“If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:15)

Someone causes you to be late for an important meeting. Someone accidentally dents your car while you are stopped at a traffic light. Your husband forgets your birthday. Your son talks back to you in a disrespect­ful manner. In situations like these, you might find it easy to forgive. After all, they are understandable, and no one was hurt too badly.

But what if you were sexu­ally abused as a child? What if you lived with a harsh parent who never showed you any affection? What if you discovered that your spouse had been cheating on you for years? How easy would it be then to form the three most powerful words: “I for­give you”?

We know that we must for-give—indeed, Jesus commands us to forgive—but sometimes we just can’t do it right away. In many cases, forgiveness is a process that calls for many little steps before we can take that big leap into mercy and par­don. And that’s okay, because Jesus knows our hearts, and he never expects us to do the impossible.

So what steps can we take? The first, and most important, is prayer. In the quiet of our hearts, we can open ourselves to Jesus’ presence and ask him to show us his love and grace. The second step is to ask Jesus just to make us willing to forgive. It is such a simple prayer, but it’s all the Lord needs to begin to heal our hurts. Over time, as we experience his healing love, we will find the ability to forgive.

We all know that the goal of our lives is to become as merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful (Luke 6:36). But what we need to know just as clearly is that in those particu­larly painful situations, forgiveness is a goal we hope to obtain, not a com­mand we must fulfill immediately. The most important thing is that we begin the journey—and that we try our best to stay on the path of forgiveness. Wherever you are on this journey, today is a great opportunity to take one more step. It doesn’t have to be dramatic, either. God is committed to working dramatically in us, no matter where we are.

“Jesus, give me a share in your own heart of mercy. Lord, teach me to forgive!”

Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 34:5-7,16-19