"And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God,
by whom you are sealed unto the day of redemption."
Ephesians 4:30--Part 4
Today I am finishing up the last part of the verses surrounding Ephesians 4:30, in particular Ephesians 4:31-33. "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
I have always wanted to be a kind and compassionate person. That desire came out of knowing two sweet elderly ladies, both of which had tremendously hard lives and suffered major grief. One was a very loving person in spite of a great deal of anger and bitterness, while the other was loving and full of joy, displaying a deep abiding faith in the Lord. By having known them both, I was given the opportunity to see what God could do in me if I took my hurt and anger to Him. I have found it hard to forge people that deeply wounded me. A part of me wanted to hold on to anger, because it felt powerful and I believed it would protect me from further hurt. However, the big problem with unresolved anger was it kept me in bondage to the persons who hurt me and hindered my love relationship with God and others. It also kept me from enjoying God working in and through me.
Paul used several different words for anger. Bitterness is a hostility that has settled deep into one’s soul. It has the potential to poison our whole being. Bitterness leads to wrath, which is an outward explosion towards others. It is a volatile outward expression of inward feelings. Wrath and anger can then lead to brawling, which is fighting with fists. Another by-product of wrath is evil speaking, which is purposely using words to pound another’s soul.
Bitterness grieves the Holy Spirit. One of the reasons we lose our joy when we are bitter is because the Holy Spirit who indwells grieves. Why does our bitterness grieve the Holy Spirit? First, it is because it reflects a lack of faith on our part. Loving God and loving people will at times cause great pain. As we allow the Lord to turn cold angry hearts into hearts full of compassion, we will be able to see past sin that has hurt us and see what sin is doing to the other person. Then we are more capable of forgiving and returning evil with kindness. Our whole basis for forgiving is based on the fact that Jesus bought our forgiveness when He died for us. He died when we didn't deserve it or show much promise. Yet, He knew how His Spirit could change us. We may never know what God can do in another person if we're not willing for Him to demonstrate His love and forgiveness through us. It could also grieve Him because it blocks us from loving God and others well and keeps us from enjoying His love and blessings. Lastly, it keeps us from experiencing God as the Healer who gives us the strength and the ability to sacrificially love others.
Is it easy to forgive? Sometimes it is. Other times it is very difficult and we can only do it with the Lord's strength. One thing that has helped me learn to forgive is to realize that it is a faith issue. To forgive from the heart, we have had to learn to be really honest with God about our feelings we experience and face what was in our hearts when we got hurt. We have to trust God to love us no matter how we are feeling when we present that hurt to Him. We then have to be willing to let God heal the hurt and then give up the fear of being hurt again, asking Him what Godly love looks like towards that person. It also requires trusting God to be sufficient enough to heal any future hurts that we might experience.
To become a compassionate and kind people, we cannot stuff anger and bitterness. Nor, can we deny it, letting it brew beneath the surface. We can bring it to the throne of grace and let God's light expose it and melt it away. It may be an uncomfortable process but the joy that follows makes it worth it. I wonder how each of us is doing in the area of forgiving others? Are we trying to protect ourselves by holding on to some anger and hurt? Are we willing to develop a deeper intimacy with God by telling Him our hurts and letting Him heal them? Are we willing to let Him show you us how to love those who hurt us with a bold godly love? It doesn’t mean going back for more abuse, because a godly love confronts with the hope of reconciliation, growth, and restoration. A godly love isn’t one that puts up with abusive behaviors, it sets godly boundaries that call another to live in light and love. We would do well to remember that as many times as another person hurts us with his or her actions, it will never be as many as we hurt the Lord--our forgiveness cost the Lord His life.
Prayer: Father, please teach each of us to be totally real and transparent with you. Help us to not bury hurts deep inside or let them fester. Help us to forgive as you did and to replace the feelings of hurt with your compassion and kindness. Most of all help us be people who love You and don't grieve you. Even the fact that you grieve over us is a reflection of your love for us. Thank you. Amen.