It’s no secret that I have been through a fairly traumatic experience. I don’t need to and wont rehash the details here; except to say it involved debilitating illness, abuse and betrayal on a number of levels. This experience left me numb. Hurt. Depressed. Confused. Joyless. Hopeless. Loveless. And it left me bitter. I had a bitterness of heart. A brokenness of heart. A heart so full of pain that I didn’t know how to; or for that matter, want to forgive.
I knew I needed to forgive. I knew and know full well the power of forgiveness. After all, I experienced the knowing of the Lord’s forgiveness for myself in a very real and tangible way on March 17th, 1997 at 10:30am, when I became born again. Shortly after that event, the Lord took me on a journey of forgiveness. It was like a video replay going on in my mind. People and events would flash into my mind, bringing recollections of events where I needed to forgive. I remember one time where I suddenly become aware of being filled with tremendous peace, with the words coming to mind, “It is finished!” And I knew I had forgiven all from my past.
However, the journey of life being what it is, each new day brings about another adventure of good and evil. Joy and pain. And I came face to face with a time where I became hardened in heart and refused to forgive. The events involved my discovering a number of personal belongings being stolen and subsequently found at the local pawn shop. They were being sold by a family member and their friends. To say I was annoyed was a understatement. A day came when I spent a number of days welding up a trailer cage for a friend, and he paid me for it by giving me a push bike. Needless to say the bike was once again stolen a week later.
Muggens here went through the roof. Boy, was I angry! I put a stop to my step sons friends from coming over. In fact I met one at the front door and told them they were not welcome here anymore, I had had enough. Then I let loose with the machine gun of swear words. Words, I couldn’t believe were pouring out of my mouth. Words I hadn’t said for a number of years since the Lord cleaned up my heart. With a self satisfied sense of righteousness, I shut the door on his face with a sense of victory. However… I wasn’t becoming victorious, I was becoming trapped in the swamp of bitterness and un-forgiveness. Every time I opened my Bible, my eyes would fall on verses about forgiveness. Every time I turned on the radio which was set to a Christian channel, the speaker was speaking about forgiveness. And so for a short while, I stopped opening my Bible and I stopped turning on the radio. Till the day came a few weeks later and I said, “OK God, you win, I forgive!”
But these experiences were nothing compared to the trial which was to come years later. After the abuse and the betrayal I was ready to forgive. My prayer to the Lord was, “Lord, I forgive them, but, owww this hurts so much.” The issue was that deep down I wasn’t forgiving those who had hurt me. The hurt was so immense I didn’t know how to forgive. And so my prayer was “Lord, help me to be willing to be willing to forgive. Help me to truly forgive. ”
And I came across these two verses of Scripture, which spoke directly into the very essence of my inner being.
1.) Matthew 5:44-45 …43“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.…
I knew the lord was calling me to bless those who had abused and betrayed me. The truth was I neither wanted to, nor did I know how to. I continued to experience the gentle conviction of the Holy Spirit urging me to do so and eventually I yelled, “I bless you!” I threw my hands up and looked into the air and said, “You happy now?” The truth was, I hadn’t truly spoken a blessing at all. The Spirit of God was revealing to me the darkness of my heart. He was revealing to me the full extent of the hurt that had been done to my inner being. But that day, a seed was sown. A seed of faith. A seed smaller then a mustard seed. A seed that the Lord cared for and watered. Day by day. Week by week. Month by month. I felt the Lord continue to draw me out, convicting me to bless those who used me so spitefully. Till the day came about 8 months later, when I spoke forth a true blessing. That day the words came tumbling out of my heart. A prayer of blessing over family and relationships A prayer of blessing over personal relationship with the Lord. A prayer of blessing of health and vitality. A prayer of blessing over finances. And something changed in me.
The yoke of a heart filled with bitterness was broken. Yes, the pain, the hurt and the memories of the abuse and betrayal were still there. But the bitterness in my heart was gone. And I found myself in the position where I could truly forgive. But the journey didn’t stop there. The hurt, the pain and betrayal still continued and each time it happened, I had to control my inner being, and speak out a prayer of blessing. And I found myself being released from the trap of continuing a life journey with a bitter heart.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean we sweep the memories under the carpet what happened and pretend it didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean that the pain of those memories will go away. Nor does it mean we have to trust those who betrayed us once again. There are times where we need to set boundaries and keep some people at arms length, and in my case, this is exactly what I have done. You see, I’m not called to trust those people again. Scripture doesn’t tell us we have to trust those who have hurt us again. And indeed, there are times when it would be absolutely foolish to do so.
But, God wants us to be a people who forgive. A people who blesses and not curses each other. A people who receive and walk in his blessing and forgiveness. And if we are willing to do this, then God offers us freedom from bitterness of heart. And those whom God sets free, are free indeed.
Father God. I pray this morning for those filled with the pain of a bitter heart. Those who have been used spitefully. Those who have been hurt, abused and betrayed. I ask that you heal their heart. Fill us with the knowledge of your love for us and all who believe. Fill us with your immeasurably great power of love, so that we can be free of bitterness and forgive those who have hurt us, to bless those who have used us. In Jesus name I pray.