Why is it so difficult to forgive? To repent? To let go of the burdens we grip with whitened knuckles? Why do we hold onto our grudges, our gripes, our pains, our complaints?
I believe it comes down to faith. "Letting go and letting God" takes an enormous amount of faith.
How do we develop enough faith to let go of the darkness in our hearts? How do we develop the faith necessary to trust that when we let go, something better will come into its place?
A Just God and 2,000 Stripling Warriors
A famous Book of Mormon story involves 2,000 "stripling warriors." These stripling warriors were young men whose parents had covenanted with God never to shed blood--so when their land was attacked, the parents could not defend themselves. These boys agreed to fight instead. The story is well-known because of its tribute to mothers: every single one of the 2,000 stripling warriors survived their major battle, even as their counterparts from neighboring towns--other believers in Christ--died around them, and these boys attributed their miraculous unanimous survival to the teachings of their mothers.
But what did their mothers teach them that the mothers of the other believers didn't?
The answer is in Alma 57:26:
26 And now, their preservation was astonishing to our whole army, yea, that they should be spared while there was a thousand of our brethren who were slain. And we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God, because of their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe—that there was a just God, and whosoever did not doubt, that they should be preserved by his marvelous power.
There is a just God. Whosoever does not doubt, will be preserved by his marvelous power.
This doubtless faith saved the life of every single one of those 2,000 boys.
What a Having a Just God Means Today
Why is it important to have faith in a just God? Why does that matter?
Knowing there is a just God makes forgiveness easy.
It is easy to forgive when we have a knowledge of the justness of God, because we know that by forgiving a person of their sins against us, they are not off the hook. We can take comfort in knowing that even the most abhorrent of wrongs will be avenged in complete perfection by a perfectly just God; we do not have to worry about taking revenge ourselves.
We can let it go, because God does not let it go. That's why the Atonement has to come in.
At the same time, knowing that there is a just God helps us to understand that our unforgiveness counts as a sin against us, and that a just God will hold us accountable for the trespasses against us that we did not forgive. Faith in a just God is both a carrot and a stick when it comes to repentance and forgiveness. We can rejoice in the knowledge that those who have wronged us will eventually pay in the way God deems fit, and we can take a lot of motivation from the fact that we, too, will pay for the things we don't repent of and/or forgive.
When you know there is a just God, it is easy to turn burdens over to Him, because you can trust with 100% certainty that He will take care of it in the most ultimately fair way possible.
How do we build faith in a just God?
Where does faith come from? How can we develop the faith in God's justice that we need in order to fully heal?
Faith is a gift of the Spirit. The first thing to do in the search for faith is ask for it in prayer. Even if you're not sure God exists, the act of praying to Him in the name of Jesus Christ is an act of faith that will be rewarded.
Faith is a principle of action. This means that faith IS action, that action grows faith, that action and faith go hand in hand. If you want more faith, you have to ACT!
What kind of actions build faith in a just God?
- daily scripture reading exercises faith in the promise that searching God's word will bless our livesBasically, what we used to call "the seminary answers" in my seminary class. Pray. Read your scriptures. Keep the commandments. These things build our faith in God. If we don't have enough faith to do the little things, we're not going to have enough faith to do the big things.
- daily prayer exercises faith in the reality of God and His ability to answer prayer
- paying tithing exercises faith in God's ability to provide for us financially and temporally
Forgiving someone who has truly, deeply hurt you is a big thing.
It takes a lot of faith.
Do you know there is a just God?
Did you grow your faith in Him today?
Growing Faith Every Day
I have been coming to the conclusion that one of the most important things we can do in life is commit to build our faith in a just God every day. Theoretically we make that commitment at baptism. It's part of enduring to the end. In order to endure the end, one's faith has to grow every day. Stagnant faith simply cannot survive. If faith doesn't grow, it dies instead.
So, here is a challenge.
You may have already committed to grow your faith every day; maybe you've committed and forgotten. Maybe you've never committed.
Maybe you don't even believe in faith.
I challenge you to grow your faith. And not just to grow it, but to work to grow it every day.
Take a "leap of faith." Do something that requires some courage and trust in God's work. Trust your intuitions today. Do something illogical that just feels right and see what happens.
Pay your tithing.
Read your scriptures.
Grow your faith today. Make it a part of your life. Commit to grow that faith every single day.
If your faith isn't growing, it's dying.