"Then the master called the servant in. "You wicked servant," he said, "I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? " In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
In our culture we often say we're not angry, but we say it through clinched teeth. As believers, we are especially guilty of this because we are taught that "good Christians" don't get angry, don’t feel or express hurt, and never admit to being afraid. We stuff, deny, and often bury feelings deep in side where they smolder, fester, and intensify. Sometimes our denial is so deep that we can easily say with our mouth that we have forgiven someone, but when we pass that person we find ourselves looking the other way, to avoid surfacing anger or hurt. Sometimes we experience anger coming out in unrelated situations and we don't understand it. At those times we need to sit down before God and ask God to create in us a clean heart. We also need to ask Him to reveal any buried bitterness and emotions that we have stuffed. Ask Him to let the emotions surface and talk to Him and a trusted mentor about them. One way to work through stuck feelings toward people is to choose to forgive them by writing out the following exercise:
"Lord, I choose to forgive____________________________, for___________________________, but__________________________________________________.Repeat the above exercise over and over until no more "buts" come to mind and you feel the peace of God instead of anger. It may take only a couple of times, but if the offense was very serious and caused a lot of pain it may take many times to reach the point of rest. As you express negative emotions to God, ask Him to replace them with His joy and peace and to help you see the person and the situation the way He does. If you have been hurt don't be surprised if you cry as you release the "buts" to Him. Don't be surprised if as you cry experience Him as your comforter. He delights in you even when you are crying – Psalm 56:8 says that He collects tears in a bottle! He knows that forgiveness is not easy, that it is sacrificial, and that it is painful, but keep in mind that no person will ever sin against us as much as we have sinned against God. Forgiveness is for our benefit – without it we cannot be in fellowship with God and become more like Him. Forgiveness doesn't mean we will forget, but it does mean we won’t use the offense against that person again.
Forgiveness is also costly – it costs us our pride, our sense of fairness, our sense of justice, and our desire for revenge and it cost Jesus His life. He still loves us, even after all we have done and all that we will do in the future. He still desires an intimate relationship, still calls us sisters, and still calls us friends! Doesn’t His love compel us to be more like Him? If we become like him, we will learn to look at situations in which we are hurt as an opportunity to be more like Him, forgiving like He does. I do a similar exercise when I feel angry at God--I express the anger or disappointment to Him and ask Him to help me see things from His perspective and or to help me accept His sovereignty in the situation. Sometimes He does help me see it from His perspective. At other times, I feel like He simply asks me to trust Him and to cling to His goodness and His promises! And slowly I am realizing, I have always had irrational beliefs that if I can just understand something I can make it through. The truth is, I can make it through, because I can rest in the truth of God’s unfailing love. Some things in this life will never make sense. They just are…understanding them won’t lessen the pain they cause. But my God is big enough to heal my hurting heart.
Prayer: Father, sometimes forgiveness is so hard and so painful. It makes us vulnerable to emotional pain that we would rather not feel. It also makes us vulnerable to people and to getting hurt again. Please place in each of us the desire to be like You; even when that includes forgiving. Help us remember the cruelty of the beating that You received, the humiliation of being stripped and mocked, and the horrible cruel death You suffered for us so that our offenses could be forgiven. Help us to extend that same mercy and love to others no matter who they might be. To be like You, we have to learn to forgive like You do. Please give us the courage, the humility, the compassion, and the gracious hearts we need to be a true reflection of YOU! Amen.
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