"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 want to focus on the verses following the above verse – 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 think I have always wanted to be a kind and compassionate person. That desire came out of knowing two very dear elderly ladies both of which had tremendously hard lives and suffered through some major grief. One was a very loving person in spite of a great deal of lingering 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 my anger to Him rather than holding on to it. I believe it is human to struggle with forgiving people when we experience deep hurt. It is normal to experience anger, which can feel like it is protecting us from further hurt. However, the big problem with unresolved anger is that it keeps us in bondage to the person who has hurt us and it hinders our love relationship with God and with others. Anger and bitterness also keeps us from enjoying having God work in us and through us.
It is helpful to identify and define the different words Paul used for anger. Bitterness is used to mean hostility that has settled into one’s soul poisoning a person’s whole being. Bitterness often leads to wrath, which is an outward explosion towards others. It is a volatile outward expression of the inward feelings. Wrath and anger can lead to physical fights or it can be expressed through evil speaking, which is purposely using words to damage another person’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 us is grieving. Why does it grieve the Holy Spirit? First, it reflects a lack of faith on our part. Loving God and loving people will at times cause us great pain. As we allow the Lord to turn our cold angry hearts into hearts filled with compassion, we will be able to see past a sin that has hurt us and see what it is doing to the person. Then we are able to forgive and return 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 are 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. It also keeps us from enjoying His love and blessing for us. Lastly, it keeps us from being able to experience God as he heals and gives us the strength to sacrificially love others.
Is it easy to forgive? Sometimes it is a cinch. At other, times when the offense is heinous and/or continuously being repeated it can be 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, I have to be willing to let go of my desire for revenge or change and trust that God will work in the person’s life and do what is best for me and the person who has hurt me. I have had to learn to be really honest with God about my feelings and face what is in my heart when I got hurt. I have to then choose to trust God to love me no matter how I am feeling when I present that hurt to Him. I then have to be willing to let God heal the hurt and be willing to give up the fear of being hurt again. I often ask God what Godly love looks like towards a person who has hurt me. It also requires faith in that I have to choose to trust God to be sufficient to heal any future hurts that I experience.
To be a compassionate and kind person, I can’t stuff anger and bitterness inside and pretend that it isn’t there, because it will either ooze out in sarcasm or it will erupt in explosive anger. This means I can't deny it, can't let it simmer, and can’t lie about it. I have to 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. May I ask you on a scale of 1 – 10, how are you doing in the area of forgiving others? Are you trying to protect yourself by holding on to some anger and hurt? Are you willing to develop a deeper intimacy with God by telling Him your hurts and letting Him heal them? Are you willing to let Him show you how to love those who hurt you with a bold godly love? It does not mean going back for more abuse, because godly love includes confrontation, with the hope of reconciliation and restoration. Godly love also includes consequences when others violate us. It is important for us to realize that as many times as another person hurts us with her actions, it will never be as many as we hurt the Lord. Our forgiveness cost the Lord His life – the question is are you and am I ready to forgive?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.