The Healing Balm of Forgiveness

The first time I met my brother-in-law he asked me for one piece of advice about life. It was a pretty original ice-breaker, I will give him that. I may have said more than one thing, but this was what I remember saying:

“Learn to forgive quickly and to forgive often. People are imperfect and there is no sense wasting time hurting ourselves when we can forgive.”

If he had asked me today, when I have learned to more boldly include Christ in most of my conversations, I would have likely added to turn to Christ for any kind of forgiveness.

My response to him that day was not one I casually thought of. It has seemed to be a pattern for my life, at least if I let it be–to learn to forgive. And perhaps if you looked long enough, you could see the path of forgiveness tread in the garden of your life, too. Over and over, time and time again, I have faced people and situations that require me to dig deep, turn to Christ and learn to forgive faults and mistakes, both big and small.

The Balm of Gilead was a resin or balm from a bush. Because it was so plentiful in Gilead, the name stuck. It was used for healing wounds in Old Testament times. While it is only mentioned a handful of times, it has become a symbol of healing among many Christians. There became a poem that talked of its healing powers.

There is a Balm in Gilead,

To make the wounded whole,

There is a Balm in Gilead,

To heal the sin sick soul.

as quoted by Boyd K. Packer in “Balm of Gilead” Ensign Nov. 1987

Jesus Christ suffered in Gethsemane and died on the cross to rise again that we might have as many chances as we need to be the best we can be. We all fall short and every time He forgives us when we come to him in humility. Our job is to “try a little harder to be a little better.” (Gordon B. Hinckley)

He fills the gap between our mortal mistakes and our eternal goals. He forgives that we may be more.

And because He first forgave us, He asks us to extend the same love to others.

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Ephesians 4:32

Doctrine and Covenants section 98 is also a very helpful section to read.

Forgiveness can be one of the most difficult gifts to give someone who has wronged us. It can be even more difficult to forgive ourselves. But I know that there is peace, healing, and hope on the other side.

Guilt and shame bring no lasting rewards, only pain and stagnation. As much as God wants us to learn from our mistakes He also wants us to move on from them.

And as much as it pains Him to see us hurt from others’ wrong-doing, He sees the powerful healing and love that come from true forgiveness.

So, remove that proverbial bag of rocks from your back and give it over to Christ. Let Him carry the load of your pain, show you how to see others as He does, and mend your heart that it may grow in love more easily.

I had an experience where I had sought to forgive someone that seemed to be impossible. And I very literally cried out to God to “just take it, please take it! I can’t carry this pain anymore.”

I asked Him to remove my anger, my unanswered questions and my hurt. And in time, He did. Forgiveness allowed me to heal. And it allowed a friendship to heal as well.

With enough hate and misunderstanding swirling in this world, let the peace come from you. Seek peace and forgive. It will heal you both.

“This year, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again.”

Howard W. Hunter, “The Gifts of Christmas,” Ensign Dec. 2002.