Have you ever had your feelings deeply hurt or been grossly mistreated? Felt used, abused or excluded? Yup, me too.
Worse yet, has anything horrible happened to someone you loved? Rape, sexual abuse, robbery, slander?
What do you do with those hurts, especially when they happened to someone who was completely innocent? How do you deal with the resultant righteous anger and indignation?
How do you let go of the pain, especially if the person causing the hurt or pain was not remorseful or even caught?
Oh, that it was as easy as belting out the Frozen theme song “Let It Go.”
But what if you don’t “let it go?”
What happens if you nurse the hurts, lick the wounds or wallow in self-pity? What begins as the seed of justifiable anger can easily take root in our hearts in the form of bitterness. It can quickly become a deep root that’s hard to remove.
It’s so subtle. So “justified.” And so deadly.
Hebrews 12:15 warns: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”
We’ve all seen it happen. A person’s bitterness sprews out on those around them. It might be via angry outbursts. It might be from passive-aggressive behavior. But it affects (“defiles”) others in the bitter person’s world.
And the one most often damaged by the bitterness is the person himself. Ill health frequently results. As John Ortberg, Jr. wisely observed: “Bitterness is like drinking rat poison and expecting the rat to die.”
Bitterness destroys the vessel that contains it. Every time.
So what’s the alternative?
Not because the offending person “deserves” it or even has asked/begged for it.
Because it benefits YOU.
And, because you are being obedient to God’s direction. Think of the words most of us say by rote from The Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Really? Think about what you are saying: forgive us to the extent that we forgive others. Ouch. I need a lot more forgiveness than that!
When you choose to forgive, you’re trusting God to administer justice in His perfect timing. “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) You’re not letting the person off the hook. You’re just leaving the issue in God’s able hands.
Forgiveness frees YOU to blossom and flourish. It’s like removing an oversized weed from a garden, allowing desired plants to grow and thrive.
For deep hurts, forgiveness is often a process. Much like peeling back layers on an onion, a person might need to forgive, forgive some more, and then forgive again. It’s a conscious choice. And in time, the “heart” will catch up with the “head.”
How do we know if we are harboring a root of bitterness?
Is it easy? Absolutely not. But, with God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)
And by forgiving others for hurt and pain they have inflicted, you will free yourself to blossom into all that God created you to be: a “planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3)
Receive a regular dose of encouragement by signing up for the Leave Nothing Unsaid / Jody Noland newsletter!