I’ve seen the eyes tainted with bitterness, and in truth, more than once they have been my own.
Forgiveness comes like a threat to us; when we are holding on to hurt and pain like so much precious cargo—like the filthy bandage on a gaping wound, how can we let it go?
There is so much about which Satan lies; unforgiveness is just one more of those tools in his belt. And like all his other weapons of mass destruction, it is meant to steal, kill and destroy.
You’ve heard that unforgiveness is like swallowing poison, expecting the other person to drop dead. I too have lived this way.
With a childhood stolen by a man with selfish hands.
With friendships lost and my character assassinated.
With friends I loved like family, who chose to walk the other way in my darkest hour.
I know how bitterness can feel like a knife in your hand— like your last weapon against the coming onslaught. It can feel like self-defense.
That is until you look down, and realize that the knife isn’t in your hand at all—it’s in your chest, and you are bleeding out.
Rooting out the bitterness is as painful as all that. Letting that sharp edge be removed from your heart; then letting the Lord stitch up the place, so true healing can come. It can feel like letting that pain and anger go is letting the person who has caused your present suffering “get off easy.”
Hear me now when I say this: no one is saying that the pain isn’t justified. No one is saying that you haven’t been hurt, that the suffering isn’t real, or that there won’t still be echoes of the hurt 20 years from now—ask me how I know.
What I am saying, is that with that knife of bitterness in your chest, the healing will never come.
God never sweeps what was done under the rug. That sin that was done against you? It will be dealt with. Our God is a God of justice; he doesn’t wink at sin or give lame excuses.
He will avenge the blood of the innocent. He cares deeply about your assassinated character. His heart breaks for the lies spoken, the discord being sown among brothers. And he knows it all experientially as well.
Satan desperately wants you to forget that Jesus knows what it feels like to be rejected in his hometown. Jesus knows what it is like to have his brothers not believe him. Jesus knows how it feels to be betrayed, to death, by a close friend, and then have all your other close friends follow suit. Jesus knows.
But that doesn’t change what he does—or what he did. He died that they might be forgiven; both his friends who abandoned him, as well as the ones who called for his execution. He died that I might be forgiven; while I was still his enemy. He died to forgive your own offender, my own offender, if they would put their faith in him.
That can feel like a tough pill to swallow some days. I have wished ugly things in the deepest part of my heart; that those who hurt children would never believe and would have to bear that grievous sin on their own shoulders when eternity comes. But that’s the bitterness again. The knife’s edge sharp in my chest; and it has to come out.
The terrifying and wonderful truth is that God’s justice is so much better than mine; and letting my hatred go—letting the knife of bitterness slide out of my heart and be thrown away—that is me choosing to trust that God’s justice is better than mine, and He will do right.
Say it with me: HE WILL DO RIGHT.
So I let the knife go. I allow God to stitch me up. I let go of my need to be validated. Of my right to hold on to my anger. And that is when the healing comes. I let go of my title of “victim” and become victorious in Christ. And I begin to see things I never thought I’d see before. Some days I can even grieve for the sin that ensnared my abuser. I can pray that God will redeem even his part of the story; and I know then that I have forgiven.
Turns out Max Lucado had it right. Forgiveness can feel so hard; like opening the door of a prison to let out the one who did me wrong; and yet when the lock falls down and the gate creaks open, it is my own face that I see in that cell: I am setting myself free.
Dearest Reader, I hope you have ears to hear these words. No one is saying that it will be easy. No one is saying it’s a piece of cake. I am saying it’s worth it. I am saying that though the pain might be caused by someone else, the bitterness is yours to own—it is your responsibility. This is what God is asking you to do.
Don’t let bitterness be the pet sin you are content to hold onto; like the fluffy white cat that is held constantly on the lap of the evil genius who thinks complete destruction is the way to world peace.
If you can’t believe it in your heart just yet, I understand. There was a time when I felt exactly the same way; but freedom comes when we exchange the truth of God for the lies of our own reasoning.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”Proverbs 3:5-8