The day I realized I had forgiven my father for the trauma he had subjected me to in my childhood is still clear in my memory. I can visualize in my mind the brocade couch I was standing next to, the window I had been staring out of, and the empty silence of the house. The liberation God gave me that day was the culmination of uncountable hours of crying and questioning God—Why did my father do that? and How can I ever get past this? Every time I crawled through that solitary valley of hurt, fierce anger, and despair—when postabuse emotions swelled and oppressed me—I felt no hope that the aching scars and the sense of worthlessness I carried could be healed.
But there was hope. Biblical teaching and genuine, unrelenting caring by my closest friend were the tools God applied to my hurt and sorrow. Being willing to forgive my father, who never acknowledged his wrongdoing before his death, was a seed that God steadily tended until it bore fruit—forgiveness and freedom.
For those who follow Jesus, forgiveness has already been experienced. The extent to which God, our Father, forgives the sins of each of us who believe in Christ is unmatchable. God's total forgiveness toward us is a template for our practice of this essential behavior. That doesn't make it easy or simple.
In this issue, which highlights topics revolving around pediatrics, you'll encounter best-practice articles that will reinforce and augment your knowledge about child abuse, nonsuicidal self-injury, and breastfeeding among mothers with opioid use disorder (OUD), among others. If you need a booster dose of encouragement that your work is meaningful, read the reflection by a mother whose son fought cancer and the nurses whose care was an inestimable treasure to this mom, her son, and their family.
Each of these articles depicts situations where individuals experience trauma, anguish, and suffering. These horrid experiences typically bloom into a tangle of consequences for the person and for others. And for each of these situations, being able to forgive and receive forgiveness is crucial to heal. Children who've survived abuse cannot truly thrive as adults until they forgive the perpetrators of the abuse. Young people who self-injure must sort through the muck of the angst they're trying to manage—sometimes they may need to forgive themselves along with others who have neglected or mistreated them. Similarly, moms with OUD who seek to breastfeed their newborns have a formidable heap of self-loathing to release in addition to forgiving people around them who deride or doubt them. Maybe the toughest task of forgiveness is faced by parents whose children suffer. Blaming or holding God responsible can be a natural reaction to the agonizing experience of one's child undergoing the harsh treatment for cancer, especially when that treatment is unsuccessful.
For many of us, forgiveness sounds like giving in, even letting the wrongdoer off the hook. But God doesn't view forgiveness like we do. He compassionately guides us through the process of forgiveness because he knows this is what will heal us. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14). Writer Lysa TerKeurst (2020) acknowledges that
so many times when we are deeply hurt by someone else, forgiveness can feel like another hard thing we have to do on top of trying to heal. But since God is compassionate, we can know forgiveness isn't a cruel command. Rather, forgiveness is his way of freeing us from the heavy burdens of bitterness, resentment, anger, and retaliation. In essence, forgiveness is not just for the offender but also a gracious gift to us as well. (p. 22)
Having been freed emotionally through God's patient tutoring toward forgiveness, I can agree with TerKeurst. The hurt I was left with as a child doesn't rule over me anymore.
As you learn from the knowledge and experiences of others in this issue, give space for God to speak to you about extending and accepting forgiveness yourself.