A few years ago, we learned that a friend of ours had cancer. She was in her eighties and everyone at the church we attended back then loved her and her husband immensely. They were a wonderful, gentle couple and it was a blessing to have known them.
Everyone in the church was praying for this sweet woman. For the sake of this testimony, I will call her Esther. She and her husband had been missionaries for many years in a country in South America, and as far as anyone knew, everything else in their lives was in order.
The Lord kept telling me that Esther needed to forgive. I didn’t know what He was talking about, but He certainly did.
One day several members of my family went with another couple to visit Esther. Her husband was away from home that day, so we sat with her for a while and chatted. We were all there to pray for God to heal her and deliver her from cancer that had attacked her body. Finally, someone suggested we go ahead and pray.
The Lord’s Spirit kept prompting me to tell Esther that she needed to forgive someone. He impressed upon me that it was critical for her to let go of the unforgiveness before we even prayed.
I used to feel a little intimidated by elderly people. It’s probably because I figured they knew so much more than I did about life – particularly if they were Christians. Well, I certainly felt uncomfortable asking Esther if there was someone she needed to forgive, but it had to be done.
She looked at me for a moment before answering. “Yes,” she said. “There is a man who molested my children when we were in South America. They were very young at the time, and I have never forgiven him for it. He was in the ministry with us. And I will never forgive him for what he did.”
The room got very quiet. Here was a beautiful and gracious elderly woman who had served the Lord for years, carrying a burden of anger and resentment against someone from forty years in the past. She was in definite need of repentance, and God was asking her to forgive. It was a terribly hard thing for her to do.
We reasoned together for a while that day. She finally softened and said that she would forgive him.
We all gathered around her and prayed. She was standing in the middle of the living room, and during the prayer, the Lord touched her in such a way that she literally fell back and lay on the floor. (Someone caught her, of course!) Her countenance changed, and she was even more beautiful than before.
No one knew what she had been carrying for so many years. No one except the Lord
and He wanted her to be with Him in His kingdom in a few days. According to His own words, it would not have been possible unless she forgave that man. Jesus said if we do not forgive others for their sins against us, then our Father in heaven will not forgive our sins. Here is what it says in Matthew 6:14, 15,
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
This was an important moment in Esther’s life. She had done wonderful things for the kingdom of God, but this was important enough that the Lord made a point of making sure she had another opportunity placed before her to extend mercy and forgive.
I’ve spoken with people who don’t think it really matters if they forgive others – people who believe the Lord understands why they are withholding forgiveness and that He will still let them into His kingdom. Well, Esther served the Lord for many years in the mission field, and He still required it of her. Some people would even say she was justified in refusing to forgive him, but they would be wrong.
Ask the Lord to tell you if there is someone you need to forgive. You may already know, but just to be sure that you do, go ahead and ask Him. Wait on His Spirit, because if you will be very still, He will let you know. If He brings someone to your mind, forgive that person. It’s not impossible to do. It would be horrible to stand before the Lord one day and find out that you could not live with Him in eternity because of something someone else did – right or wrong – that you were unable to forgive. Your salvation depends on it. Those are Jesus’ words. We cannot enter the kingdom of heaven if God doesn't forgive us.
Esther needed healing in her spirit and she received it when she forgave. Just a couple of days later as she lay on her bed listening to her daughter sing hymns, she peacefully went home to be with Jesus.
Come on, you can do it!
“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.”