Forgiving a Rapist
On the road this past year, one of the harshest realities I came face to face with was the large number of girls whose lives have been devastated by rape. Two or three young girls have shared parts of their painful stories with me.
One commonly asked question among the girls I've talked to is, "Why did God allow this to happen to me?" Increasingly difficult are the cases where shortly after the assault a girl discovers she is pregnant. Imagine a Christian girl in this situation. She is embarrassed and scared. Abortion isn't an option, but thoughts of it plague her. Every time she thinks about the baby, she remembers what happened. She feels anger toward the baby as well as toward those who hurt her.
As I thought about this situation, I realized that the baby doesn't choose to come into the world in that way; he is a victim, too. I remembered that Jesus once felt abandoned too, as he called out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34) And as Jesus hung on the cross, God also felt pain and loss. In times of trial in our lives, we all need to know that God can relate to our pain and that God really does work in all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).
I can't begin to imagine these girls' anguish, but I do know that in any situation we can either turn toward God or turn away from him. The girls I spoke to chose to turn toward God. If they had chosen to hold on to their pain, continue to blame God, and not forgive the people who hurt them, they would have been inwardly destroyed.
We don't know why certain things happen to us in life, but we do know that we can trust God. Jesus' words in Matthew 6:14-15 just blow me away: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Forgive all the sins of others? God says, "Yes." Talking behind our back? Yes. Lying? Yes. Stealing? Yes. Rape? Yes, even rape.
Every day in our relationships, we must choose whether or not we will forgive. We decide if we will let the circumstances of life make us bitter or better. We really hurt God when we won't forgive others. Maybe part of the reason our unforgiving spirit is so offensive to God is that it shows how much we underestimate his power. It is only God's power that allows us to forgive—we just can't do it on our own.