Dealing with Bitterness and Unforgiveness: What Is Forgiveness?

Dealing with Bitterness and Unforgiveness: What Is Forgiveness?

Living Free Every Day®
A ministry of

May 20, 2013

Today's Scripture
"Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." (Colossians 3:13 NLT)

Thoughts for Today
Because of our fallen human nature, forgiveness can be difficult. God calls us to forgive, but natural instinct tells us to protect ourselves and pay back those who have hurt us.  Singles hurt in a divorce, bitter about a spouse's death, or angry about a broken relationship may struggle to deal with bitterness and unforgiveness. This week we will focus on how the challenges of forgiveness apply to singles, but the principles apply to everyone.

Many Christians who want to follow God's commands find it difficult to forgive. Most of us do not understand exactly what forgiveness does—and does not—mean. When we forgive a person who has hurt us, it does not mean we are saying, "What you did was okay" or "It wasn't too bad; let's just forget about it." Damage has been done; lives have been affected. To simply gloss over the hurt is not forgiveness! Rather, forgiveness acknowledges the hurt and pain yet decides not to seek vengeance or payback for the wrong done. "Yes, you hurt me, and my life was damaged; however, I will not take vengeance on you. I will not spend my life trying to make you pay me back. I will trust God to take care of the situation."

Consider this …
A simple test will reveal if you have truly forgiven a person who has hurt you. Can you rejoice if something good happens to that person? Can you grieve if something bad happens to him or her? (See Romans 12:15.) Can you turn that person over to God and trust him with the outcome? (See Romans 12:19.) Or do you secretly hope God will cut the person into small bits and feed him or her to the sharks? Only when Christians forgive the one who has hurt them and release that person to God can they truly obey the scriptural command to rejoice and mourn with others.

Some Christians take comfort in Romans 12:19 because of verse 20. Many of us would be more willing to forgive if we thought God would heap burning coals on the head of our enemy. But to understand that verse, we need to be aware of an Egyptian custom during Paul's time. A person wanting to express sincere repentance for a wrong he had done had to walk through the public streets with a plate of burning coals on his head. Knowing this, a paraphrase of Romans 12:20 could be "Bless your enemy and pray for him. This may well lead him to true repentance."
Are you ready to pray for the one who hurt you? 

Father, help me let go of this bitterness. Help me forgive and be able to hope and pray for the best for the one who hurt me. In Jesus' name . . .

These thoughts were drawn from …

The Single Christian: Living as One in a World of Twos by Dr. Elizabeth Holland. In a world where everyone seems to have a mate, it is difficult to live life as a single person. Whether you have never been married, are divorced or are widowed, this study is for you. In The Single Christian, Dr. Holland examines many of the different facets of singleness, from rejection; bitterness and unforgiveness; loneliness; to dating; single parenting and the positives of being single. Note: This curriculum was written especially for small groups, and we encourage people to use it that way. However, it can also be used effectively as a personal study for individuals.

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