How to forgive others: Madison's story
A newlywed and recent college graduate, Madison is filled with a fresh spirit and earnest desire to be all God has called her. We began attending lunchtime Bible studies together at Capital Group where we work and she eventually began leading the Friday study. I trust her because she is open in sharing about her own journey and experiences with God. Here is her story of how she learned to forgive others.
Madison roomed with three other women as a freshman in college. Though all of them were Christians, the year was filled with animosity and conflicts. At the end of the semester, "I wanted nothing to do with them anymore," Madison relays. "We were done." Her feelings went way beyond unforgiveness. "I carried hate in my heart," she admits. This load took a toll. "I would lie awake at night reliving the conflicts we had," she recalls. "My whole body felt heavy. I was physically exhausted."
Doing her part
Madison joined Capital Group Christian Life Groups and also began attending Sunday services at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Irvine. All the studies seemed to hone in on forgiveness. "I used to pray for God to take my resentful feelings away," Madison explains, "but I never took ownership in learning how to forgive others." Once she was back in the Word and back in prayer, God told her that she would need to do her part. Still, she hesitated to take the next step in forgiving her roommates. “I had a lot of pride,” she explains. “I didn't want them to think I was weak.”
One Monday, Madison attended prayer group with Andrew, another member of Capital Group Christian Life Groups. Andrew shared his own story relating to forgiveness. Madison asked him, "When you do forgive the person, will it be just between you and God, or will you tell the person?" Without hesitation, Andrew replied, “I will tell the person I forgive them so that they can also witness the power of forgiveness.” This reply went straight to Madison’s heart. “When I heard Andrew’s assured reply, God spoke to me,” Madison remembers. “God told me that when I did learn how to forgive others, I needed to contact them and tell them I forgive them.”
God also used a sermon from Pastor Tom at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Irvine to speak to Madison. "Pastor Tom asked us to picture our story on how to forgive others as a play," she remembers. "He asked us to envision who would be on the stage." Her college roommates appeared immediately on her stage. Pastor Tom reminded the congregation of Ephesians 4:31-32 31: Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. "That is when I knew I needed to swallow my pride,” Madison says.
No more burden
Madison reached out to the women from college and let them know she forgave them, and hoped that they could forgive her too. "I didn't justify my actions," Madison recalls. "I didn't chase my behavior with any excuses.”
The effect was instantaneous. "I felt God lift the burden from me as soon as I put down the phone," she relays. "I obeyed God in learning how to forgive others."
The very next day, Madison received a message from a different old friend. "When I read it, I bolted upright in my bed," she recalls. "I felt a rush of excitement flood over me." Her old friend had sent a heart-felt apology explaining her remorse for the way things ended between them. "She was humble and repentant in the letter, and wrote that she hoped I would find it in my heart how to forgive others too," Madison tells. She realizes that this was more than just a random message. "This was confirmation that God was pleased with my obedience to Him," she declares. "He showed me that He was proud of me for learning how to forgive others." Madison emphasizes that when she first reached out to the women from college, she never expected anything back. "God cares for us so much that he sent a sign anyway," she praises. "He proved to me that He cares about every detail."
“I blasted worship music all the way to work.”
Madison was still ecstatic the next day. "I blasted worship music all the way to work," she laughs. Her husband Tristan remarked how happy she was.
Madison is confident that by staying in the Word, applying the Sunday sermons, and attending Life Groups regularly, she can battle any future situations where she may need to forgive someone. She also looks to her husband Tristan as a role model. “Tristan consistently demonstrates Christ-like forgiveness,” she marvels. “Even in situations where someone has really hurt him, he shows no grief, only kindness."
Madison praises God for sending her messages to change her heart and teach her how to forgive others. "God spoke through people in my life – Andrew from the Capital Group Christian Life Groups, Pastor Tom from Good Shepherd Church – to convict me and teach me how to forgive others.”
When she reflects on the story, she has only gratitude. "God did this for me," she declares. "It's funny that I first hesitated to reach out to my college roommates because I didn't want them to think they won. Well, in the end, we all won. God won."
For more about Madison, read: