At the end of August I bought a diary, and started recording the daily personal words that God was giving me. Since the dates in the diary start about a month before I began keeping my devotional journal, I began inserting dreams on those blank pages. That’s why the date on the page pictured in my post of November 4 (see Swedish Fish and the Nice Young Man says (in Italian) August 23. (Tomorrow I will write about some of those dreams—stay tuned!)
Here’s how my devotional journal works: after prayer time, I always ask the Lord if He has a word for me for today, and He gives it to me like this: I get the impression in my mind (sometimes hearing His voice) of a verse. For example, today’s word, He said in my mind: “Jonah 4:2.” So I looked it up, having no idea what it said. All I knew is that by the fourth chapter of Jonah, Nineveh had repented and been spared, and that Jonah sat outside of town, angry that God had spared those rotten Ninevites. So here’s what it says:
O Lord, is this not what I said when I was yet in my country? This is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.
Forgiving Nineveh is no small thing when you understand how offensive sin is to God. People sometimes think that the God of the Old Testament had a terrible temper and that His anger was way over the top. But the reality is that sin is so vile and offensive to our Holy God that His justice cannot allow it to go unpunished. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament. The difference is that Jesus took the punishment for our sins, so now we can enjoy God’s mercy. See how Jonah describes Him in this verse: gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. That doesn’t sound like most people’s idea of the Old Testament God, but He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
So, here’s what this verse means to me, personally: I have resolved the robbery issue as much as possible at this time, so this morning my mind went back to the thing with Barbara and Leo throwing me out of their house (see my recent post Kicked When I was Down). Why go over the whole thing again? Honestly, I would rather forget it and move on. But here’s the thing, they involved a family member—one who has always been ready to think the worst of me. I will have to go to family get-togethers with this person. I’m not going to slink off like someone who was in the wrong, but family get-togethers with him could be very uncomfortable for me from now on. Nor am I going to stop speaking to him, although I feel very threatened and defensive, and not at all ready to see him again.
I hate confrontation, but the passive-aggressive way that Barbara and Leo treated me was very hurtful. And my family member’s willing involvement in that passive-aggression was very hurtful—even more so. Nobody ever asked for or heard my side. Then I found out that there was also gossip about me and this situation, and still my side has never been told.
So what to do? I don’t want to ruin the next family gathering, but every meal at his house will leave me feeling scrutinized to see if I clear the table and wash the dishes. Of course, I’ll have to—and promptly. And if he tells me that I don’t have to wash dishes, then the whole thing could come exploding out of me. I don’t want that, either, but my side has never been told.
Through this verse, I see the Jonah in me and my attitude. I feel the Lord telling me that I must forgive. Forgive them (which I have already done) and forgive him (which I’m trying to do).
What do I want? I want to forgive, forget it, and move on. I want my emotions to catch up with my intellectual decision to forgive. I have learned that there are some people that I need to forgive every time they come to mind because the hurt goes so deep. But I know that if I faithfully hold onto that decision to forgive, eventually, the hurt will be gone, and the offense forgotten.
Forgive like God, who truly forgets the offense. God is good!