by Kim Gunderson
I’ll never forgive you as long as I live!
Her shouted words revealed the depth of pain that filled her little heart. She was only nine, yet the sting of anger was evident as she and her brother argued. Declaring those words, she gave voice to the feelings festering inside her and sprung open the door for bitterness to set in.
Have you ever felt that way? So hurt and wounded that all you wanted to do was shout, I’ll never forgive you! You desire for the one who hurt you to see the magnitude of your pain, to own what they did to you. You feel a release when you declare your woundedness, those dark places that go unnoticed and ignored by another. It may feel cathartic, even empowering. But truthfully? Living that way is dangerous. Unforgiveness breeds bitterness, and bitterness is a poison to our soul.
“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” (Hebrews 12:15, NLT)
So what’s the antidote for the poison of bitterness?
Perhaps your heart races as you read that word. Forgiveness. But you don’t know what happened to me, you reason. If you really knew what he did, what she said, how they hurt me…
No, I don’t know the details of your life. I can’t see the well of pain you live with, but I know Someone who does, Someone who deeply loves you and gives you all the power you need to forgive.
To forgive someone means we release the desire for revenge. We stop holding grudges and wanting them to hurt as much as we do. It doesn’t mean we excuse their behavior, but it releases the power they have to continue to hurt us. Forgiveness allows us to set the right pieces in the right place before the right Person.
“Make allowances for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13, NLT)
So how do we work through forgiveness?
First, make the choice to forgive. Choose to release the power to the One who restores and redeems. It may seem unfair that they’re receiving forgiveness when you’re the one who has been hurt, but the reality is this: choosing forgiveness helps you more than it helps them. It releases the hold of bitterness and resentment and allows God to work in your woundedness.
Second, pray. Pray your heart out, confess to God your pain and sorrow and disappointment. Pour out your hurt before God and welcome him into those dark places, asking for his Spirit to move and protect you. As you pray, invite Jesus to redeem and restore those tender spots. The pain may remain for a while, much like the waves of grief. The hurt takes times to subside, but it will. The pain you feel from the betrayal of another doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven that person; it shows the soft places where God still needs to work.
Third, stop talking about what happened, reliving the circumstances over and over, searching for a way to justify resentment. If you need to process the events that occurred, consider writing in a journal or seeking wise counsel, someone trained to help you move through the pain.
Forgiving others provides fertile ground for God to weed out the root of bitterness in our hearts, allowing us to grow in our faith and trust in Him. It opens the pathway between us and God. Mark 11:22-26 shows us that unforgiveness hinders our faith from working. Jesus taught in Matthew 18:21-35 that there is no limit to the number of times we’re called to forgive. After all, God forgives us every time we ask. Shouldn’t we do the same?
Forgiving others does not always mean restoring relationships, but it does mean we release the desire for revenge to the One who changes hearts and lives. There is no magic pill to get rid of the pain. Hate is easy. Working through the long hard work of forgiveness is tough. But much more worth it.
That nine-year-old girl? She’s beginning to learn to forgive her brother, even when it’s hard. She’s realizing that holding a grudge hurts her more than it hurts him. I’m sure there will be more days when she gets hurt, especially as they grow up, but I pray she continues to learn that…
Forgiveness is freeing.
And offers peace as we draw closer to the One who loves us most.
The question is this—how do you want to live your life? Continuing to give power to the one who hurt you, or releasing control so the One who loves you fills you with the power to forgive? The choice is yours.
Kim recently admitted she’s a true Midwesterner at heart, having lived in the Chicago area for the majority of her life. She loves watching the seasons change, especially as winter gives way to spring. Kim has raised four kids—two by birth, two by choice—and recently welcomed a son-in-law into her family. She’s the author of Breathing in Ashes, a memoir that shares her story of hope after the death of her youngest daughter. She also blogs over at www.abigumbrella.com and is a contributing writer for Ask God Today Ministries.
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