My Answer: Forgiveness is divine, no matter how difficult

Q: I know Jesus said we're supposed to forgive people who've hurt us, but why bother? As far as I can tell, it doesn't really change them, nor does it make the hurts go away. — P.L.

A: Admittedly, forgiving someone who's hurt us doesn't always change them. Instead, they may laugh at us, or cynically accuse us of being insincere and only trying to manipulate them. They also may keep blaming us for what happened, just as they've always done. But occasionally it will change them — sometimes in surprising ways.

But let me tell you what will happen if you truly forgive someone who has hurt you. No, it may not change them, but it will change you. You see, an unforgiving spirit produces all kinds of negative emotions in us — anger, bitterness, depression, jealousy, hate and more.

Any of those easily becomes a spiritual and emotional poison, eating away at our souls and turning us into unloving (and unlovable) people. This is why the Bible commands us, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger" (Ephesians 4:31).

How can you forgive someone who has hurt you? You may think it's impossible, but with God's help you can. The key is first to accept God's forgiveness by receiving the free gift of salvation he offers you in Jesus Christ.

We don't deserve God's forgiveness, but on the cross all of our sins were placed in Christ, and he took the judgment we deserve. Have you turned to him for the forgiveness you need?

Then forgive others the same way Christ has forgiven you — freely and fully. Not only will God release you from an unforgiving spirit, but he even may use you to change the life of the person you've forgiven.

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Q: On the outside, everyone thinks I'm good. I'm active in our church's youth group and have no bad habits. But sometimes I can't wait to get away from home and leave all this behind. I know it's probably wrong, but can you understand how I feel? —- K.F.

A: Yes, I can understand how you feel, and I want to assure you that God also understands your feelings and inner conflicts. God doesn't abandon us when we're tempted to doubt him or rebel against him, but he also doesn't want us to go down paths that he knows will only lead to disaster.

What should you do? First, I hope you'll come to understand why you feel this way. There may be many reasons, of course, but almost certainly one is that nearly everyone your age yearns to be independent. For most of your life, you've been under your parents' control, but now you want to spread your wings and be out on your own.

Incidentally, parents don't always understand this, although they probably felt like this when they were young.

But this desire for independence can be good and bad. It can be good because that's part of being an adult. But it can be bad if we use it in the wrong way. In other words, you could end up making decisions out of rebellion, only because your parents oppose them, although those decisions could be very wrong.

My prayer is that you will deliberately commit your life to Jesus Christ and make him the Lord of your life. Then commit your future to him and ask him to help you do what is right.

The Bible says, "Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace" (2 Timothy 2:22).

(Send your queries to "My Answer," c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn., 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-(877) 2-GRAHAM; or visit the web site for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn.: http://www.billygraham.org.)

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