Click below to download the Cornerstone Connections leader’s guide and student lesson. This week’s resources also include two lesson plans and a discussion starter video which offer different ways of looking at the topic. Each lesson plan includes opening activities, scripture passages, discussion questions, and real-life applications.
How long can you stand on one foot without moving? There is a story in Jewish tradition about a gentile who once came to a Jewish rabbi and asked him to condense the Scriptures into a message short enough that he could hear it all—and understand it—while he was standing on one foot. Today we’re going to try something similar!
Invite all the Youth Sabbath School participants to stand on one foot for as long as they can. To challenge them further, ask them to give their summary of the essence of God’s law while they’re doing it (a good answer might be what Jesus said in the New Testament: “Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself”) or to, while keeping their leg bent, raise their foot as high up as their knee. (If there are any teens wearing dresses or skirts, they can bend their knee so their foot goes up behind them, with their heel up.)
If your participants drop their feet and end this exercise too quickly, give the whole group another try. Some individuals are quite good at this, while others might stumble or wobble back and forth to maintain their balance. Gymnasts and other athletes will have a clear advantage here!
Little children often like to brag about how old they are. They say things like, “I’m four years old!” or “I’m four and a half!” (And that half will matter a lot.) As you get older, some ages become milestones—when you turn 13, you become a teenager; when you turn 16, you can get a driver’s license; when you turn 18, you’re legally considered in adult—at least in some circles, including the US; and when you turn 21, you’re pretty much considered an adult in the rest of those circles.
However, once many people reach adulthood, they start to become less excited about those milestones. For example, turning 30 can feel like a negative thing, and a lot of people will think something like, “30? I’m getting so old!” In a similar way, when you turn 40, you’re considered “over the hill”; when you turn 50, you’ve either begun to or will soon experience a loss of physical vitality; and when you turn 60, you’ve reached retirement age and can be considered truly “old” by many people!
Eventually, however, things return to bragging. “My grandpa is almost 90!” someone might say, because for this person age now seems like an accomplishment and something to be proud of again. If someone turns 100, there’s likely to be a big celebration in their family and even more bragging.
But this is because we expect people to die before they reach 100, don’t we? We consider it tragic when someone younger than 60 dies—thinking something like, “Their life was cut short!” and taking it as an especially great shock if the person was a teenager, even if they had a prolonged disease or terminal illness. But when someone turns 100, we feel like someone has beaten the odds and lived a really long time! In some cases, those people have experienced historical events the rest of us have only read about.
Ask the Youth Sabbath School participants if they have any relatives who lived for a long time before they died. Have some volunteers share a few stories or memories about whoever this person is to them. This could be someone like a great-grandparent, a great-uncle, or a great-aunt. The participants might also have only seen them occasionally in their lives, especially if they lived a long distance away from each other.
The purpose of sharing this information is not to make the atmosphere of your Youth Sabbath School sad or morose, but to acknowledge that while we may not like the idea of death, we expect it to come for everyone eventually. Some of your participants might conclude with a statement along the lines of, “Well, they got a live a long time,” or “Their time finally came.” If you want to make this experience even more personal for your participants, ask them how long they would like to live and why.
As Christians, we believe that God created us to live forever. But because sin results in death, and because we live on this planet of sin, each of us will die. That’s why Christ’s gift of eternal life is so amazing, and so difficult for some people to believe!
As you consider our lesson for today, you might start to wonder how much longer Moses can put up with the drama and constant complaining from the Israelites against him and Yahweh. In the Scripture we’re going to read today, you’ll hear not only about the deaths of Moses’ older sister and brother, but also the deaths of more Israelites (this time from snake bites). We’re going to read about a lot of stuff that happens in the desert this week, but also about hope that only Yahweh can provide.
This is a short video clip you can show your Youth Sabbath School to illustrate this week’s topic, plus a few follow-up questions to spark discussion afterwards.
Create a video that illustrates how a similar kind of drama as the one Moses experienced (the Israelites’ repeated complaining) can get to somebody and wreak negative results when they can’t take it any longer. You could also take an angle that demonstrates the kinds of negative circumstances that can lead to complaining—then give them a different twist than what a viewer would usually expect. Remember to create a list of follow-up questions to go with your video as well so your participants can discuss it afterwards.
This 2:21-minute video is about why Moses wasn’t allowed into the Promised Land. (Hint: It’s based on the Scripture passage we’re studying this week.)
These are more approaches to the same topic featured in the Teacher’s Guide, but just a different way of looking at it. Expect activities to illustrate the topic followed by some questions.
BASED ON NUMBERS 21:4-9
The short passage of Scripture we’re going to look at in this lesson contains some pretty strange elements. Let’s get right into them. We’ll read the first few verses now, stop to answer some questions, then finish up with the rest. Here’s Numbers 21:4, 5 (NIV):
4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
Using either masking tape on the floor or string tied to chairs, create a “safe zone” in your Youth Sabbath School room. You could do this by creating a wide pathway running through the middle of the room, or simply by drawing a line down the center of the room and designating one side as the safe zone and the other as the danger zone.
Divide your participants into two groups: one standing inside the safe zone and one standing outside it. Give each of the people on the outside a tube sock with a whiffle ball or some other kind of weight in the toe. The goal is for them to swing the socks, or “snakes,” at the people in the safe zone and make contact with, or “bite,” them. They can’t throw the socks or let go of them at any time. Whether or not they are successful will depend on how close the people in the safe zone are within reach of the people outside.
The person or people in the safe zone should be able to keep themselves safe relatively easily unless they get too close to the line separating the safe zone from the danger zone. But you can change that two different ways.
First, you could gradually move the boundary line (whether you used tape or string) to make the safe zone smaller. Second, you could blindfold the people in the safe zone, spin them several times in a circle, and ask them to start moving around once they come to a stop. This might result in them walking directly toward the danger zone without even knowing it, or at least feeling uncertain about which direction is the right one to go in.
After a brief period of time, switch the participants’ roles so the people in the safe zone become the people in the danger zone and vice versa.
8 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
Jesus drew on this story during his conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:1-21. If you’re familiar with this part of Scripture, you may recall that even though Nicodemus was drawn to Jesus, he had questions and didn’t want to commit to Christ just yet. In response, Jesus told Nicodemus that in the same way that bronze snake was lifted up for the Israelites, Jesus—the Son of Man—would be lifted up for the world. And in the same way any Israelites who looked at that snake would be healed, anyone who accepted and believed in Jesus would have eternal life with him.
In the verses we looked at today, we read about the venomous snakes God sent to bite the Israelites and the wave of deaths that spread through their camp as a result. This happened because God, who the Israelites had been constantly complaining against and who they’d even claimed had brought them into the wilderness just to kill them, removed his protection from them. However, once the Israelites repented, cried out to God for help, and obeyed what he told them to do, God provided a way to heal them from those snake bites. We can apply the lesson we learn from this story to our lives today. Just like the Israelites were able to look at the bronze snake and live, we can look at Jesus and—someday soon—live forever!
BASED ON NUMBERS 20:1-13
Do leaders ever make mistakes? “Of course,” you might be thinking. “Even leaders mess up.”
But that’s pretty easy to believe when it’s a general statement. When people themselves are the ones to mess up, their first response is usually denial. “That’s not true!” they might say. “I would never do that.” They might also fire back with an accusation at someone else—“That’s nothing compared to what that person did. What they did was really, really bad!”
And when they can’t deny their mistake any longer, the next step is to downplay it. “It’s not a big deal,” they say. “Everybody does that. It’s not really that bad. In fact, in some ways it shows how good I actually am.”
You can probably think of lots of high profile people who have demonstrated this kind of behavior instead of just coming out and admitting they made a mistake. This could be an athlete, a politician, a music or movie star, or any other public figure.
In fact, it’s often difficult for us to accept that they made a mistake too. Nobody wants to believe their heroes are capable of messing up. We want them to remain as heroes, not regular humans—and humans make mistakes.
Moses made a mistake. You may or may not think it was a big mistake. Instead of speaking to a rock to gush out water for the Israelites, as God instructed, Moses struck the rock (twice) and verbalized his anger and frustration to the entire company of Israelites. Sure, Moses made a mistake. But was it a big one? It certainly seemed like a big mistake to God. It definitely was public. Let’s read the passage in Numbers 20:1-12 (NIV) and note any potential reasons Moses why he made this mistake. After each paragraph I’ll ask for feedback on reasons what may have provoked Moses to disobey God and express his anger publicly.
1 In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.
Is there anything here that would give Moses an excuse to lash out later?
2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”
Is there anything here that would give Moses an excuse to lash out later?
6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your bother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”)
Is there anything here that would give Moses an excuse to lash out later?
9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?”
Is there anything here that would give Moses an excuse to lash out later?
11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
Is there anything here that would give Moses an excuse to lash out later?
12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
You need at least six people for this activity. If you don’t have that many in your Youth Sabbath School, you will need to recruit from other Sabbath Schools to join you. They can be people who are either younger or older than your participants. One recommendation is to have a few people are older and are ready to step in as participants whenever needed, but who will also bow out gracefully if a younger person does become available later on to participate. If you have more than six participants in your class, simply create six groups of people. You could have as many as 4-5 people in each group, which would come to a total of 24-30 participants in all.
Divide the six people (or six groups of people) and have each one stand in a different part of the room. They should separated enough from each other that they can write something down on a piece of paper without any other people or groups seeing.
Distribute a copy of the “Cooperation Info Sheet” handout to each of the six participants/groups. Read through it aloud and have them follow along silently. Remind them several times that this activity is called “Cooperation,” and that the object is to “win as much as you wish.”
Remember to read the instructions on your own ahead of time so you are familiar with the game. Here is the unspoken part that some people will figure out, but others won’t. This is activity is set up so that all six individuals or groups have to work together in order for everyone to win. And the only way for everyone to win is if everyone votes “Y.” There are ten rounds, so a person might vote “Y” one time, but vote “X” another time.
Why would a person vote “X” when everyone will win if they all vote “Y”? It’s because each one of the six individuals or groups will win more if they vote “X” and everyone else votes “Y.” But if only one individual or group votes “X,” everyone who voted “Y” will lose a round. Remember, this activity is called “Cooperation” and the object is for them to win as much as they wish. Make it clear to them that you are using money for the payout, but that this only a simulation (there won’t be any actual money, only imaginary money).
Hand out the “Cooperation Voting” slips. You can make copies of these ahead of time and cut them into sections, or you can just use blank scratch paper. You can also add more spice to the activity having each of the six individuals/groups choose a name (the Eagles, the Dominators, etc.). It might take a round or two for the participants to get the hang of this. At first they might be confused about whether they should vote “X” or “Y” when you simply tell them to choose one or the other. “But why should I vote a certain way?” they might ask. Repeat the name of the activity and the objective to them. Then explain what all the possible outcomes could be.
During the first round, tell the participants to cast their vote in secret (whether “X” or “Y”) and turn the paper they wrote it on in to you, the leader. Once you have all the votes, read all six pieces of paper aloud and determine the combination and the resulting amount of money each group won (or lost). For example, if four individuals or groups voted “Y” and two people voted “X,” those who voted “Y” would each lose “four dollars,” and those who voted “X” would each win “eight dollars” as shown on combination #5 on the Cooperation Info Sheet.
Give a copy of the “Cooperation Finances Sheet” handout to each individual/group so they can keep a running total of how much money they have (or don’t have).
Note that during the fourth round, the payoff that round doubles. And for the seventh round, the payoff triples. But nothing compares to the tenth round—when the payoff is multiplied by ten times! That means that a combination #5 during the tenth round would result in everyone voting “Y” and losing forty dollars, or everyone voting “X” and each of them winning eighty dollars. We definitely don’t suggest using real money! In reality, each combination will even out, except if everyone votes “Y,” in which case everyone wins. But if everyone votes “X” (and the activity is designed to encourage people to vote that way), then everyone loses. And the object, again, is for the participants to win as much as they wish.
Optional: As the leader, you can “forgive” any debts at the end of this activity. You can also replace the fake money payoff with something like M&Ms. If everyone has voted “Y” for each of the ten rounds, everyone will have won $88 ($4 for each round, but twice that in the third round, three times that in the seventh round, and ten times that in the tenth round). You can give them 88 M&Ms instead of money. We recommend making six plastic bags of M&Ms counted out in advanced instead of money. When people don’t make it to 88 M&Ms (and most don’t), we recommend just taking that number of M&Ms out of the bag and hand them to the individual or groups who voted for them. If one individual or group voted “&” each time and lost, you can choose to give extra M&Ms to them simply because you have them, and it is your choices to share any extras with anyone you choose. As the leader, it’s up to you to choose how this plays out.
If you participants did the naturally selfish thing, end by reading James 4:1-10. It’s available below as a set of slides you can project on a screen in your Youth Sabbath School room.
Humans make mistakes. Humans are naturally selfish. By contrast, God is naturally unselfish, and he wants to live through us so his power can overcome our imperfect human nature.
God also offers both forgiveness to us and the opportunity for us to forgive to others. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean there won’t be any consequences for them, but it does mean that you get to move forward and leave the past behind.
The need for forgiveness—and we all have that need—should lead us to humility. This is especially critical for leaders. Because all leaders are human, and all humans make mistakes, any of you who find yourselves in a position of leadership should always ask forgiveness with an attitude of humility when you become aware of something you’ve done wrong. What a difference it makes compared to just denying our mistakes, accusing others instead, or trying to minimize our mess-ups as no big deal.
Some people may choose not to lead for various reasons. Some simply may not want to or feel like they don’t have the gift of leadership, and others just want to keep their choices or mistakes out of the public eye. But there may be a time when God does call you to serve others in some kind of leadership role in your life. If so, keep this in mind: We all mess up, and the important thing to remember is that it’s all about God—not us. We should always remember to be humble, thank God, and confess when we do make mistakes.
Moses messed up. But leaders aren’t the only ones who make mistakes—everyone does! Sometimes we do it on purpose by choosing to do something we know we shouldn’t, and other times we just slide into wrongdoing without realizing we’re even doing it. When someone accuses us of making such a mistake and challenges our ego in the process, it can be easy to make excuses for ourselves. But everyone wins when we acknowledge our mistakes, ask for forgiveness (even if we don’t receive it), and move on in humility, trusting God.
BASED ON NUMBERS 20:1-29
The following Bible study takes part of the Scripture passage for this week (Numbers 20) and puts it in a format for a small group discussion between 3-6 people. If you have more than six people in your Youth Sabbath School, form additional groups.
Print out a copy of the Bible study handout for each participant. Have them take turns reading Numbers 20 aloud, then mark their responses individually on the handout. When everyone in the small group has finished marking their responses, have them share their answers with each other and why they chose them.
You will find an opening question at the beginning to help everyone get comfortable talking. There might be more than one good answer for the questions that follow, and each question also has an option to choose “Other” if the participant feels like the correct answer was not included. The content and questions included in this Bible study are listed below.
Note: With teens, this type of Bible study can often be done without needing to designate an official leader in each small group. Also, if a participant is looking for one right answer for each question, this exercise might frustrate them; this study is designed to encourage a broader understanding rather than a narrow one. If this won’t work for the participants in your Youth Sabbath School, feel free to use one of the other lesson options for this week.
Which do you think is worse—dying, or feeling like you’re going to die?
Read Numbers 20:1-29.
This is kind of a depressing part of Scripture, isn’t it? First we read about the deaths of Miriam and Aaron—Moses’ older siblings. Then we get to hear even more complaints from the Israelites, which at this point is starting to get exhausting. Then we see Moses make one mistake, and God prohibits him from entering Canaan! That seems almost as severe as when God kicked Adam and Eve out of Eden for disobeying him. Disobedience must matter a lot more to God than we realize! But also it’s helpful to know the end of the story—that Moses went to live with Jesus in a heavenly Canaan as soon as he died, and that God still forgives and supports us even when we do make mistakes.
Let these spark ideas for ways you can move from talk to action and live out the lesson in a practical way this week. The following applications relate to the corresponding Bible study guide options for this lesson above.
Are you aware of any “snakes” trying to poison you in your real life right now? Have you ever been aware of any in the past? If not, it may be that you simply haven’t noticed it yet or it happened so long ago that you’ve forgotten about it. You may need to ask your parents or a friend who has been with you for a long time to remind you of something they can remember happening. Once you have become aware of something, take time to reflect on it and thank God for the protection he has given you throughout your life. Then ask him to make you a safe person for others to come to as well, especially if they themselves are in danger. Finally, identify a place of safety where you can go to regularly connect with God. This could be your room, a spot in nature, or any other place you can get away to without being distracted by other things.
Is there a leader in your life whom you harbor resentment towards because of a mess-up they made? If so, remind yourself that only God is perfect and forgive him or her for their imperfection. Keep in mind that this doesn’t excuse this person’s mistake—it simply allows you (and them) to move forward. This could be a public figure who doesn’t know you, or even someone as close as a leader in your church. Whatever the case, apply a philosophy of leadership to your own life once you’ve forgiven them by serving others wherever you can—knowing that at some point you yourself will mess up as well, and will need to apologize. The mercy you’ll be asking from others in doing this is the same kind of mercy you should demonstrate toward leaders you know.
Complaining can take real creativity, and that’s what the Israelites added to their complaints. Claiming that Moses took them out of Egypt just to kill them in the wilderness? That’s simply untrue! This week, ask a person close to you to give you some feedback on two things: how much you complain, and how often you exaggerate and say things that simply aren’t true (but make your story sound better or you look better). Then ask God to forgive you for these times when you’ve complained or exaggerated untruthfully.
This is a bonus just for the youth leader—a quick tip and an illustration to enhance your youth leadership. You may already know this idea, have learned it through trial and error, or just need a quick reminder.
A common frustration adults have when they work with youth is that young people don’t act like adults. Imagine that! It would be helpful if adults would actually take an accurate stroll down memory lane when looking back at the maturity and behavior they had at that age. In reality, young people living right now are likely more mature than adults of today were as teens! But many adults can forget that. Even worse, however, are adults who are still trying to be teens—nobody appreciates that! Just be who you are, keep maturing on your own, and encourage both growth and understanding in your participants.
Here’s a question from a real teen and a response from a youth pastor. This might be a question your teens are asking too. Use the response to springboard into a discussion about this topic with your Youth Sabbath School participants.
Question: How do I forgive someone who has really hurt me? Do I have to forgive them in order for God to forgive me?
Answer: That’s a really tough question, and one that affects most everyone, and some more than others! And then you brought God into the topic, too! Good for you!
The answer to your first question depends on the answer to the second question, so let’s look at the second question first—Do I have to forgive others in order for God to forgive me?
I’m guessing you’ve prayed “The Lord’s Prayer,” and you can probably do it from memorization to the point you don’t even have to think about it. Actually, think about it. Have you noticed what’s right in the middle of that prayer? It goes like this: “And forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” Matthew 6:12 (NLT). What will happen if God answers your request? It means God will be just as forgiving with you as you are with others. Is that what you really want? I know that I don’t want God to answer that prayer! I want God to be much more forgiving than I am!
That possibility leads me to misquote Jesus when I pray. I prefer to say, “And forgive me my sins, much more than I have forgiven those who have sinned against me.” But that’s not what the Bible says; that’s now what Jesus said.
If that isn’t direct enough, right after The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus said, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)
How’s that for a direct answer? Do you have to forgive others in order for God to forgive you? YES!
The answer is true, but it might not be helpful, unless you consider another story or two from Jesus.
One of these can be found in Matthew 18:23-35. It’s called the story of the unforgiving debtor. A king had a servant who owed him more than he could ever repay. Out of mercy, the king forgave him. The forgiven debtor happened to come across a fellow servant who owed him a small amount of money. But the forgiven debtor, the one who had received an unfathomable amount of mercy, passed along no mercy to his fellow-servant. When the king found out, he had the unmerciful, unforgiving servant thrown into jail. The story concludes with these words from Jesus, “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters in your heart.” Matthew 18:35 (NLT)
Perhaps the most critical insight from this story is where your focus is. If you focus on others who owe you something (such as somebody who has hurt you), they will always be in your debt. But if your focus is on God who has forgiven you of far more hurt than any amount somebody else can hurt you, you’ll just pass along the mercy. A focus on Jesus makes you seek justice for others except for when it comes to something others have done against you—then you go for mercy instead of justice.
Your first question was, “How do I forgive someone who has really hurt me?” I don’t think you can “just do it” or grit your teeth and just spit out the words, “You’re forgiven, you _____, ______, _____!”
When somebody has hurt you, that hurt often changes into anger, resentment, revenge, and bitterness. Sometimes it turns to a victimization that leaves you in pain, pity, and limping like a person who has been incapacitated. Either way you’re a mess! Commanding you to forgive at that moment isn’t likely to engender much openness on your part. Here’s what I recommend:
PRAY! Dump the whole thing on God. If you keep it inside, it will make you rot. If you spew it back on the person who hurt you, you’ll probably make things worse. If you dump it on somebody else, you’ll either be gossiping or recruiting an army to attack back. That’s why I say you should pray at a time like this.
If you don’t know what to say to God at times like this, try Psalm 109 (the whole Psalm). If that isn’t enough, go on to Psalm 69:18-29. In fact, keep reading through the Psalms—there are praise ones as well as pouting ones, and others, too.
After lancing your hurt, ask God for the gift of forgiveness. That’s right, it’s a gift from God. It’s not something that you work up. It’s not something you can purchase or even practice. It’s a gift from God, so you’ll need to go directly to the source in order to ever forgive somebody who has hurt you. Feeling guilty because “you know you should forgive the person but you don’t want to” won’t make you forgiving either. Simply go to God and ask God for the gift of forgiveness.
If that sounds too easy, here’s the hard part. The thing the person did that hurt you is something you need to hand over to God. Just like a quarterback hands off the football to a running back, you need to hand off the injustice and hurt to God. That means you have to let it go! And that’s the hard part!
Why is that hard? It means that you have no right to get the person back for how they wronged you! Will you turn that over to God? God is the one who said, “I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it.” Deuteronomy 32:35 (NLT) (also quoted in Romans 12:19 and Hebrews 10:30). God can get somebody back much worse than you ever could. But there’s always the chance that God will just forgive them (like He has forgiven you).
Jonah found that troubling. When God didn’t destroy the people of Nineveh, Jonah cried out, “I knew that you were a gracious and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. I knew how easily you could cancel your plans for destroying these people.” (see Jonah 4:2, NLT)
It seems as though this angry prophet had forgotten that this gracious, compassionate, and forgiving God was the same One who saved him in chapter one of Jonah when he was cast into the raging sea and God sent a great fish to swallow him—what a dramatic salvation he got to experience!
When we’re hurting, we’re more apt to feel sorry for ourselves and point out what’s wrong with the other person than to recall the forgiveness that God has already given to us!
Some people are likely to point out that it would be good to go directly to the person who hurt you and to confront them and give them a chance to ask for forgiveness. Or you might consult with a trusted Christian friend to help you maneuver through the sensitive situation. I suppose that can be helpful. But that often seems to me sort of like putting a tiny band aid on a series of machete slashes across your entire gut!
What you need is the gift of forgiveness! Only God can give that to you. The other person might not even know they have hurt you. Or if they do know it, they aren’t likely to ask for forgiveness. When God has given you the gift, you can pass it along whether the other person asks for it or not (see Matthew 5:23-24)!
When Jesus had his feet anointed by a notoriously sinful woman at a special dinner, the host (who was a Pharisee) found himself offended that the woman did this AND that Jesus didn’t get rid of the woman. Jesus clarified his intentions with this analogy: a man loaned two people some money; one received $500 and the other one received $50, and the man forgave both of them their debts. Which one will love him more? The Pharisee spoke the obvious, “I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the larger debt.”
In case anyone missed the point, Jesus summarized it as, “Those who have been forgiven little show only a little bit of love; but those who have been forgiven much will show much love (see Luke 7:36-50 for the whole story).
If you have a hard time forgiving others, maybe it’s because you haven’t received much forgiveness yourself. Go to the source of forgiveness—God—and confess your mess-ups, dumping all your garbage so you can receive His gift of forgiveness. Then you will be able to show love and forgiveness because of what you have received from Him to pass on. That’s much better than hanging onto the hurt and letting it continue to destroy you!