Authors & translators:
Brown, Andrew
Authors & translators:
Barrett, Ally

Jesus, you ask that we forgive
but there are times when pain’s too deep,
when hurts are new, when we’re too scarred,
or love’s betrayal leaves us torn—
torn to a depth we never knew
even existed in our hearts.

We cannot find a way to grant
forgiveness for these hurts of ours;
hurts that re-cast our minds, our lives,
destroying all we thought we were.
We cannot move beyond distress—
the scars too deep within our hearts.

Jesus, we ask that you, who shared
the sufferings of human life,
will understand our depth of pain
and heal when we cannot forgive.
Forgive our unforgiving hearts;
forgive those who we can’t forgive.

Words: © Andrew Brown – May 2016

Metre: 88 88 88

Suggested tunes: Leicester (StF 278); Stella (StF 516)

Ideas for use

Andrew Brown’s hymn complements Ally Barrett’s May this place be one of nurture (website only) – a hymn that asserts the importance of being attentive to the welfare of children and vulnerable adults in our church life. Both would be suitable for services addressing such a theme. In situations where reconciliation is required, Andrew’s hymn would be especially helpful. The need for reconciliation can be as strong in church contexts as in situations covered on the news.

More information

Singing the Faith and this website are well supplied with hymns that express a common Christian experienced that we don’t deserve forgiveness of God for the inadequate way we live our lives. Rob Newton’s I cannot speak you name, O Lord (website only) is a good example. He describes it as “a confessional, evangelical hymn about thinking we’re not good enough, or too deep in, sin for redemption and finding we’re not.”

In Jesus, you ask that we forgive, Andrew addresses the subject from another angle – the sense of failure when we find ourselves unable to forgive as we believe God does, or as we feel God expects us to. “The initial impetus for writing the hymn,” he writes, “came from a conversation with someone who had been abused, found it impossible to forgive the abuser, but then felt guilty because of the teaching to forgive”.

To some extent, Andrew Brown takes up Ruth Duck’s question (God, how can we forgive, StF 613):

God, how can we forgive
when bonds of love are torn?
How can we rise and start anew,
our trust reborn?

Andrew pushes the question further with a possible implication that there may sometimes come a point when it becomes impossible to forgive – and that this is somehow understandable, and even OK. “Forgive our unforgiving hearts; forgive those who we can’t forgive” (v.3). He explains his thinking this way: “I don't know whether it is ever right to stop trying to forgive but I am sure that God accepts us as we are at any one time, and at whatever stage we have managed to reach in our reconciliation – with God, with each other, and with ourselves.

“One of the issues I was trying to explore was the way in which those who suffer for no fault of their own, nevertheless often feel guilty.”

Words in Ally Barrett’s hymn, May this place be one of nurture (website only), express God’s continuing presence in such a situation:

you hold the broken hearted
till they learn to live again.

Like Ruth Duck, she asks us to create spaces in which we all (including those who have been abused) may somehow “come to know how [God’s] endless love sustains us as we live and move and grow”.

With both Andrew and Ally’s hymns, we have entered challenging territory, both as church communities and as individuals. Of Andrew’s new contribution to our worshipful response, the Methodist Faith and Order representative on the Singing the Faith Reference Group writes: “Some might have issues around apparently validating 'not forgiving' but I think this hymn gets it spot on pastorally and theologically.”

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