“Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.”
Hebrews 12:15 (The Message)
Forgiveness is a struggle… but in His faithfulness, God continues to gently prune this area and to reveal His unwavering truth during this season of my life. Many of us have heard people say things like, “Unforgiveness only hurts ourselves,” or “Our inability to forgive harms our relationship with God.” I won’t argue the accuracy of these statements; however, comments like those also make me feel incredibly guilty about my inability (my unwillingness) to forgive the people in my life that have betrayed me. Often times, I become so overwhelmed with this guilt that I will profess forgiveness with my lips… only to find it tightening its death grip around my heart.
I’m also very much aware that my unwillingness to extend forgiveness is centered around my pride… completely, 100%, totally consumed by it. When I have been wronged, I want an apology… at the very least, an acknowledgment that I deserve one. I believe in fairness and justice… but sometimes I forget about mercy… sometimes I choose to look the other way because my heart aches too much. But, alas, my failure to forgive always leads to the hardening of my heart. Consumed by bitterness and resentment, anger fills my mind and escapes from my lips. And such behavior never brings glory to our Savior. This is what divides churches, ends friendships, splits up families.
Some things seem unforgivable. Sometimes the pain and anger rage within us for so long, that in a weird and twisted way they become our comfort and companion. For many of us, we’ve tried to forgive… but it’s easier said than done in some cases. God has gently pressed upon my heart that sometimes our willingness to forgive needs to be put at the feet of Jesus more than once. Sometimes we have to lay it at His feet everyday for weeks, months, years, decades…maybe every single day until we leave this world and meet our Savior. Forgiveness, like so much of our faith, is a journey that requires trust in Jesus. We must trust that He sees the bigger picture. We must trust that He works all things out for our good. We must trust that every betrayal, every shattered heart, every solemn word broken serves a greater purpose. We must trust that all things, no matter how horrible, can be redeemed through the blood of Jesus. It is a promise unlike any other. And, if at this very moment, the thought of forgiveness still seems incredibly distant, place before Jesus a heart willing to be open and receptive to the amazing possibility. I have seen hearts mended, marriages redeemed, friendships restored, and wounds healed by the act of forgiveness… covered completely by the grace of God.
Has unforgiveness grabbed a hold of your heart? If so, spend time asking Jesus to loosen its grip. If your heart is at a very tender place on this subject, spend time seeking His comfort, as well as His wisdom. If possible, share with your children any real life experiences you’ve had with the stronghold of unforgiveness. Give them examples of how a heart can turn toward bitterness and resentment, but also share how God can restore relationships for His glory. Our children need to hear that life can be messy… but that He’s there to take care of it.