Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
~ 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 ~
Causing, aggravating, and prolonging bitterness between people is a scheme of Satan to make us ineffective for the cause of Christ. Bitterness is not an attitude sanctioned by God. In fact, He tells us to get rid of it because He knows the damage that refusing to forgive does to us (Ephesians 4:30-31). When we choose to hold on to our hurts, it grieves the Holy Spirit who lives within us and makes it that much harder for us to hold on to the grace and healing God is extending toward us.
If we are held captive by our own bitterness and unforgiveness, we are a Prisoner of War (POW) rendered unable to fight the good fight of faith. The enemy uses our wounds against us to take us out of play. Then he doesn’t have to worry about us becoming powerful, praise-filled opponents who will resist his efforts to steal, kill, and destroy. He is free move on and harasses someone else while we keep ourselves bound by our own unwillingness to forgive.
We can find our freedom through forgiveness. When we are free, we can reengage in life with greater power and endurance. We can do what God has put us on this earth to do.
Forgiveness can be a great struggle when the offense is large and deep and personal. Sometimes forgiveness is not merely a one-time event. There are times when we must continue to forgive in ever-deeper layers over a number of months or years until Christ has fully completed His work of forgiveness in our hearts. This requires perseverance.
Forgiving can be hard. We often don’t feel like forgiving. When I feel I need help moving toward forgiveness, I look to Jesus. Do you remember what He said? “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” He said this AS He was being unjustly tortured, abandoned, and murdered. He didn’t take time to “process” it first. His heart was so full of grace that He forgave them during the very act of their sin and rebellion that caused Him His greatest agony. Wow. This is the heart of the God who formed us and loves us.
Christ has already forgiven me. Am I really going to disagree with the One who suffered on the cross for me and declared, “It is finished”? When I refuse to forgive myself, am I not saying, “No Lord, what You did may release others from their guilt, but it just wasn’t enough to cover what I’ve done.” Don’t I realize what a contradiction “No Lord” is???
God is calling us to freedom so may serve one another in love (Gal 5:13). It is Jesus who sets us free (John 8:36), but our part is to accept and receive the freedom He has already won for us. One important aspect of embracing our freedom is making a deliberate choice to forgive both ourselves and others.
The Truth is that God’s desire for us is that we receive His forgiveness for ourselves so we can extend His forgiveness to those around us. And it is living His Truth that sets us free (John 8:32).
Here is my prayer:
Oh Father, can I be like You? Can I have a heart that is able to choose to forgive completely even in the midst of the offense? That seems impossible for me. Even forgiving myself seems impossible sometimes. But with You, all things are possible. Thank You for all you have given and sacrificed to make forgiveness possible. Give me a heart like Yours. I want to choose to allow You to set me free from bitterness. I want to let go of hurts and hold on to grace instead. I want to find freedom in forgiveness.
Father, work in me so You can work through me.
Let me show Your heart to a hurting world.