“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15, ESV)
Do you fall asleep listening to music, watching TV, or alone with your thoughts? Typically, I set the timer on my remote and let the television lull me to snoozeland; but, last night, I decided to lie still and let my imagination do the work.
As I lay there, my mind wandered all over the map. As often occurs in my daydreams, I drifted back to my childhood and teen years. In my mental meanderings, I came across a few people who hurt me along the way – people I have tried to forgive. As I pondered these people and my inward reaction to them, a few questions came to mind.
As I asked myself these questions, it became clear to me that I still have some praying and releasing to do; and, I am thankful that God can and will grant me the grace to let it all go. I cannot do it on my own. My strength comes from Him.
Want to explore and expose the hidden portions of your heart relating to others? Give these questions a try.
- Do I wish this person well? Do I sincerely hope he or she will prosper and be in good health? This is a significant metric for me. Generally speaking, I want people to be happy and healthy. When someone makes a comment about an item he would like to have or a trip he would like to take, my first thought is, “Can I help make this desire come to fruition?” So, when I wish failure on someone, it is a clear indicator that I am holding on to unforgiveness. I have entertained thoughts such as, “Why is this person happy, God? If anyone deserves to be unhappy and unprosperous, it is this person! This awful individual should be poor and lonely – not living the high life!” (It is convicting to see my own thoughts in print.) Who am I to tell God how He should or should not bless someone? No matter what people from my past have done to me (or what I perceive they have done to me), wishing evil on them says much more about the content of my heart than theirs. My venom poisons me – not them. Chances are… they do not think about me much at all. ~smile~
- Do I feel my blood pressure rise when this person’s name comes up or when I see a picture of him or her? “I saw ‘so and so’ the other day!” a friend of mine joyfully announced after encountering someone from my past. My body tensed. I did not want my friend to think it was good to see this particular person. I wanted to hear something like, “Yeah, I ran across ‘so and so’ yesterday and it was all I could do not to gag.” Yes, I was unhappy that my friend spoke of this person with kindness. Though I am embarrassed to admit my occasional immaturities, pretending I am perfect is not helping anyone either. If I cannot hear a name without negative physiological changes happening to my body, there is a problem – likely fear or bitterness.
- Can I pray for this person without cringing? This is tough. Those for whom we have an easy time praying are probably not recipients of our wrath. We may have occasional issues with them which clear up quickly, but nothing ongoing and life altering. However, if we kneel to pray for someone and almost choke on our words, we can be sure there is some unsettled anger there. If you have experienced this, take heart! Praying for those who have hurt you is exactly what you need to do! As difficult as it may be to get started, it is impossible to stay angry with someone for whom you diligently The first two points I mentioned above would not be an issue for me if I took those people to God in prayer consistently. Asking God to bless and prosper someone who has hurt you is tough at first; yet, over time, your heart softens and praying for them becomes easier; your anger turns to compassion; your hurt lightens. Before long, you honestly do want to see your former enemies prosper and be in good health. No more growling or convulsing at the sound of their names. ~smile~
It seems I should probably fall asleep to the sound of my own thoughts more often. When we shut out the clamor and listen to our thoughts, it gives ourselves an opportunity to hear the still, small voice of the Lord speak to our hearts.
Are you struggling to forgive someone from your past, or maybe someone from your present? Have you asked God to take away the anger, but you wonder if you have fully forgiven him or her? Test yourself with these questions and then make a prayer list of people you need to forgive and pray daily. Ask God to remind you of how much grace you have received from Him and to give you the grace to forgive those who have wronged you.
There is such a blessing in forgiveness. Even if the person you forgive never knows it or never even realized you were angry, letting go of the poison frees you. It releases you from the prison you unintentionally made for yourself. You will never meet a truly joyful person who is holding onto bitterness.
Who came to your mind when you read this post?