“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another . . .”
—Colossians 3:12–13 NKJV
The film Les Misérables, adapted from Victor Hugo’s book by the same name, is the story of Jean Valjean, who was sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family.
Upon his release, Valjean goes to a monastery, where he is shown kindness by the bishop. But at night, he runs off with the bishop’s silver and is captured by the police. While being questioned, the bishop tells the police that he gave the silver to Valjean. Once the police leave, the bishop gives Valjean two silver candlesticks and tells him that he has been spared by God and that he must make an honest man of himself.
The bishop says, “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you and I give it to God.” Valjean, wanting to start a new life, under a new identity, breaks his parole conditions and is then pursued by an officer known as Javert.
Javert hunts Valjean, but Valjean just wants to live in peace. Later in the story, Valjean has an opportunity to kill Javert, but instead sets him free. Valjean also showed many acts of kindness, including adopting Cosette, the daughter of a prostitute named Fantine—a forgiven man, becomes a forgiving man.
We all love stories like that. But what about when we have someone to forgive?
Paul reminds us in the Book of Ephesians, “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you!” (Ephesians 4:30–32 NLT, emphasis added). Is there someone that you need to forgive?
When you forgive someone, you set a prisoner free: yourself!
Out of their long and painful journey has come a really helpful survival guide, so to speak. It’s a book called Suffer Strong: How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything. It’s not just an inspiring story of triumph through trials but a how-to book for accepting God’s plan and recognizing His providence even when it feels like your world is shattered.