My life, like most other peoples, has seen more than it’s fair share of loss, betrayal, heart ache and pain. As an adolescent I bought into the lie that not only I was unloved but that I was also unworthy of love and connection. As a teenager I gave my heart to boys who were too young to stewart something so fragile. I developed addictions and bad habits and coping mechanisms to try and deal with my damaged heart on my own which only lead to more destructive relationships and loss.
I have been taken advantage of. I have been used. I have been victimized. I have been assaulted. I have been abandoned, rejected and given away. I have been betrayed. I have been offended and I have been abused.
I have also been the one taking advantage of people. I have been the manipulator. I have hurt people and I have created victims.
I tell you these things so that you can be confident that I know my way around unforgiveness. I know what it feels like to struggle to forgive people who have let you down and hurt you and I also am well acquainted with what it feels like to struggle to forgive what you believe to be the unforgivable in you.
Today I am sharing all the things you risk losing by giving in to forgiveness. People rarely tell you all of the things in your life that will be destroyed when you truly forgive and live forgiven.
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; Hebrews 12:15
When I think about bitterness and the toll it can take on a life, Naomi always comes to mind. In chapter one of Ruth we see Naomi has lost her husband and both of her sons while living in a foreign country. She blames God for her loss.
On her journey back home she goes encounters people who are surprised to see her and they begin asking is that really Naomi?! In verse 20 she responds “She said to them, "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”
Mara means bitter. It’s the name of a river that had notoriously bitter waters that were undrinkable. (Exodus 15:23) Naomi’s bitterness has defined her and became her identity.
When bitterness takes root in our hearts, its like a weed. It grows and grows and soon it’s involved in every part of us. It effects the way we see the world, the people around us, our own purpose and value and God. Our identities become clouded and confused as the bitterness begins to define us.
Who even are we without it? It becomes our shield and buckler. It becomes a weapon in our arsenal and we whip it out to protect ourselves from any possibility of living vulnerable or free.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32
When we choose to forgive we break off the hold and power our bitterness has gained over us. Forgiveness shakes those chains off of us and looses us from the fear of living open, honest and tenderhearted.
You may have actually been victimized. Someone may have sinned against you and I am not making small of that pain you endured. I just want to remind you that what ever the offense, big or small, you survived it. You still have air in your lungs and life in front of you.
The Bible tells the story of Joseph. He was the favorite child of his father but he also had dreams of a future where his many bothers would someday bow before him. Out of jealousy and anger Joseph’s brothers faked his death by first throwing him in a big cistern (a hole in the ground meant to hold water) and leaving him for dead. They quickly came to their senses…well to a degree and decided leaving him for dead was a bit extreme so instead they decide to just sell him into slavery.
Now if you thought your family situation was messed up, at least Joseph can relate. He ends up climbing the ranks in whatever household he was serving and eventually is leading Egypt along side Pharaoh. When famine hits the region Joseph’s brothers come for help.
Now if Joseph has allowed unforgiveness to rule his heart, I don’t believe he would have prospered and became as successful as he did but he for sure would not have so easily extended compassion and help to the very brothers that sold him. He walked in freedom and compassion because He had a deep trust in God.
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:20
God is not the source of our pain but He is our relief and He does redeem. Forgiveness is not an additional punishment God is tacking to your life to make what you’ve already suffered not matter. God is never happy when we get hurt or mistreated. He does want us to grow, prosper and succeed. He wants us redeemed, restored and whole. That can be pretty hard to do while living as a perpetual victim.
Forgiveness does not make light of the circumstances but it does say very loudly “I am going to live free from this. I will not be trapped in self pity and pain for the rest of my life.”
Anxiety, Anger, Rage, Destructive Habits & Addictions
Unforgiveness is a jail cell. It locks you up in a prison. Jesus’ sacrifice and love has burst the door to freedom, healing and forgiveness wide open, but unforgiveness is like a veil that we proudly defend and refuse to take off. We can’t even see the open cell door.
We wear our unforgiveness like a badge that we believe we’ve earned. Unforgiveness causesanxiety which leads us to in fear of being hurt again. You grow to expect it to just happen again. Unforgiveness causes anger which festers and grows into wrath and rage. It leaves us broken inside, nursing wounds we are afraid to let heal and the pain of those damaged places leads to all sorts of bad habits, negative perspectives and even addictions.
We don’t want to forgive others because we think we deserve to hold onto our broken hearts as badges of honor that prove that the world has been unkind to us. Our broken unforgiving hearts are a message to the world that we have walked through pain, betrayal, abandonment and loss and we earned he right to carry this unforgiveness.
Listen to me. Choosing to forgive does not mean what the other person did was no big deal. It does not mean that the pain you experienced was not real and heart breaking.
I am saying the door to your cell is open. You’ve have got to look up and see that. Choosing to forgive is choosing to live free. Forgiveness doesn’t make little of your pain but it does make much of your God and His strength in you. Choosing to forgive is the real badge of honor. Choosing to forgive is a message to the world that your life is worth living and your God redeems and greater things lie in front of you than all the junk behind you.
Forgiveness says, I survived pain and you can too.
Forgiveness is a mighty tool. God doesn’t call us to life forgiven and forgiving because He doesn’t care that we’ve been hurt or let down. He calls us to forgive because of all of the nasty things it will break off of us. He calls us to forgive because in forgiveness is freedom. He calls us to forgive because He wants us to have amazing abundant lives. He calls us to forgive so that we leave Him room to redeem and restore.
Forgive and watch bitterness turn to sweetness and a tender heart that is once again capable of trust and solid relationships. Forgive and say good by to your victim minded tendencies and say hello to your life as a strong and powerful survivor who has a story to tell that will blow people’s minds with the faithfulness of God.
Who is God calling you to forgive in this season of your life? Are there areas in your heart that you know are hiding mountains of bitterness, rage, resentment and ultimately unforgiveness? Would you be brave today and allow God into those deep dark places? Would you expose those dark places of your heart to the Light and allow healing to begin?
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Thank you guys for reading!
Be kind to yourself this week.