Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Blessed Forgiveness

"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.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!