engage in a lot of conflict every day, and most
of it goes unresolved. Sometimes
we decide to let love cover the matter, but more often than not, it doesn't turn out that way. How it usually works is one
person in the conflict is hurt or angry and the other is not clued in. Other's allow a conflict to remain and figure it will just go away. In such cases, the issue is not resolved, no one confesses sin, no request for or offer of forgiveness is made, and supposedly it fades over time. Everything is magically ok. Except it is not. Because the situation is not resolved biblically, bitterness is the result.
then, sometimes a person actively decides to withhold forgiveness. In
my experience as a counselor, it seems the really big stuff, the
stuff that cuts one to the core of their being is the stuff people struggle to
forgive. The big hurts are the ones that must be forgiven, because otherwise they will eat the person alive. It is a mistake to believe time is needed to get over a hurt or an offense; or that forgiveness can't be given until it fades from memory. It is pretty certain that as long as resentment is present, "forgetting" will not happen.
When someone withholds forgiveness, it is
because they are cherishing
Remembering, reliving, meditating, and nurturing it; rolling it around in their heart. Counselee's who struggle with bitterness and unforgiveness are shocked to realize
there is a big part of them that wants to cherish the hurt. They usually deny they are holding on to the offense and
justifying withholding forgiveness. The longer a person holds on to an offense, the stronger and deeper the root of bitterness goes. There will be no forgetting, until there is forgiveness.
Forgiveness releases an offense and the offender to the care of God. The forgiving person recognizes that God is able to vindicate them and deal in a righteous manner with the one who hurt them. It is an enormous, faithful act of trust in a sovereign God who never slumbers nor sleeps.
For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you. 2 Thess. 1:6 (NASB)
The entire premise of our salvation is rooted in forgiveness. We need forgiveness because we too are sinners whose greatest need is to be forgiven for our sins. Without the forgiveness of sin the end game is hell and eternal damnation (Romans 6:23).
Once we have been forgiven, we are to follow in the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and forgive those who have hurt us. Jesus extended forgiveness to those who crucified Him, even as He hung on the cross. According to the Bible, we are to do the same. When you forgive it, you release the anger, bitterness and hatred and in time, the pain will fade.
One of my favorite examples is the story of Joseph that begins in
Genesis 37. I
think perhaps the most famous Old Testament act of forgiveness is
Joseph forgiving his rotten batch of brothers. To review; the brothers were
jealous of Joseph because daddy favored him. They stole his cloak, plotted to kill him but
him down in a pit, then sold him into slavery and lied to their dad about the
whole mess. Arguably, Joseph’s life up to the
point of being number two in Egypt was miserable because of what his own family
did to him. Yet, if you know the story, you
know that God was sovereignly working behind the scenes to accomplish His plan.
The story of Joseph is a great,
real story about God’s sovereignty and a model for biblical
forgiveness. By anyone’s standards, Joseph's
brothers deserved what was coming to them should have Joseph sought justice
rather than giving the grace of forgiveness. He chose to forgive over seeking revenge. His graciousness and understanding of God’s sovereignty are revealed in Genesis 50:20.
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."
Like Joseph, you can move on with your life by being forgiving. Make the change from unforgiveness and bitterness today!