Have you ever been hurt , attacked, misused, offended, abused or falsely accused by another person? Many of us have. Maybe the other person has wronged us greatly, sometimes unknowingly, but many times knowingly and viciously.
What do we do?
We do not forget, do we? It is always there. We can train our minds not to think about it or dwell on it. That is very much like suppressing it, pushing it down. But does it go away? No. It keeps surfacing. Why? If we had truly forgiven that person, it would not keep surfacing and coming to mind with that “hurt” feeling.
That is bitterness. It has a deep root; and, just when we think we have it all under control and suppressed out of our mind, it ‘pops up’ its ugly head. In the Hebrews 12, it talks about this root of bitterness: “Looking diligently…lest a root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and by it many be defiled.” We have to watch for this and recognize it as bitterness against another person. Bitterness that first defiles the one holding the bitterness, and then defiles many around that person.
How does it defile? It makes us so we cannot forgive. It does not allow us to forgive the offense, and let it go. We get to thinking that we are justified in the feelings of hurt. It keeps us in bondage. Forgiveness never means that what the other person did or said was right or acceptable. But we have no right not to forgive. We have been forgiven by God for all our sins and trespasses. Forgiveness means that we are willing to give up our right to hold the other person accountable, and we relinquish our right to revenge. God says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” It is our work of faith to offer this offense up to the Lord, give it up, give it away. It is no longer ours to own. Then we have no right to revenge, and best of all, it cannot hurt us or keep us in bondage any longer. The Lord takes it all.
This is surrender. It is surrendering our will to Him, allowing Him to take care of it. Sometimes we like to feel the ‘victim complex’. That make us feel justified that they wronged us. Maybe they did, but forgiveness surrenders all of that.
Elisabeth Elliot said, “Anything offered up to God is a Gateway to Joy.” Can the Lord take the “sacrifice of praise” offered up to Him, and turn it to good for us? (Hebrews 13:15 says…”By Him (by Christ, by His forgiveness extended to us for our sin, by His grace), therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.”
Do I believe the sovereignty of God? Do all things work together for good? Is it not true that the Lord allows these things in our lives to purify us, to draw us to Himself, and to make us more Christ-like?
Would I go so far to say that the Lord purposely had that person to offend us, so that we could learn what it means to forgive, to offer the offense to God? So He can deal with that person (if it was a purposefully vicious attack)? Is his ultimate goal for us to be more like Christ? God is never the author of evil, but sometimes He allows the evil of man’s heart to do what it is bent on doing, to bring us to Himself.
What did Christ do when He was treated unjustly?
He said “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
People ask, “Where was God when this was happening?”
He was in the same place as He was when they were nailing His Son to the cross unjustly, for your sins, and for the sins of the whole world.
Remember the Lord knows and hears ALL. Go to Him, and release all of it on Him. Guard your heart against bitterness. Bitterness blinds us. It blinds our minds and our thinking.
Revenge holds us captive to internal torture, and keeps us in bondage.
It will affect how we think, how we act, what we do and say, and it will affect our health.
Literally, it will destroy us.
Surrender to the Lord all bitterness. The sovereign God knows all things, and He will deal with that person. Forgiveness releases us from bondage. If we do not forgive, that person has a vicious hold over us, and we are in bondage. Bitterness keeps us in bondage to the person who has already hurt us.
Many times that person does not even know that we have bitterness toward them, or maybe subconsciously we want revenge (want them to hurt like we hurt), when in reality, it is only hurting us. If we do not release the bitterness to the Lord, we are saying that we want to deal with that person, and the Lord cannot/will not deal with them “the way they need to be dealt with”. This is a lack of faith, and in reality rebellion. We must offer that hurt up to the Lord, and He can repay to that person their due better than we ever could. He will chose His time and place to deal with them. Our path is to surrender to Him, and be free from bondage.
Remember also…no man lives to himself. Our bitterness will affect others around us. Moms …our children will be affected. It will cloud their minds and hearts to the sweetness and grace of God in their lives. Sometimes they will take on our bitterness, but if not it will cause anxiety and emotional distress for them. This is evident in divorce situations that are “nasty”.
Can we ever think that our suffering is for our good and for His glory? II Corinthians 4:17, says “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”.
What is this “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”? Becoming more Christ-like in our responses to the “light afflictions” in our life. It is reflection the glory of the Lord to a greater degree through our suffering. This is worth any hurt that He allows/brings into our life. He is our “vision”.
The hymn says,
“Be Thou my Vision O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy Presence my light.”
Then later lines say…
“Thou and Thou only, first in my heart;
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art.
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.”
We sing this hymn, but do we truly mean “whatever befall”? “Whatever befall” until someone says something that hurts my feelings? This is not the response of a mature Christian. Sometimes pride is the underlying sin….. ‘I think I have a right not to be treated that way’. Christ had a right not to be crucified because He was righteous, but He surrendered it to the Father…”Nevertheless, not My will but Thine”.
Hebrews 12:2 says…. “Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” We can endure anything if we keep our eyes on “the Joy that is set before us”. Endure does not mean grudgingly, or “white knuckling” it. Endure is recognizing that He is with us, always present, carrying the “easy yoke” (Matt. 11:28-29), and walking in the fiery furnace and lions den with us always. Endure has our gaze on the face of our Savior. Endure with faith in his sovereignty, that He has His perfect will working in us, to work His will and reflect His glory.
Elisabeth Elliot put it this way… (referring to Jan 8th 1956):
“When I sat by my short wave radio and learned that my husband was missing, the Lord brought to mind what the prophet Isaiah said …
‘when thou passest through the waters I will be with thee’ “. This thrust me, forced me, hurried me to God, my only Refuge.”
“Suffering is the irreplaceable medium
through which I learned the indispensable truth that
He is LORD.” (E. Elliot)
Elisabeth Elliot says…”Think of your pain, trial, troubles as a challis, to be held up and offered up to the Lord, even in the midst of your suffering…stop what you are doing and offer it up as an act of worship……..anything offered up to God becomes a gateway to joy.”
The results of all this will be:
(1) When you think of the person that hurt you, you will pity them and pray for them (Matt. 5:44), because you have truly forgiven them. Hopefully you will come to love them.
(2) You will become numb to the “hurt” of the offense, because the bondage is gone. You released it to the Lord. (Hebr. 13:15)
(3) You can begin to ask the Lord to bring “blessing” into that person’s life (I Peter 3:9b) every time it comes to mind.
(4) Ultimately, you will thank the Lord for the person, the hurt, and the result of that offense, bringing you closer to the Lord in your walk with Him, and the more Christ-like you have become. You now reflect Him and His glory more than you ever could have without what the LORD brought into your life. (II Cor. 3:18)
Congratulations, the Lord has just prepared you for your next trial and your next step of faith. Praise Him.