Humble steps back down
I continue to grow in my faith each time I follow what I like to call “nudges” that I receive from the Holy Spirit. I’ve been feeling another one of those nudges these past few months. He brought to my attention a bitterness that has been lingering deep within me. A situation involving another person occurred a number of years ago that I have struggled to let go of and forgive. I have to admit I was well aware of the bitterness I felt because whenever their name came up in conversation, my body tightened as I went into defensive mode! The pain was still raw from the hurt I had previously experienced. Pain like that takes time to heal but the bitterness inside me was beginning to grow more rapidly and it was catching the Holy Spirit’s attention. My reluctancy to forgive that person was not only starting to hurt those around me but was also interfering with my relationship with God.
It’s funny, I can recall a few young childhood disagreements between friends and myself that usually ended in a quick “I’m sorry” followed by a “That’s okay, I forgive you” kind of shrug. Somehow as I’ve grown older, the hurts have become more personal and sting a little deeper, these quick make ups don’t seem to happen quite as easily. Hurts develop into unresolved grudges which go on for years and end up fuelling more anger and resentment.
The bible has a lot to say about forgiveness. Let’s start by looking at a few verses…
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. (Mark 11:25 NIV).
Make allowance 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)
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV)
In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. (Matthew 6:14-15 MSG)
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37 NIV)
I am not sure if my experience with forgiveness is typical or not. As I tend to do in this blog though, I am going to share my story and how I am working through it.
I have asked myself why I hang so tightly onto old hurts. In this case I think I found comfort in believing I was right while the person that hurt me was wrong. I placed myself in a superior position where I felt better than them. If I was to forgive, then I would allow that person to redeem themselves and I would no longer be better than. I am so full of pride!
Holding on to that anger and grudge was building a barrier between myself and God. I was more focussed on defending myself and making myself look better. By not forgiving I was falling right back into sin. I graciously accepted God’s forgiveness for my past sins, but now I couldn’t extend that forgiveness towards others. I realized that I am no better than the person that hurt me. It dawned on me that it was more about me stepping off my own pedestal and meeting them at the depths where I placed them!
There is no doubt about it, forgiving is hard. My heart was convicted though and I wanted to let go of the bitterness I felt. In the process I discovered it is much more than just saying I forgive. I think that is why they call it the “act” of forgiveness. A changed heart behaves differently. Until my actions towards that person started to shift I don’t believe I was fully letting go of my anger. The old saying “actions speak louder than words” really rings true here and I knew that until I made some significant changes nothing would be different.
So I took the following steps and went into A-C-T-I-O-N!
Acknowledge that we are all imperfect. Just as we have our own strengths and faults, so do the ones we struggle to forgive. By standing on equal ground I found it easier to let go of my resentments, especially when I reminded myself that Christ forgave me for all my wrongs. There is no sin greater than another in His eyes. By focussing less on how awful I thought they were I actually started to see them as Jesus sees all of us, with love for who we are at this very moment!
Share Compassion. We all come from varying circumstances which often dictates how we act. By recognizing that, I found I was more understanding of their experiences and the choices they made. I haven’t walked in their shoes and I don’t know how I might have behaved if I was in a similar situation. Having compassion for their plight helped me to release my resentments towards them.
Trust God to lead to you through the process of forgiveness. The Holy Spirit brought the need to forgive to my attention. I don’t believe God sets me up to fail, rather He continually refines me so I can become more like His son. If I stay obedient to Him, He will provide the way. We have seen that over and over again throughout scripture. I trust Him.
Immerse yourself in scripture. God’s word is the best set of instructions and reassurance available to us. When I started to fear and wanted to fall back into the anger I sat quietly and read my bible.
Open yourself to fully receiving God’s love. The less we focus on seeking fulfillment from this world the less we will rely on the love and acceptance from those around us. I found as I rested in the love and protection of Jesus, the less I felt the need to create that for myself. I didn’t need to seek approval from anyone other than God and His love is never ending for all of us!
Never stop praying! Pray for a clean and forgiving heart. Pray for restoration of both yourself and the one you are forgiving.
Forgiveness allows me to do for others what God did for me. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t remember where Jesus found me and offered me a new life. He forgave me and set me free! He didn’t keep a list of my wrongs. Instead He opened His arms and simply loved me just as I was. I have found through practicing these A-C-T-I-O-N steps and forgiving others, just as He forgave us, I am experiencing another level of freedom and closeness to our saviour.