Grief is often complicated by a variety of issues. One of these that I see on almost a daily basis is that of forgiveness, or rather, unforgiveness. To hold back one’s forgiveness for someone’s shortcomings is a sin that will keep us out of the presence of God.
Jesus said so plainly in The Lord’s Prayer, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:9). Jesus’ forgiving power is limited by our own willingness and unwillingness to forgive and forget (Matthew 6:14-15).
It is hard to forgive someone that hurt you when you know they aren’t really sorry for hurting you. Perhaps they even enjoyed it and laughed in your face. Nevertheless, this doesn’t release us from the command to forgive (Matthew 5:39).
How can you forgive someone that you have lost?
Whether you have lost your loved one through death or by divorce or by estrangement, forgiveness must be meted out with the same intensity as if that person were standing next to you.
We must pray to God for strength to forgive that person for their shortcomings. After all, who are we to judge? (Matthew 7:1-5)
What we must realize is that people make mistakes simply because they are people and because most people aren’t eternally minded. So we must forgive even the dead, regardless of how they hurt us. We must forgive those who don’t want our forgiveness. We must forgive so that we may begin to heal. We must ask for forgiveness on their part, as Jesus did for those that crucified him (Luke 23:34); and as Stephen did for those that were stoning him (Acts 7:59-60). If we do not, bitterness will consume our soul and we will be unable to cope with life, deal with our grief, and to continue to grow in the Lord and fulfill His will for our lives.
Jeffrey K. Johnson is a licensed funeral director/embalmer in Louisiana with over 10 years experience, and is president of Hearts that Heal ministries.