Joyce Meyer says …
“I know from personal experience how damaging it can be to live with bitterness and unforgiveness. I like to say it’s like taking poison and hoping your enemy will die. And it really is that harmful to us to live this way.“
Honestly I think, besides healing past hurts, learning that I had control over the bitterness I carried in my heart has probably been the single most freeing revelation of my Christian journey to date.
I carried such a chip around I resembled Quasimodo. I had been hurt, people let me down, people betrayed me, people abandoned me, circumstances damaged me. I had a big, fat, dirty chip on my shoulder and the world knew it, and I was fine that they did. That chip entitled me to rage, outbursts, rudeness, defence, don’t even come at me. I was like a bull terrier coming back at you. I would have fought with my shadow if I thought she was staring at me the wrong way. People had hurt me and that gave me the right to hurt others. It was always me against a big bad world. I was like a tornado, I would destroy anything that stood in my way, but the only thing I was really wrecking was myself.
Until I wasn’t
I had been working through a discipleship program at my church; the programme had been ploughing through my past, uprooting everything in its path from my past. Every week a new obstacle to overcome. God was breaking things off me left, right and centre. This was life changing. If only I had learnt these tools many years ago, it would have saved me a lot of pain.
Learning how people treated me was on them and not me, learning that forgiveness is a process and not a one-time done deal, but should start with the desire to want to forgive, learning that I had a choice to carry unforgiveness or give it back to God, learning I had a choice not to let my past dictate my future. The study was jammed packed with breakthrough.
Over many heart wrenching, tear stained weeks, I learnt to work through and let go of a lot of the bitterness that I’d been carrying almost all of my life. The poison I’d been drinking for years, intended for other people.
I’ll not deny it, letting go of bitterness is a tough process, but not as tough as slogging a heavy backpack of bitterness around. Learning that my Jesus hung on the cross to take this extra burden from me was such a breakthrough moment. Learning I had a choice every day to decide if I was going to believe what my God said about me, or what my circumstances said about me. Learning that I had a choice to decide if God would dictate my future, or my circumstances.
“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT
Truthfully, a few years on, it’s not always the most natural or obvious choice, because sometimes I do allow bitterness to creep back into my heart, but the difference now is I keep a short account of my bitterness. I might let it in, but I don’t let it set up camp anymore.
I get to choose to forgive someone even without an apology.
I get to choose not to be offended by rudeness or arrogance or disrespect.
I get to choose who I allow to influence my life and speak into it.
I get to choose to seek out what God says about me instead of what my situation says.
I get to choose to stay quiet and calm when being attacked, knowing that it’s enough that God knows the truth.
I get to choose every day if my life is going to reflect God at work in me, or my circumstance working through me.
And on the good days, which are thankfully more often than bad, but not always because I’m a work in progress, on these days, I remember I can make these choices. I’m at my best, my happiest, my freest. On these days, I’m calm. I can turn from confrontation, have more love and compassion for others, I can forgive easier, show grace quicker, readily let offence slide off. On these days, I feel closer to God, I hear him a bit more clearly, sing a wee bit louder and be a whole lot more thankful.
For me, this was knowledge I wanted to drill into my boys in the hope that it would teach them to let go of anger quickly, and address bitterness before it could take root, and hopefully save them years of confrontations and outbursts like their muma.
I would say to:
He makes me so angry…. no he isn’t that powerful, that’s in your control.
He made me hit him…. again, nobody can make you do anything, that’s your choice.
Offence is a choice, harbouring anger is a choice, forgiveness is a choice.
Choose Forgiveness, Bin Bitterness..
And if you don’t know how or where to start, just ask God to help, even if your prayer has to start with, Lord help me WANT to forgive this person. Pray it every day. God will put that desire in your heart, then you can pray, Lord help me forgive this person. And then it might be a done deal, or maybe you will have to revisit that hurt over and over again and be prompted to cry out every time, Lord help me to forgive. If you keep turning to God every time you have to face that pain, eventually there will be a day when you are face to face with that pain and it just doesn’t hurt anymore. Forgiveness is not acceptance forgiveness is FREEDOM.
“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