade Center into heaps of crumbled steel and pulverised concrete. At the same time, news broke out that two other planes were on similar missions but had dissimilar results. Chaos broke out as hurting people cried out in anguish amidst the devastation. But senseless attacks had been happening all around the world ever since mankind began drawing boundaries and creating tools of destruction. And in the ten years after that fateful morning of 911, other similar attacks had also taken place elsewhere. So what’s new? And can the world become a better place again?

The truth is that we are also confronted with hurts, pains, devastation and betrayals in our lives. Like 911, we may lose something very precious to us because of another person’s selfish or careless acts. Or we may be betrayed and hurt by his unkind words. The pain hurts deeply and the outcome can also be devastating. And sometimes it can be so overwhelming that we question God. Yet as good Christians, we know that our loving Father is not the source of all evils and sufferings. If these things were to happen in our lives, we are told that it is only so because God permits it. But can our lives get better again? What steps can we take to help us deal with such struggles in life?

First, we need to remember that God is good. Therefore we may feel victimized but we must remember that God does not intend for us to be victims of other’s deeds. For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. And his purpose is to make us perfect through it so that we may become victors instead. To do so, we will need to bring our struggles before him. We may share it with friends or retreat to our own corner but we must never hide away from God, even when we are angry with him. It is at such a time like this that we can enter greater intimacy with the Father when we come before him in broken spirit and contrite heart.

Second, we need to remember the magic word called forgiveness. It is not easy to forgive but neither is it impossible. If God were to allow another person to cause hurt to us, chances are that he wants us to learn forgiveness more than vengeance. And the more difficult it is to forgive a person, the more important it is for our spiritual growth. But what is forgiveness? One may forgive another by adopting an emotional state that shows no apparent hatred to the person. And I believe there are many such Christians today. They have been hurt by others and they forgive the offenders by burying the wound deep in their hearts. As such they would find it hard to trust and open up to people because they have not dealt with the root of their pain. To forgive means you make the conscious choice to acknowledge the pain caused but let the anger go. It means the hurt would still be there and would take time to heal but you choose not to hold any grudges out of obedience to the Lord’s command to forgive (Col 3:13; Mark 11:25). So how can we go about forgiving a person?

Third, we need to come back to the cross if we want to learn to forgive. It is here that we see the Father’s wrath because of our sins and his forgiveness because of his love. God has the right to be angry but nevertheless he made forgiveness available before he reaches out to draw us back to him. So we must bring our hurt, pain, anger or sorrow as well as our desires for retaliation to cross of Jesus, for only he can heal our wounds and grant us deliverance from all bitterness that is deep in our hearts. Then we must be willing to forgive the person before we go and seek reconciliation, especially when the person is also a believer. Our problem is that we often go to talk and hoping to find reasonable grounds to forgive. Healing comes when Christians are ready to forgive and reconcile. But if the person is adamant, then we can only trust God to deal with the situation and move on with our life.

Fourth, we need to realize that it takes spiritual discipline to cast our cares upon Jesus and be willing to forgive another. That is, if we have been too busy to have time for Jesus, then we are less likely to be convicted that he is our help and deliverance. But if we have been spending precious moments with Jesus, then it becomes a natural response for us to cling to him each time we are hurt and it would also be easier to extend forgiveness to other because we remember how we have been forgiven by the Lord.

Finally, let me close with the story of Corrie Ten Boom. She was a Christian woman who survived a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust which took away her sister’s life. Years later, she came face to face with the tormentor who had become a believer and had asked her for forgiveness. It was hard to forgive as images of her sister’s suffering and death flashed before her. But she knew she had to because God wanted her to. So she did and said these famous words, “Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was you.” Corrie was able to set herself free because she had been a devout Christian who walked closely with her Lord. So how will you deal with your 911? Would you retaliate or would you forgive and reconcile? The choice is yours and your response would determine whether you remain a prisoner or one set free.

Pastor Ronnie Ang

September 25, 2011