You have stayed at this mountain long enough. Deuteronomy 1:6, HCSB
Every time I thought of her, my blood pressure rose. A friend had hurt me deeply, and I just couldn’t get over it. I hadn’t spoken to her in weeks, and I didn’t want to see her again.
But the funny thing is, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I replayed her hurtful words constantly. I woke up thinking about what she’d done and went to bed with it on my mind.
My hurt feelings had turned to anger, and now bitterness was consuming me.
Have you ever been there? Angry or bitter over something someone said or did? It’s a hard place to be. Bitterness is powerful. It steals our joy and consumes our thoughts. It even causes physical ailments like stress, high blood pressure, and stomach issues.
So, what do we do when we can’t let go?
I found the answer in the book of Deuteronomy.
The people of God had left Egypt and were on their way to the Promised Land. They’d camped out for a year, and were getting comfortable where they were. But God’s plan was to give them a land “flowing with milk and honey,” and they’d never get there if they stayed put.
So, God said through Moses,
“You have stayed at this mountain long enough” (Dueteronomy 1:6, HCSB).
In other words, it was time to move on.
That’s exactly where I was.
I’d been sitting in my hurt feelings, getting comfortable with the bitterness I felt every time I thought of my friend. In a strange way, my anger comforted me every time I re-lived the hurt she’d inflicted.
But God never intended for us to stay in our hurt feelings.
Instead, He wants us to move on. To leave the hurt behind and move forward, where we can be free of the pain.
And the only way to move forward is through forgiveness.
So, how do we move forward if the offender doesn’t ask for forgiveness? The Bible is clear that forgiving someone when they repent is non-negotiable. We’re called to forgive as many times as they ask us to.
But the truth is, we can forgive even if they don’t ask.
To do that, it’s important to know what forgiving means.
First, forgiveness does not mean
- Erasing the reality of the offense. Forgiving the person who offended us doesn’t mean they didn’t wrong us. It doesn’t ignore the wrongdoing. In fact, it’s looking it square in the face.
- Forgetting. “To forgive and forget” isn’t always possible for people with a brain. 😊
Now, here’s what forgiveness means―
- Freedom. Actually, to forgive means “to untie the knot.” My bitterness tied me to my offender because my thoughts were consumed with her. So, forgiving her was a gift to myself because then I was free.
When we forgive someone, we untie ourselves from the offender, and then we give the offense to God and let it go. The Bible tells us to “give your burdens to the Lord. He will carry them” (Psalm 55:22, TLB), and that means to roll our cares and hurts onto Him.
When we give our hurts to the Lord, He’ll graciously take them from us. As we surrender them to Him, He’ll remove the bitterness and offer His peace. We won’t necessarily forget the offense, but we’ll be able to remember it and not re-live it.
- Mercy. The Bible calls us to “be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Colossians 3:13, TLB). That was difficult for me, because I knew my friend didn’t deserve to be forgiven. But the truth is, I don’t deserve God’s mercy, either. Yet, He’s forgiven and accepted me.
The reality of my own need for forgiveness softens my heart toward my offender. Honestly, from God’s vantage point, we’re on the same playing field. We’re all sinners in need of grace.
Packing up and moving on
The Israelites thought their camping spot was where they wanted to stay, because packing up and moving out is a lot of work. But if they’d stayed put, they’d have missed out on the Promised Land and God’s plan for them and for us.
Leaving old hurts in the past and moving on feels contrary to what our feelings tell us to do. But choosing to forgive and letting go is God’s plan for us to extend mercy and enjoy the freedom, peace, and good life He has for us.
Heavenly Father, You are rich in mercy and eager to forgive. Thank You for Jesus, who gave His life so we can be forgiven. I want to be like You, Lord. Rich in mercy toward those who have offended me. Help me to forgive. Empower me to untie the knot that binds me to my offender and give my hurts to you. And, by Your Spirit, help me walk forth in the peace You’ve provided. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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As a long-time Bible teacher, Cindy takes the instruction to mature women in the book of Titus to heart. Known as a lover of lipstick and her Bible, she uses biblical truth to encourage other women at her blog The Titus Woman.