Bitter Belinda was her name. Unforgiveness was her game. Only those who found pleasure in her folly wanted to be near her, but most avoided her like the plague. Her grown children could not recall a time when she exhibited evidence of joy, and only spent time with her when they had to. She just could not forgive people who had wronged her in decades past, and the unforgiveness was evidenced in every harsh line of her face. Her pastor and friends lovingly pointed her to Christ who willingly went to the cross for the wrongs she was harboring in her heart, sharing how God intended these hurts to be used for her good. She was even admonished for her unforgiving spirit and the possible consequences, but she could not hear admonishment over all the wrongs she was continually reviewing in her heart and mind.
“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled”(Hebrews 12:5).
Indeed, Belinda had been unfairly treated lo those many decades ago. Because we live in a world that is marred by sin, none of us will escape unstained and will at some time or another feel the effects of the fall from someone else’s actions. Also know, we too will carry out these effects ourselves as we sin against others. IT’S. GONNA. HAPPEN. While many of the hurts we encounter in our broken world can be overlooked, it’s the bigger offenses where we may stumble headlong in to resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness.
Dear sisters, the answer is simply found in Jesus! “God with us” is here to help us!
He understands mistreatment more than any other human, as He was severely sinned against.
Isaiah 53 gives us a glimpse what that looked like:
“He was despised and rejected by men…a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”
Christ alone is able to help us turn away from bitterness and experience forgiveness.
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you“ (C. S. Lewis).
A bitter heart should serve as a reminder that we have forgotten how massive of a debt we have been forgiven by God through the Cross of His Son, Jesus Christ. By allowing bitterness to take root, we are essentially making an announcement that we do not need God’s forgiveness in our own lives; it hinders our relationship with our Father, as well as brings cause for others to question our spiritual condition (Matthew 6:12, 14-15). Our character as Christians gives us the ability to not only love Him, but to love others.
We need our Father’s mercy every bit as much as His forgiveness. I don’t know anyone who does not want to be treated in a merciful manner. Although we have offended our Father horribly, He mercifully forgives us as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12), and His mercies are new… every…single…morning (Lamentations 3:23). We must remind ourselves of the reality that “Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). Mercy is the mark of a woman after God’s own heart: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with you God” (Micah 6:8). This is how we know we are most like God… “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
Dear sister, instead of acting as the judge, we must leave room for THE JUDGE. Joseph in Genesis 50 could have easily placed himself in the judge’s seat, but instead he said to his brothers who had grievously wronged him: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19). Rather than becoming like Bitter Belinda who had let decades of bitterness and resentment to take root in her heart and mind, we must release the offender from our judgment and entrust him to God.
“For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:9-10).
Help for Practical Forgiveness
Remind yourself of the Gospel…
Only the good news of Jesus Christ can sever the roots of bitterness that are strangling your soul. Review the Good News daily. A great place to start would be Matthew 18:21-35.
Seek to be honest in your needs for applying forgiveness without maligning or bashing the offender. Set up a plan for the support with someone you trust to be honest with you as you practice biblical change. A trained biblical counselor may be in order to lend a hand.
Exchange the Old Self with the New Self
“Put aside all bitterness…Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Pray for the one who has hurt you
Ask God to change your heart by filling it with His love and mercy. Ask Him for wisdom in how to respond (or not to respond) to the offender. Ask God to make you more like His son. Ask God to work in the heart of the one who has offended you and pray that He would lead that person to repentance. Pray for others that may also be feeling the effects of the offender’s actions.
Bless The Offender
Look for ways to use your words to bless those who have hurt you.
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Display Acts of Kindness
Demonstrate the kindness of your God rather than repaying evil. As you prayed for the offender, you may just be surprised of the creative ways the Holy Spirit will show you how to willingly and tangibly practice forgiveness.
What are some practical ways to display a forgiving heart?
How have you seen the kind work of God replacing bitterness in your heart with His forgiving heart?
What resources have you found helpful in practicing forgiveness?