"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. ... Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:2, 32 (NIV)
I thought I was over the hurt. I was sure I had moved on. But as my thumb slipped under the seal of the invitation to my 10-year college reunion, it hit me: I had not forgiven her.
During our last semester at school, the harsh tone and accusing anger of a friend had been more than my heart could handle, especially in the middle of my year-long battle with depression. A deep sense of sadness and self-doubt, that I couldn't explain or escape, had left me feeling depleted.
When she questioned something I had done and expressed deep frustration toward me, I didn't have the mental or emotional strength to process her criticism without being pulled into a pit of condemnation.
If I attended our class reunion I would likely see her and other friends who had gotten tangled in our mess. With that possibility came a flood of memories and emotions that made me feel the same yuck I felt the day our friendship ended. The day that pretty much ruined the last few weeks of our senior year.
Holding the envelope in my hand, that hurt took hold of me again. Instead of simply deciding how to RSVP, I stood at the edge of a pit filled with insecurity that threatened to pull me back in.
After weeks of holding onto the invitation I finally decided I was tired of living as prisoner to my hurt. I wanted freedom. The kind of freedom I'd come to know in the ten years in between. The freedom of forgiveness Jesus died to give me.
I spent hours praying and reading my Bible over the next month. Listening to worship music and messages on forgiveness, I asked God to drench me with His perspective and give me His assurance so I could walk into my reunion as a secure child of God.
By the time I arrived, my mind was filled with God's grace and promises. I literally wanted to find my old friend and restore our relationship. The confidence that came as I followed God's command to seek and offer forgiveness came as a surprise.
Forgiving those who hurt us is hard. Often we are afraid to forgive because it might open us to be hurt again. Or we're afraid if we bring something up it might unearth bitterness we don't want to deal with, so its left buried.
But any time we bury a hurt alive, it will keep rising from the dead to disturb us.
God used today's verses to show me how to let forgiveness set me free from the hurt I had buried. "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. ... Forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you." (Eph. 4:2, 32)
Forgiving in the way this scripture describes has helped me recognize I need God's grace as much as anyone else. Although pardoning an offense is not easy, it is possible when we follow God's plan of being humble and gentle, patient and bearing with those who've hurt us. It's so worth what it takes to be set free.
Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves when we offer it to others. In doing so, we don't forgive so we can forget. We forgive, as we have been forgiven, so we can find freedom from our past and live with confident hope for our future.
Lord, I need Your help. Help me process my hurt with You and let go of any bitterness that keeps me from wholeness and hope. Empower me to forgive just as You have forgiven me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Conflict is hard and unhealed hurts can make us doubt ourselves, as well as our ability to have healthy relationships. In her life-changing book: A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself & Live in the Security of God's Promises, Renee Swope empowers us to overcome the hurts that hold us back as we move forward in the confident assurance of all God has for our lives!
Reflect and Respond:
Is there unresolved conflict or unforgiven hurt that could be holding you back you from living in the freedom Jesus wants for you? Journal thoughts that came to mind while reading today's devotion and commit to take one step towards the freedom of forgiveness God is calling you to today.
Colossians 3:13, "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (NIV)
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