The Healing Power of Forgiveness


Shana Schutte shares a story of a holocaust survivor who, through God's powerful love, was able to forgive a known Nazi soldier.

In the book, Tramp for the Lord, the late Corrie ten Boom tells a touching story. After her release from Ravensbruck, a Nazi concentration camp, Corrie traveled to Munich to tell her story of God’s love and forgiveness to a room filled with Germans. During her speech, she told the crowd that God casts our sins into the ocean when we ask for forgiveness and that He remembers them no more (Micah 7:19).

Following her talk, a man approached Corrie. She recognized him as one of the cruelest guards in Ravensbruck. Immediately, pictures of her sister Betsie’s slow and painful death at the hands of this man and others like him flooded Corrie’s mind. When he reached Corrie, he said that he appreciated her message, then extended his hand. “How good it is to know that, as you say, all of our sins are at the bottom of the sea.”

Corrie’s arm stayed firmly at her side. She didn’t want to shake his hand; she felt as if her blood had frozen in her veins. The man said he had become a Christian and knew that God had forgiven him for his cruel deeds, then asked Corrie, “Will you forgive me?”

She still didn’t want to touch him. Her arms stayed by her side. But she knew that God calls us to forgive or we will not be forgiven (Matthew 6:15). She also thought about her own sins that God had forgiven and how those who nurse bitterness never overcome the past.

After a few seconds, Corrie remembered that forgiveness is not an emotion but rather an act of the will. Jesus, help me! she prayed. In obedience to God, she thrust her hand forward, even though she didn’t feel like it. Immediately a warmth started in her shoulder and ran down her arm and into their joined hands. Jesus’ love filled her heart and body. “I forgive you, brother,” she said, “with all of my heart.” Corrie wrote that she had never known God’s love so intensely as she did then.

Forgiveness is powerful. It’s a command. It’s a choice. It’s healing for a broken heart.

What would have happened if Corrie hadn’t made the choice to forgive those who had wronged her and her family members? No doubt she would have remained imprisoned by the memory of Ravensbruck. Unforgiveness toward God and others would have stolen her ministry, testimony, confidence, and joy—and her heart would have stayed broken.

When we refuse to forgive others, something is always at work. Maybe we believe that God cannot or will not cause any good to come from what has happened or that something was taken that cannot be redeemed. Maybe we don’t believe He can heal us.

But when we acknowledge that He’s all-powerful and that He loves us, He can make something beautiful out of the wrong that was done to us. When we choose to forgive, it pushes us to the edge of ourselves to make us more like Christ. Like Corrie ten Boom, we can experience the redemption of wrongs committed against us when we forgive.

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