Monday, March 18, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Why God wants us to practice forgiveness

Forgiveness: A Gift from God
A devotional by Joy Beless

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
—Luke 23:34 (NIV)

On a rainy day in Dublin, I knew where I wanted to be. I said goodbye to my husband and we separately made our way through the winding streets to see the last stop on our “must-see” lists before leaving Ireland. We later met up to share our experiences over dinner.

It’s hard to explain the “pull” of the Holy Spirit but it was unmistakable: I needed to have space to reflect on my time in Ireland and listen to God’s quiet whisper.

I yearned to sit in a quiet chapel and soak in the ancient story of Saint Patrick at his namesake cathedral. As I approached, I joined the other tourists who for whatever reasons, also made their way through the magnificent stone doors into a dimly lit gothic style cathedral. It was beautiful and intriguing but not quiet. I made my way to the end of the building to the Lady Chapel where few people were sitting and they, like me, yearned for a quiet worshipful experience. As I sat there, still and breathing in the damp air, the word “forgiveness” surfaced in my soul.

Forgiveness is a major theme in St. Patrick’s story and, if we are truthful, in all our stories. Saint Patrick lived in Britain and as a teen was taken captive to work as a slave in Ireland, turning to God through prayer for his strength. After six years he escaped and returned to his family. While home, he dreamt the Irish people were begging him to return. After becoming a priest, he returned to the island of his slavery and preached the gospel for another forty years until his death.

If we unwrap our culture’s version of St. Patrick’s Day—celebrating by wearing green color apparel, focusing on four-leaf clovers, shamrocks and fables—we discover a remarkable story of the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We see how it gives us strength to untwist the complicated stories of our lives and empowers us to forgive others.

Throughout the New Testament, forgiveness is an important theme. So much so, Jesus Christ spoke of it in The Lord’s Prayer, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12 NIV). The Apostle Paul also emphasized forgiveness in his letters to the early church. He wrote in Ephesians 4:32 NIV: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Paul was keenly aware of the power of forgiveness after he received forgiveness for the relentless persecution he led against the early church before he met Jesus. He was also thankful, by God’s grace, to forgive those who persecuted him as a Christian.

As I sat in the small room hidden at the end of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I had no agenda other than to be present with God and to listen to Him. An undeniable quiet voice spoke, “Love others. And to love others is to forgive.” I continued to sit quietly and pondered who and what is tucked away like a rock in my soul, waiting for forgiveness. Shortly, thereafter, I stepped back through the thick stone doorway out into the cool rain of the afternoon, knowing to love Jesus Christ is to follow Him in forgiving others.

There is much to be said about the subject of forgiveness. It does not necessarily mean “forgetfulness” or to pretend the words or action never happened. Rather, it is a journey God desires to walk with us, understanding the complexity and difficulty of releasing the person and the hurtful act or words into His hands. Forgiveness is freeing ourselves from the power of the unjust act. This creates space in our heart to receive the intimate redeeming love of Jesus Christ.

Is there a name, a relationship or experience that is rising in your soul as you read this? Perhaps emotions of grief, anger or anxiety? Talk with God about it. Ask Him to show you the first step and identify someone who is safe you can trust to walk this journey of healing with.

St. Patrick knew the power and necessity of practicing forgiveness every day. Jesus Christ demonstrated to us how to forgive people, and I desire to live a lifestyle of forgiveness.

Let’s Pray:
Thank You, Jesus, for teaching and demonstrating for us the importance of living out the forgiveness we receive from You and extend to others—especially when it is undeserved and difficult to give. Thank you for the life of St. Patrick who, through forgiveness, brought Christianity to a nation. Help me to forgive. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Forgiveness” by Matthew West. Listen here.

Author Bio:

Joy Beless is a worshipper of God and lover of people. 

A practicing Spiritual Director, she is a speaker for retreats and conferences and facilitates guided solitude retreats at the family ranch in North Texas.

A seasoned worship leader and songwriter, she frequently weaves worship, God’s Word and spiritual practices together. She is a chapel provider for a shelter for the houseless and a certified Grief and Trauma Healing Facilitator. Serving at global retreats for Kingdom-minded women delights her soul.

She has written for Global Trellis and Missio Nexus. She connects God’s Word with the reality of our daily in all the ups and downs.

Joy is married to Roger. They live in Coppell (Texas). Joy is called "JoJo" by her nine adorable grandchildren. She enjoys the outdoors and encourages flowers to grow in the Texas heat.

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