Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
2 Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
8 It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities. – Psalm 130
I love how we are reminded in verses 3 and 4 of this Psalm that if God kept records of our sins or wrongdoings, none of us would ever stand a chance! Since we have been forgiven so much, we have no right to withhold forgiveness from others. Here’s a solid example of this…
In the early 80s, a young woman in Southern CA was abducted, raped and murdered. The murderer was arrested, convicted and sentenced to life in prison but this justice brought no consolation to her mother.
Goldie Mae Bristol was outraged, depressed, and sleepless. Unable to shake the anger and feeling of hopelessness, she quit her job and moved to a new community to start again. Then she moved again and then again. Nothing changed except the deepening of the bitterness. One day a new acquaintance persuaded Goldie to attend her church. Goldie’s response was indifferent, but the friend persisted and gradually something started Goldie’s journey of change and the beginning of healing. Through the warmth of her church community, the support of a prayer group and steadfast Bible study, things began to change for Goldie. Once her transformation began, it continued to accelerate. She found herself accepting invitations to talk about this transformation to organizations and even prisons. Through the chaplain of a nearby state penitentiary she was invited to share her experience in a prison chapel service.
Goldie gripped the lectern on the platform of the prison auditorium and began to tell her story to the thirty men in prison garb. The account of years of torment, of slow and painful recovery, of the hard-won victory of a forgiving heart came out with deep emotion. “I am here to tell you that one person on the outside has forgive the man who crushed the life out of her cherished daughter. Chances are each of you have been forgiven. Whatever you have done, I forgive you. God forgives you and wants you to return to a respected and useful place in society.”
Her transparency was shattering. In the silence that followed, a man stood up and said, “Mrs. Bristol, my name is Michael Dennis Keyes and I am the man you have forgiven.” She gasped totally unprepared for this surprise. Tears filled her eyes and slowly she opened her arms. Michal came to the platform, choking with emotion and they embraced. Her journey of offering forgiveness had come to an end. His journey of finding forgiveness was just beginning.*
*Helping People Forgive, by David Augsberger, pg. 121-2.