Forgiveness: Letting Go Of Bitterness

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Today at church I listened to the heart of God poured out in a bold and life-giving way.  The series “Soul Detox” continues with “The Bitter Soul” – based on author Craig Groschel’s book “Soul Detox.”

The message today was simple but profound in a very real way.  Pastor Lance spoke about all the (likely justified) reasons people may have a bitter soul.  Beyond that, he talked freely about the drawbacks to allowing the seed of bitterness to be planted and take root.

The roots of bitterness may be shallow at first, but I assure you they will not remain that way long.  So many reasons can be attributed to why you might become bitter.  Perhaps your boss at work passed you over for promotion. Maybe you were abused in one way or another by a spouse or significant other.  Perhaps you were wronged or offended addy church.  Maybe you are a part of a sad statistic that shows so many people that have (either personally or as an experience of someone close to you) experienced the trauma of sexual assault / rape.  No matter what the cause, and no matter how justified, there is bitterness – the roots of which are growing both strong and deep.

The issue and problem with bitterness is that it doesn’t just include the individuals who are directly involved.  It has the potential and power to affect not only current, but also future relationships.  A woman who has been abused by a man potentially will lose trust for all men, deciding that they are all worthless.  The person wronged at a church may never trust any church or pastor again. The list of examples of how bitterness can ruin relationships and lives is never-ending.

There is hope. Hope actually comes in the form of forgiveness.  Most people (and I am also guilty as charged) hesitate because of how much they were hurt.

Let’s take the example of the person who was sexually assaulted.  I use this example because of how real of an issue this is, how strong the emotions surrounding an event such as this, as well as how justified a person is for being hurt and remaining angry.  Even with this in mind, and realizing how hard it will be, it is vital, paramount even that forgiveness is given.  Most people would quickly remark on how the perpetrator simply doesn’t deserve forgiveness.

I would challenge this thought with the same gentle reminder that our pastor shared with us.  Jesus died on the cross, and all our sins were forgiven.  There goes that “forgiveness” word again.  There isn’t a person alive that is actually worthy of forgiveness.  You aren’t, I’m not…no one is worthy of being forgiven, but forgiveness was freely given.

The entire point is that no, that person who hurt you doesn’t deserve your forgiveness but not forgiving them actual does more harm and damage to you than the perpetrator.  If you continue to hold onto bitterness, you will continue to build walls that you believe are in place to protect you.  Instead, they will serve as your own personal prison, keeping you locked up, unable to escape the pain of it all.

The key to your freedom is forgiveness.  On your own, forgiveness is really an impossibility.  However, with God’s help, you can do it.  The not so well known fact about forgiveness is that it is like setting a prisoner free – but that the prisoner is actually you!

As I sat in the service today, this message took on a very real meaning to me.  I was really convicted as I realized that I was in this exact boat.  There was a situation years, if not over a decade ago that I have let the roots of bitterness grow strong, without actually realizing it.  I felt totally justified in my anger and resentment.  I realized I have never truly forgiven this person.  With tears flowing, I asked for God’s help in making forgiveness a reality.  In prayer, I both prayed and forgave the individual, but also asked God to forgive me.  Wow! What freedom came with that decision.  As cliche as it may sound, it felt literally as a weight had been lifted.

As you think on this topic, just remember how crazy you are loved, and how (no matter what you’ve done – or how many times you’ve done it) you are forgiven.  Take that forgiveness and allow it to bring you peace and freedom like you might have never known.

As I finished writing this blog post, the song “Forgiveness” by Matthew West came on the radio.  Talk about timing, and a confirmation of exactly this message.  I went and looked up this song on YouTube, and wanted to share that with you.  Here is “Forgiveness” by Matthew West.  It is an acoustic version of this song, put on YouTube by Sparrow Records.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2M66bnID_DY

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