But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. Psalm 130:4
On a cold winter's night many years ago a woman was brought into a hospital with severe burns that covered her face and a large portion of her body. The examining physician immediately recognized that shock had set in, and that the woman had very little chance of survival. The husband was notorious for his drinking, and he had come home intoxicated, and in a fit of anger had poured scalding water over his wife. When police arrived at the hospital where the dying woman was taken, they brought with them the husband, along with a magistrate whose responsibility was to prepare formal charges of murder against the man if his wife died. By this time the husband had begun to sober.
Arriving at the bedside the magistrate leaned over the body of the woman, careful not to touch the bed and cause her more pain, and asked, "Now please tell us exactly what happened." The woman turned her face from side to side to avoid looking at her husband who stood at the foot of the bed. Realizing that the woman had only a short while to live, the magistrate again pressed the question, "Please," he said, "tell us exactly what happened." Finally, her eyes came to rest on the hands of her husband and slowly raised her eyes to his face. For a brief moment the suffering seemed to drain from her face, and compassion and tenderness were evident. Speaking in a whisper she turned to the magistrate and said, "It was just an accident; I forgive him." And with a faint shadow of a smile on her face, she lay still.
Seldom in the daily business of family living does a person ever face such a gigantic problem involving the very sacrifice of one's life, as did this woman; yet none is exempt from having to forgive the trespasses or the wrongs that are done to us. The person who cannot forgive actually burns the bridge over which he himself must pass one day. But I think an even greater burden than that sustained by the person who is hurt, is the emotional burden that a person must bear until he comes to God and finds His forgiveness and healing.
I am thinking of a personal acquaintance of mine, a man who is healthy and about as happy and well adjusted as anybody you will ever meet; but it was not always that way with Billy. Like the man who was responsible for the death of his wife, one morning Billy woke up in jail with a thick head and a massive hangover. Prison officials informed Billy that in a drunken rage, he had killed both his wife and his mother‑in‑law. He was about as low emotionally as a man could be. He attempted suicide and even that failed. Sentenced to life imprisonment, he would have ended his life if he could, but even at that he could not quite succeed. A preacher‑boy from a Christian college began visiting the prison and sharing with the men that there is forgiveness with God which enables us to learn to forgive ourselves.
Years ago David wrote in the book of Psalms, "But with you there is forgiveness (meaning with God); therefore you are feared.” David knew something of the burning pangs of conscience, knowing that he was responsible for the death of another. There is little chance that I'm speaking to someone who is directly responsible for the life of another, as David was; but as sure as you are two feet tall, I can be relatively sure there is someone listening who has deeply hurt someone he loves. Is it you? As David said, “But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:4).
Resource reading: Psalm 130.