I grew up in a small town, and much like the theme song to that old TV show “Cheers,” it was a place “where everybody knows your name.” It was actually a great place to grow up, and I had a few close friends whom I told everything to. As we all got older and began getting married and starting families, we knew we could count on each other to stick together during difficult times. We have asked each other to pray when our marriages felt like they were falling apart, we have prayed for each other during health scares and family crises, and these friends even helped raise my daughter while my husband was deployed overseas.
As the years went by and our family moved away from the area due to my husband’s job, we continued to stay in close contact. When we adopted our son, these friends were right by my side, rejoicing and praising God, throwing baby showers and loving on our new little guy.
Everything was as it should be.
Then, when our son was almost three years old, he was diagnosed with autism. It was devastating to our family. My husband and I felt confused and heartbroken, crying and calling out to the Lord, questioning His will and our next steps.
So many of our friends from all over the country called and texted us with prayers and encouraging words. Some sent links to articles and many mentioned other friends who could be resources for us because they also had children who were diagnosed with autism.
As my husband and I struggled with this diagnosis, our family and friends wrapped themselves around us and became our support system.
All of them except one.
I remember the day my husband asked if this one particular friend had called me to talk about our son. I admitted to him that she hadn’t even texted an “I’m sorry.” In fact, she had gone dark – I hadn’t heard from her at all.
The rational side of my brain understood that autism is a scary and unknown diagnosis and she probably didn’t really know what to say to me. But because we had been friends for most of our lives, I felt hurt that she had not even attempted to reach out to us.
If I’m being honest, I became bitter in my heart towards this friend. I didn’t need this unnecessary burden in my life as I began searching for options to help my son.
One night, however, I broke down in exhaustion and fear. I cried to the Lord and opened my heart to Him, telling Him how disappointed I was in this friendship. And guess what He said.
“But she doesn’t even know the hurt she has caused.”
“Forgive her anyway.”
Forgiveness – such an intimidating word.
Especially in this world of grudge-holding and passing the buck.
I find it much easier to forgive someone when they apologize or are repentant and remorseful. But when I find myself in a situation where the offender doesn’t see what they’ve done wrong or refuses to forgive, I have a hard time offering forgiveness.
But Scripture tells us to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
So when I finally chose to obey and forgive this friend who didn’t even realize she had offended me, the anger and resentment was released from my soul. And the truth is, I don’t know what was going on in her life at the time. Maybe she was going through a difficult season herself and couldn’t add my pain on top of hers.
I do know this, however – although it was a hurtful situation, I can say with assurance that she and I still love each other and want the best for each other.
Forgiveness isn’t easy. But it is freeing. Friend, I encourage you to forgive freely today.
Who do you need to forgive?