I am reading a book I describe as “God’s Rototiller”. God used three people to bring this book into my life. Two of them are a married couple who are my “Spiritual Sandpaper”. Ready for the title? “The Bait of Satan”. It didn’t generate a warm fuzzy feeling for me either. It’s exactly what I needed. I have overcome a lot of things in this walk with Jesus, homosexuality, pornography, compulsive shopping, masturbation, but it seems that the sin of “holding grudges” is holding on tighter than a hungry Anaconda. Enter, “The Bait of Satan”. What a revealing look into how the enemy, satan, tempts and succeeds at getting us to hold on to unforgiveness, past hurts and anger against people who have hurt us.
I’ve has some major wake up calls lately. The latest involves a story of a famous Holocaust survivor, Corrie Tin Boom. She was speaking on forgiveness. After she finished speaking, a guard from the very camp where she had been held came up to talk to her. Her sister had died in the camp. The guard told her he had become a Christian and had asked for God’s forgiveness. He was now asking for hers. She was faced with the words she had uttered only moments earlier. As he reached out his hand to her, she had a grand rush of emotion and realization. Ultimately she reached out and clasped the man’s hand as an act of her will. In that moment, she recalls an almost electrified feeling that flooded over her. It was the peace of God. My pastor related the story to our congregation. At the close of the story, he posed a simple question.
“Does the hurt in your life compare to the hurt of this woman?”
Of course it didn’t. I have been carting my pain around for so long, like a prize turd, year after year. Letting go is never easy. God didn’t seem to be doing anything to make the people that hurt me pay for their sins, so somehow if I held on to my pain I could eventually do something about it. The poison of my bitterness I held onto only serves to destroy my life. There will never be a shortage of hurt and pain. Every time we hold on to an offense, or refuse to grant forgiveness and get so angry that it is palpable, the enemy slips another hook into our flesh us and secures into the pit of despair and hopelessness.
I have lived most of my life wondering how God could let bad things happen to good people. Mainly myself. I was asking God this once in prayer and I felt like he said this to me. “Why would I spare you when I didn’t even spare my own son?” This gave me more than a few seconds of pause. God uses bad situations to focus our attention on what really matters in this world. Every hurt, every pain allows me to either fall out in anger against God or helps me develop compassion for those who have it far worse than I do. Our hurt and pain can only find its end in the presence of Jesus Christ.
I have lived far too long building walls. It is time to build bridges. Forgiveness isn’t easy. There are days I want the people who have hurt me to hurt like I did. I have to let go of that. There are times when I get so embarrassed or angry that evil thoughts consume me like a raging fire. I don’t have the capacity to release forgiveness into the world without God’s help.
I know the hurt and pain of rejection from family and peers. I know the pain of self imposed isolation. More importantly, I have experienced the love of Christ that has the power to set me free from the bondage of offense, but I have to make the choice to DAILY let go!
Over the next few weeks I will be doling out a number of apologies. Some are going to wound my pride deeply. Some are going to allow healing to flow into two lives. No matter the outcome though, I know the task that has been set before me.
Humility tastes of death in our mouths, even as it brings the sweet breath of life to our souls.
Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Proverbs 12:16 “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.”
20 “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”
18 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. 19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.
Most of the people who have hurt me live their lives in darkness. They spend every day simply trying to make it. My life is guided by the light of Jesus. Those that live in darkness don’t understand the light. The spirit at work on them may even cause them to fear the light. Why wouldn’t the enemy try to build offenses in my life in order to keep me from spreading as much light as possible?