Love Completely // Day 10

He who cannot forgive others destroys the bridge over which he himself must pass.  — George Herbert

We’ve all heard it and most of us have said it at some time. Many know it by heart. Some call it The Lord’s Prayer or The Model Prayer. As familiar as this prayer may be, how often do we really consider what we’re saying? Do we really want God to answer the part where we pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”? Do I really want God to forgive me to the same extent that I forgive others? We all want to receive forgiveness, but when it comes to forgiving the wrongs done to us, it’s another story. The aching hurt, the depth of pain, betrayal, disappointment – forgiveness is difficult to give.

The Bible gives some great reasons to forgive. The first is that Christ commands it. If you’ve committed your life to knowing and following Him, forgiveness is not an option. Paul wrote plainly to “forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). Throughout the Scriptures, forgiveness is not a suggestion. If you want to follow Jesus, it’s a commandment. As difficult and emotionally challenging as it may be, we all have to practice forgiveness. We must choose to do it – repeatedly, as necessary. Our feelings and the consequences of the injuries we’ve suffered may linger, but we’re commanded to forgive for a reason: our very survival depends on it. If you try to live without forgiving, you won’t survive. It is essential that we forgive for our own sakes; otherwise we continue to victimize ourselves and become bitter. The greater the resentment the more pressure and stress that builds up in our hearts. Eventually it will destroy your relationships, joy, and health. Medical and psychological research reveals that bitterness and resentment have devastating effects. We think that if we hold on to our hurt, we’re getting back at the person who injured us. In reality we’re just hurting ourselves. If we want to enjoy our lives to the fullest, we must release the bitterness. But how?

We release anger and bitterness by being honest about our feelings, both toward others and toward God. We don’t always like to admit that we are hurt, that someone else has managed to offend us. Pride fuels our deception, yet inside we’re seething. If our anger goes unchecked, it soon becomes a malignant bitterness.

Often it’s not just that we’re hurt by others; we’re also furious with God. We’re thinking, God, You’re the One I’m bitter at because You allowed this. You could’ve stopped it because You’re all powerful, but You let it happen, so You’re ultimately responsible. Then we suppress our feeling because we think we’re not supposed to be angry with God. But God is big enough to handle our anger! Besides, He knows we’re mad at Him anyway. I used to think that if I admitted I was angry with God, He would probably strike me with a lightning bolt. He doesn’t do that. He loves us just the way we are. He wants us to pour out our hearts to Him and admit our feelings and just say, “God, I’m mad. I’m angry. I’m bitter about this. Why did You allow it? I don’t understand.”

We have to express our feelings to God and arrive at the place where we can pray, “God, I trust that You know what’s best. You know I’m mad, so please forgive me and help heal me.” When you do that, the healing process begins. That’s what the Psalmist did in Psalm 73. “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before You. Yet I am always with You; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory.” (Psalms 73:21-24 NIV). When I reveal my heart to God, the healing starts.

We don’t feel like forgiving people who hurt us, but that’s okay. Forgiveness is not about what we feel. We forgive because we make a conscious decision and say to God, “I choose to forgive them by Your power because You command me to and because it’s for my own good.” Then five minutes later, when the hurt comes back to our minds, we can repeat this prayer, as many times as needed. Someone once wisely observed that to forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover the prisoner was you.

God says you need to forgive for your own sake, because bitterness blocks the blessings He wants to pour into your life. If you open up to God by forgiving and praying for those who hurt you, then blessings can start flowing again. Healing starts to occur in your soul. Jesus is our greatest example. With one of His last breaths on the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). That’s where the power to forgive comes from – the realization that we were forgiven first through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Personal Challenge

1. Make a list of the people you need to forgive. Write down the offense – what they did to hurt you – next to each name. Now make a list of all the people from whom you need to ask forgiveness. Next to their names briefly describe how you hurt them. Finally spend time in confession to God. Ask for the power of Christ to wash over you, bathing you in His forgiveness that will enable you to forgive others.

2. Read Psalm 73 and write God a letter and unload on Him. Tell Him all the things you’re angry about, all the things you’re harboring against Him and wondering about. Be honest, and trust that He can handle anything – everything – you throw at Him, no matter how dark, desperate, or doubtful you may be. Then ask Him to heal your heart as you tear up the letter.

  • Terry Wolfe

    I had a horrible relationship with my father. He had verbally abused my mother and sisters for years. He also had a drinking problem that added to the magnitude of the disfunction in our family. I resented him for most of my young adult life. I was very angry with him and God for all of the years of abuse. When I gave my life to the Lord, I still harbored the resentment. He time I reached out to him, you know, the Christian Thing to Do, I would get burned. One day my wife said to me, “you need to let go”. YOur anger towards your father is ruining your witness”. So I prayed to God to show me how to forgive. Take away the negative thoughts, the anger towards my father. It took a long time to heal, but God began to transform my heart and my whole attitude towards my father. It was truly an amazing transformation of my whole relationship with him. I was released from the pain and bad memories. He could no longer hurt me in any way. God opened some amazing opportunities for me to witness to my father that only he could have created. I was truly set free from my own bondage. Thank you Lord, I will never forget what you have done for me.

  • Shivana Khoza

    I can really relate to the part that speaks about the effect of holding on to our hurt, and the way it prevents God’s blessings… I did that for a while, and saw what a miserable person I was becoming through it… I didn’t like myself, so how could I have even expected others to like me! But our good Lord, so amazing that He is… He gently showed me what I was doing, and gave me the power of His peace that came with forgiving those who had wronged me… By the forgiveness, and through that experience, I have learned some very valuable things about myself, and what I need to do to experience God’s peace. I have learned somethings about me that I didn’t like also, and so I can bring it to God and ask His forgiveness and transformation in my life… Thank you Jesus!!

  • http://change-leadershipllc.com/ Skip Ward

    I am completing a three day fast and prayer tonight. Literally- no work, just reading the Bible and a theologian I admire, Marcus Borg. This blog topic was timely and I am using it to pull my thoughts and emotions together. Maybe God can use me to help someone else in a struggle, just as God used others to help me.

    First, I pretty much stopped going to Fellowship because my best buddies wife is committing adultery with another married church member and I don’t know what I would do if I see them there again. I saw her once, and she hid looking into her car trunk. Another time they saw me they ran out of the eatery.

    But I remain a member, go sometimes, but have grown a bit uncomfortable.

    After the Fellowship, I go the The Way Church, a Holy Ghost Church off 45, and am now in their prayer group meetings. Pastor Matt and Pastor Tammy have really reached me on forgiveness.

    Here are the verses and thoughts that have moved me to forgiving her for the hurt she has reigned down.

    (Failure to forgive has tormented me.)

    1. On Accountability to God

    “…If we deliberately continue sinning after we have received a full knowledge of the truth, there is no other sacrifice that will cover these sins. There will be nothing to look forward to but the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies.” Hebrews 10:26-27

    “Out of a person’s heart come evil thoughts (adultery etc). All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you and make you unacceptable to God” Mark 7: 21-23.

    2. Compassion

    •“Be compassionate just as God is compassionate.” Luke 6:36
    •The Servant Who Lacked Compassion and the Separation of the Sheep and the Goat in Matt. Both focus on compassion as the critical factor separating us from God.

    3. Working Through Others

    God can use an evil deed to bring about goodness. God can use the Common Enemy to our advantage.

    4. The Kingdom of God

    The Kingdom of God is peace and forgiveness brings peace.

    5. Time to Move On

    “And if a village won’t welcome you or listen to you, shake off its dust from your feet as you leave…” Mark 6:11

    6. Sanctification for the Holy Spirit

    “New wines need new wineskins.” Mark 2:22

    7. The Decision Point

    “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that our Father in heaven will forgive your sins too.” Mark 12:25

    Here is the link to what I blogged about on Day 7- Affair Proofing Your Marriiage.

    http://blog.woodlandschurch.tv/2011/02/13/day-7-affair-proofing-your-marriage/#comment-642

  • Dawn Babette Caplinger

    Dearest Lord,

    I have suffered many losses over a long span of time. I have struggled many years with the negative repercussions of pain; a lonely, broken heart, tucked and hidden in fear of additional scarring. I turned away from you, running from your love and forgiveness, hiding my pain, as if, in doing so, I could pretend that it wasn’t a part of my whole, and I was solid, standing firmly in isolation. But, always you called to me, using different voices, using different modes, breaking down years of learned defenses until finally I called back, first, in a whisper, frightened that you would hear and respond; later, with more voice and more frequency, listening and anticipating the sound of your voice; and now, I sing loudly, strong, frightened by my own passion but excited and in awe of the sweet, sweet, sound of your song. Although, I have much I do not understand, and I have many questions without answers, no matter, no longer important, for in you I am loved, for in you I am whole, you are my understanding, you are my answers, and I am in you.