“Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
A common burden that many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, carry, is unforgiveness in their hearts. This can be towards others who have done them wrong, and it can also be towards themselves for poor choices and wasted lives. But this isn’t God’s Will for our lives. His Will is for us to live, and, to live abundantly.
In this article, I want to shed some light on the topic of forgiveness and bitterness. I want to help people understand that this is damaging to their inner being, and I also want people to understand that God can deliver them from it today.
I have tried living with bitterness, with resentment, with regret, and even with guilt. These are all characteristics of the enemy of God; Satan. When I finally gave my hurts and frustrations to God, He helped me to break free from these. I do still catch myself thinking thoughts of regret and guilt sometimes for poor choices, but God is teaching me to turn those over to Him while I shift my focus and attention back to living for Him.
God desires us to be at rest in our souls
“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’”
God knows that people harboring hard feelings towards someone can only end in restlessness. When we think of someone and instantly get a rush of anger or frustration or we get sad because of hurt, we are not living the kind of life God intended for us.
It does hurt when someone wrongs us. The power of words is often misunderstood. One might say, “Well, sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But how untrue is this?
If someone says something to us, sure, in that moment we might not put much thought into it, but later, and sometimes for many years, we do ponder what was said. “Were they right?” “Am I really like that?” “Am I no good?” “Will I never amount to anything?”
Although generic examples here, some of us have parents, siblings, or other relatives who said hurtful things to us as children. When we are young and our minds and beliefs are forming, these kinds of words are extremely destructive. But we are strong, right? Won’t we just push it down and go on living and toughen up?
But we will remember these hurtful words. Twenty; thirty; forty years later. Hurtful thoughts still come to mind about what had been said to us by someone we trusted.
But Jesus is offering us rest from this very thing. He is asking us to give Him any burden that is heavy on us.
Jesus wants to take that heavy burden from you right now and give you the rest you need from it.
Will you let him?
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We must forgive others to be right with God
“But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
God is a God of grace, and He will forgive us for our worst sins. However, He expects us to extend His grace through us to others; especially, those who hurt us. Nothing about forgiving someone who hurt us is easy, but that is where we need to embrace God’s grace for us and find strength in Him.
If we are obedient to God by forgiving others, He will be faithful to us in healing the wounds. But we must take the first step. We can’t wait until we feel better or until we feel like it. Time is short and ultimately, unknown.
If we wait until perfect timing, we won’t find it. If we miss our opportunity to forgive, we might spend the rest of our lives in regret or guilt. This can harden our hearts so much that we won’t be able to believe that Jesus can forgive us, or that we can be freed from this.
God’s desire is for us to walk closely with Him and to stay as free from sin as possible. He is ready to forgive us our wrongs, but He requires us to forgive others first.
If you have any situations in your life that you need to forgive someone for, God is asking you to do that right away. We must see an unforgiving heart as sin. Jesus gave us a new commandment in the New Testament (John 13:34); “To love one another.”
If we aren’t willing to release forgiveness, then we aren’t acting in love towards others. This becomes bitterness within us in time.
Others might not forgive us
It is true that sometimes when we wrong someone in some way, that they won’t forgive us. We can’t control what others do. When we need them to forgive us, but they won’t, we have two options; live in regret or give it to God.
God is calling that other person to forgive us, but if they aren’t obedient, that is out of our control. God will deal with them accordingly, but for us, He will give us rest if we bring the situation before Him.
If we think of people who are in jail on “Death Row,” who have taken lives of others, these men and women can still come to God and be saved. However, getting saved doesn’t mean that the Victim’s families will feel any better, nor are they any more likely to offer forgiveness. Only if God touches their heart and puts it on them to forgive, and only if they are obedient to that calling, might they forgive.
There will be some situations where we want forgiveness and some where we want to forgive others, but, isn’t always possible. In these instances, we must bring it to God, and offer, or request the forgiveness through Him.
I want to forgive, but the person is a threat to my safety
Sometimes someone goes around causing harm to others. They might do this their entire life. Obviously, these people aren’t under the control of God’s Spirit, but of Satan’s. For these people, they have no concern for the safety or emotions of others.
For times when we are attacked or randomly hurt for no apparent reason, we must bring this to God and release it to Him. Otherwise, we are risking this turning to bitterness, which is basically a form of hatred towards that thing or person. It is okay to hate the sin that people do to others, but we are all called to love each other just as Christ loved us.
The last thing Jesus wants is for us to have hate in our hearts. In fact, Scripture says, if we have hate in our heart towards another, we are murderers at heart (1 John 3:15). This might seem a bit harsh, but not to a God of love. If anyone had reason to hate, it was Jesus. But He loved even those who crucified Him. He also did this for an example for us to follow.
We must be careful to avoid engaging in gossip with others. If we hear it, we are wise to shut down the conversation or to abandon it. We can’t control what others are talking about, but we can control what we participate in.
If we gossip about others, we risk ruining their reputation and doing irreparable damage. Instead, we should give them the benefit of doubt, and not share in the gossip or slander. We are not called to judge others. That is for God to do. Instead, we are to be loving to others, making allowances for shortcomings and mistakes, and we must build others up, just like God builds us up.
If we are victims of gossip and slander, we will find it difficult to defend ourselves. We must bring this to God and ask Him to sort it out. Retaliation or revenge never ends well. God is faithful to pick us back up and restore us. Keep doing good unto God, and He will restore you.
Forgive and forget
When we forgive someone, we aren’t done yet. Going up to someone who has done us wrong and having a hard conversation about how they hurt us is very difficult. But it’s not the hardest part. Moving on and virtually, forgetting it; that’s the hardest part.
Many couples go through difficult seasons where one partner hurts the other in some fashion. Let’s pick the extreme here; infidelity.
After this act of unfaithfulness has occurred, trust will be broken, and scars will be present. For many couples, this foolish act marks the end to a relationship full of potential and promise. However, some couples will choose to work through it.
Now, for the couples who choose to work through it, there are two groups; the one’s who do it right and the one’s who do it wrong.
The couple who does it right is the one who seeks help and learns how to forgive, and through love, forgets the offence. This doesn’t mean he or she automatically starts trusting. Instead, the offender must make some changes and live in a new way; a new commitment to the relationship.
For the couple who is doing it wrong, the offended might’ve said, “I forgive you,” but in words only. They didn’t let it go in their heart. Instead, they are hurt and are holding onto that hurt. In doing this, anytime a situation of suspicion arises, or in the event of an argument, the offence will be brought back up and held over the head of the offender. This relationship has no chance of restoration until healing in the heart happens.
When we decide to forgive someone for any wrong against us, the real freedom for both comes through the “forget” part. Like I said, this is the hardest part of letting someone off the hook for hurting us, but it’s the part that sets us free in our soul.
“I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.”
Remember; God forgives us, and He forgets, and He moves on. If we want to be free, we must do the same.
If your marriage is broken and in need of repair, take some time to check out this resource:
7 Secrets to Fixing Your Marriage, with Mort Fertel. Mort has one of the highest success rates in helping couples to fix and restore their broken marriages.
How was Jesus able to forgive those who persecuted Him?
In the book of John, all of chapter 19 talks about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is a difficult chapter for us to read. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like to be in Jesus’ shoes. Through this whole event, through being mistreated and beaten, Jesus didn’t sin by hating them for their crime against Him. Hurt, yes; hate, no.
So, how can someone do this?
Only through the power of love.
1 Peter 4:8
“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”
Jesus understood about sin and wrongdoing. He also understood that the people were lost and that they were being led by the enemy. Even in death, Jesus was the perfect example. He showcased His love for His enemies even to the end.
Of course, we aren’t going to be able to live up to Christ’s standard perfectly, but He wants us to try. In Philippians 4:13, we are told that we can do all things through Christ. Forgiving and forgetting the things people do to us is one of those things we will need to draw strength from Jesus for.
As we learn to walk with Jesus, and as our spirit develops, so will our love. Also, so will our hate.
Our hate for everything that is evil will grow strong. I don’t mean in a bad way where we’re pacing back and forth with fists of rage, but instead, where we walk in obedience to God and avoid sin in our life. We learn how the enemy operates so that we can be wise to his plans and avoid falling into his traps. As the characteristics of Christ in us grows, we will start to hate sin, and hate sinning, even more.
But our love will grow. Our ability to show love, even to our enemies, will grow.
Related: Are You Struggling To Follow God?
If you have been hurt by someone at some point in your life, it’s vital for you to forgive them. Go to God in prayer and seek His Wisdom in this. Take some time and get His direction to handle this the right way. God will give you strength and He will help the situation. It might still be difficult to do, but God is a God of healing and He will heal the situation in His perfect way if you go to Him.
When we walk in harmony with Christ, we have peace and joy in our life. We live in a tough world and bad stuff will happen. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait until we go to Heaven to have the Peace of Jesus. We can have it right now by having a relationship with Him and by walking closely to His teachings. Don’t forget His greatest Command to us: “To love one another.”
If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, you can follow this link (Prayer for Salvation) to find out how. Also, if you need prayer for your life or your family, feel free to fill out a private prayer request in the provided prayer box in this article. My wife and I would love to pray for you.