Over the last several years, I cannot tell you how many books with chapters on forgiveness I have
closed up and put back on my shelf. I would read to the forgiveness chapter and then decided I'd had enough of that book. It happened enough times that I knew I had a forgiveness issue, only I didn't realize how toxic this issue was. I knew I wasn't there yet. I freely admitted that I was not ready to forgive. Let me just hold on to this poison a little longer.
"You cannot live the life God wants you to live if you cannot forgive. You have got to let go. You have got to set yourself free."
Even though I have been doing work on forgiveness over the last 6 months or so, I am still holding on. I guess I have to admit that I don't quite trust that God will get the kind of vengeance I think is needed in this case. I definitely have had those thoughts of..."he doesn't deserve forgiveness. He's not even sorry." When someone has hurt you for a long time and you've been angry for a long time, forgiveness is an all-out fight.
I've been writing a lot about JOY this past week and it's important for us to understand that the absence of joy is a result of unforgiveness. When we have unforgiveness we have stress, anxiety and depression. It negatively affects our emotional and spiritual well being. When we harbor anger, bitterness and resentment we cannot experience the love that God wants to give us.
I want that. I want to live my life fully in God's unconditional and perfect love. I am done with being angry and bitter. I also want to be forgiven. "But if you do not forgive others your father will not forgive you." Matthew 6:15
I had been studying forgiveness before I went to bed last night. I woke up to a message from someone asking "Why are you seemingly angry with me and cold towards me?" Wow. I had to think about that for awhile but I realized a couple hours later that I was, indeed, angry and unforgiving towards this person. My first response was..."I'm not even going to respond to that. I'm done with that person." But I realized that message was directly from God telling me that I need to pay attention and maybe there's more unforgivness going on in my life that I even realized.
I want my heart to be filled with joy. I do not want to harbor anger and bitterness towards people who have hurt me or my children. I want to release myself and release the other person.
Proverbs 4:23 says...Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
I did respond to that person and I thanked him for bringing this issue to my attention. He is also a believer and I shared why I was angry, hoping it would be received well. It was. In a few brief messages I think we both helped each other see things that God wanted us to work on as individuals. Respond in love and it changes things for good. Respond in anger and it just makes things worse.
I want to have a forgiving heart. I'm so far from perfect and I know I need others (and God) to forgive me. When we guard our heart we focus on loving others and praying for the people who have hurt us. I still often have angry feelings towards someone who hurt me and my children for many, many years but instead of letting them fester, every time I feel it, I pray for him. It's not always easy but it's getting easier and easier. Pray for your enemies. It may not change them, but it will change you.