Forgiveness is hard.

I once had a close relative say to me, “I know Billy Graham says I should forgive them, but I can’t.”

She held anger in her heart toward several family members, and, as far as I know, she carried that bitterness into the grave. To this day, I wonder what I could have said to help her realize how much unforgiveness had contributed to her own unhappiness.

The first point, of course, would be to realize that Billy Graham was pointing out what God says, and that is far more important.

The second point would be that God forgives us:

Then he [God] passed in front of Moses, calling out, “The Lord , the Lord , a compassionate and merciful God, patient, always faithful and ready to forgive. (Exodus 34:6, GW)

But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and merciful God. You are patient, always faithful and ready to forgive. (Psalm 86:15, GW)

God is so compassionate that He looked on a sinful world and sent His Son Jesus to pay for the sins of every person.

In the movie Private Ryan, many soldiers are killed while trying to save one man (Ryan). Before he dies, the captain played by Tom Hanks tells Ryan, “Earn this.”

There’s nothing we can do to “earn” the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross, but we can recognize that sacrifice and allow Him to change our lives. If He could forgive the pathetic mess we make of our lives, how can we not forgive others when they hurt us?

The movie Unbroken depicts the horrific torture that Louis Zamperini endured as a World War II prisoner. Yet after he gave his life to Christ, he returned to Japan and extended forgiveness to the guards who had tortured him.

It’s not easy. But with the help of a faithful and forgiving God, we can practice forgiveness. In doing so, we will find freedom.