Editor’s note: The following is reprinted from April 2016.
There’s a wise saying, “No pillow is as soft as a clear conscience.” I take that to mean you will sleep better if your conscience is clear; and there are only three ways that I know of to do that. One, pray to the Lord to forgive your sins. Two, make right whatever you have done that makes you feel guilty and weighs upon your conscience; and three, if all of your efforts to be forgiven have failed, take comfort in knowing that you did your best.
If you have done someone wrong, you should try to get that person to forgive you. You should say something to the effect, “Look, I know that I was wrong to hurt you, and I’m sorry for that. I’m now asking you to forgive me.” He or she may or may not forgive; but even if you are forgiven, he or she will never forget. We all can forgive, but we cannot forget. The trick is to not let your memory prevent two happinesses. One, your own because you did the Christian thing; and two, his peace and repaired conscience in knowing that you truly forgave him.
But just suppose that after you have done all that you possibly can, and he or she still will not forgive you, let it go. Make it known that your welcome mat is always out, and get on with your life. Because there is a being more powerful than anyone else, and it’s critical for that being to forgive you before you check out of this world. In more than one instance, I have known two people who had a falling out and didn’t speak to each other for years, and finally one of them made the first move toward forgiveness, and they became the best of friends again.
The Bible tells us that God is a forgiving God. There is no way that we mortals can know how many He has forgiven, saved and blessed with a new and Christian life. Also, there are some that were not forgiven and saved for various reasons through no fault but their own.
For all the many multitudes that God has forgiven, have you ever heard of someone who has forgiven God? I have. One of my very best friends, by the name of Bill, like me grew up tough on a family farm. He joined the Marines, I went Army. He was in the midst of some of the fiercest combat in the Vietnam conflict. He was asked if he would volunteer for a secret and dangerous mission that would require him to be in the middle of territory infested with enemy forces which were the Viet Cong. He and another soldier volunteered for the mission. The day before the two of them left home base Bill called home and told his mother about the fellow soldier who would be working with him on a new assignment.
There is something special about friendships in the military. For one thing, most soldiers carry a certain loneliness inside which comes from being far from home and loved ones and missing them. The more dangerous the environment, the stronger is the friendship, especially in combat, and they save each other’s lives.
When Bill called home and told his mother about his fellow soldier and that they would soon depart on their new assignment, his mother said that she would pray for the two of them. A few days later, Bill’s new friend was killed by the Viet Cong. Another soldier was sent to replace the one who was killed. Bill called his mother, and she assured him that she would pray for the new replacement. A few days later that soldier was also killed by enemy fire. Another replacement was sent to Bill, this one being a young South Vietnamese lieutenant. There was something different and special about him, and he and Bill became close friends. Again Bill called his mother and she prayed for that one also. This one lasted longer than the other two; but he and Bill were on patrol down a jungle trail and Viet Cong were close by. Suddenly two rifle shots rang out from almost half a mile away, and Bill’s new friend fell dead beside him. Bill told me that even after all of these years he vividly remembers the terrible sounds of bullets hitting a human body. He called his mother and told her to never again pray for him or his friends, because every time she prayed for somebody they were soon killed.
Bill came home a wounded warrior. His platoon was surrounded by hundreds of Viet Cong who were fast closing in on them. Helicopters came at the last minute to rescue them. The soldiers frantically climbed up rope ladders to the hovering helicopters as the Cong burst from the dense jungle. Bill was the last soldier to board the aircraft that had to lift off, and he was holding onto the bottom rung of the rope ladder dangling under the helicopter as if flew off. He was slammed against a palm tree, breaking his back. He recovered in a VA hospital, but remained a bitter person.
His bitterness was obvious, especially at mealtime. My family and close friends never partake of a meal until we have asked the blessing. When Bill returned he would never pray or even bow his head as someone else prayed. At one meal a friend of ours was asked to say grace. Toward the end of his prayer he asked that Bill continue to recover from his injuries in the war. As soon as the “amen,” Bill said, “Don’t ever say my name again when you pray.” One of those who were present later said to me, “I don’t think Bill believes in God.” I replied, “Oh, yes, he does believe in God; but he is angry at Him.”
It is said that time heals all things. Not very long ago we all were about to eat lunch, and one of us began to ask the blessing. I opened one eye and looked at Bill. He had removed his hat, and his head was bowed. That was good enough for me! I then knew that Bill had forgiven God.