It’s time to finally forgive (Mark 11:25)
By: Anne Peterson
Today’s Bible Verse: And whenever you stand in prayer, if you have anything against anyone, forgive, so that your Father who is in heaven also forgives your trespasses. – Mark 11:25
I did not understand my attitude. It was much bigger than anything at the time. I felt like I had closed the door of a closet overloaded with stuff. I needed to clean out my closet. The closet of my stored emotions. It was obvious that I needed to forgive, but I didn’t even know where to start.
Everyone in life should have a friend like my friend Bonnie. I explained to him my feelings and my inability to put my finger on exactly what was upsetting me. His response was typical.
“Did you ask God?
Eventually, with my friendship with Bonnie, I learned that there were things I had to do before asking her questions. And one of those things was to pray.
So I prayed, and I felt led to write anyone I felt anger towards. I sat there for a while, and I wish I could tell you one or two names was written on my paper. It was more like eight names.
The offenses weren’t great, but it was clear that I had chosen resentment over forgiveness. And to keep those resentments fresh, I stored them in Ziplock bags. I suppressed the offenses and went over them in my mind, feeling the hurts as if they had just happened. I’m not proud of it.
It was good to finally take care of it. He does not have feel fine, but I knew that was what God wanted me to do. He tells us to be “good and compassionate, forgiving one another as Christ has forgiven us” (Ephesians 4:32). The roots of bitterness are hard to pull out.
God also tells us to “let all bitterness, wrath, wrath, outcry, and slander be removed from us, as well as malice” (Ephesians 4:31). Yes, I knew I needed to forgive and put aside my bitterness. But my pride wanted me to keep clinging to it.
Closely, might I add.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit gently takes us to Calvary reminding us how Jesus has totally forgiven us. And he asks us to forgive as he did.
Forgiveness is difficult when we only think about what we have felt. Peter asked Jesus how many times he needed to forgive his brother and he felt he was being generous when he asked if it was seven times. Jesus said seventy time seven (Matthew 18:21-22).
Repeat offenses are tough. But forgiving others as Christ forgave us is what Jesus emphasized. Whenever I struggle to obtain forgiveness, it helps me to remember Jesus’ words: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Satan tries to convince us that people who hurt us do it on purpose. But that doesn’t matter. We are even told to love our enemies (Luke 6:27).
It helps me to remember that forgiveness is not possible apart from God. I have to pray when I need to forgive someone. God allows us to do the things He wants us to do.
A speaker once said, “If you’re not sure you’ve forgiven someone, imagine them walking down the street towards you. What would you do? Do you want to cross to the other side? I have never forgotten this illustration.
Clinging to bitterness will stunt our spiritual growth. Paul tells us that God began a work in us the moment we accepted Jesus and that work will be completed (Philippians 1:6). When we follow the Word of God, we cooperate with the Holy Spirit.
When I cling to things, I can almost hear God say:
open your hand
What do you hold in your hand,
In your clenched fist, still clenched?
What are you hiding from me on purpose,
because you feel you have the right?
Don’t you know that you grow in your walk with me,
Can I even see things you’re hiding?
Oh, if you knew what awaits you,
you would open your hand then wide. -Anne Peterson
Anne Peterson is a poet, lecturer, published author of 16 books, including her latest book, Always There: Finding God’s Comfort Through Loss. Anne’s earliest memoir is: Broken: A story of Abuse, Survival and Hope. She has published children’s books and collections of poetry, such as Droplets: Poetry for those in Grief and He Whispers: Poetic talks with God. Anne is also a regular contributor to Crosswalk.com. Anne’s poetry has been sold in gift shops since 1996. Check out Anne’s website at www.annepeterson.com or connect with her on Facebook.
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