Saturday, December 19, 2015

Decide to Relinquish Bitterness

Relinquish is defined as “voluntarily cease to keep or claim; give up.”

Does that sound like something we can make up our minds to do? Yes.

Do we need to feel like doing it before we can decide to do it? No.

We can relinquish bitterness even if we don’t feel like it. 

Why? Because God tells us to. And when we get to the point in life where the only purpose is to please Him, we do what He would have us do through the power and name of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit in us.

Bitterness and forgiveness are linked. 

Some might say that I have not truly forgiven someone if I am still bitter. But I believe that bitterness is an aspect of hurt that can remain even after we forgive. If we forgive, but don’t take steps to deal with and get beyond the hurt, we will harbor bitterness. 

And bitterness takes up crucial space in our hearts and minds that Christian maturity is waiting to occupy.

Many of us hang on to bitterness like a security blanket. 

I believe this is because we are afraid of being doormats. We are afraid of not being respected. We are afraid of "it" (whatever "it" is) happening to us again. So we cover ourselves in the Teflon of bitterness. 

But let me ask: Does this Teflon truly protect us? Since we’ve been wearing it, has all hurt gone away? Has everyone acted respectfully towards us? Has our Teflon brought about the desired interactions with people? Has it flooded our inbox with apologies from others?

See, we have this warped idea that protecting ourselves with the nursing of old wounds will ensure that we are never hurt again. But that doesn’t work. While I’m over here, obsessing about “that one time,” here comes yet another "time" to whack me alongside the head. Here comes "Mr. or Mrs. Gets-Under-My-Skin" with their usual antics. They haven’t seemed to notice my bitterness. Or maybe my bitterness has made their antics even worse! 

The point is, now bitterness is piling on with every interaction. And we go home and stew. And we say, “Lord, I forgive him or her.” But then we hurt. And that’s where we get stuck: in the hurt.

Lou Priolo, in his short, 60-page booklet titled, Bitterness: The Root That Pollutes, writes:

“When you forgive, you are promising to no longer hold your offender’s trespasses against him. You are also promising to impute your forgiveness to him (much like Christ imputed His righteousness to you when you became a Christian)...When you promise not to impute your offender’s trespasses against him, you are promising to no longer charge him for what he has done. This means you are not going to allow yourself to dwell on the offense. You will refuse to cultivate those seeds of hurt, but rather will immediately pluck them out of the soil of your heart. You will relinquish all “rights” to get even.
When you promise to impute your forgiveness, you credit your offender’s account with your forgiveness, much like Christ credited your heavenly account with His righteousness. You make every effort to think well of him, to pray for him, and to speak well of him, if possible. This promise, to some extent, can be made in the form of a personal commitment in your heart even if your offender does not acknowledge his sins to you. This is what is sometimes referred to as “forgiving someone in your heart.” (see Mark 11:25).

That, to me, is the compelling reason to forgive and to move on from the hurt: because Christ forgives us every time we sin, when we repent; because He took upon Himself the Cross, in much pain and agony, in order to forgive us. To be sure, though our pain may be great, it compares nothing to what Christ experienced.

When I remember my own sin against others (which is always against God too), and the pain I myself have inflicted, I wonder how I could ever harbor a grudge, nurse a wound, or form a hardened heart. As a mom, I have sinned. As a wife, I have sinned. As a daughter, I have sinned. Am I holding others to a standard I myself have not yet attained?

Lest we think, “Yeah, do I protect myself going forward?” Lou Priolo, in his book, addresses this:

“Forgiveness is not the same as trust. If someone sins against you, it is incumbent upon you as a Christian to forgive that person as you have been forgiven by God in Christ (cf. Matt. 18:21-35). However, it is incumbent upon that person to earn back the trust he lost as a result of his sin. Forgiveness should be immediate. Trust may take time (see Matt. 25:14-31; Luke 16:10-12). But please be warned: to withhold trust after it has been earned is unloving. The Bible says that ‘love believes all things’ (1 Cor. 13:7). This means that if we love someone, in the absence of hard evidence to the contrary, we will put the best possible interpretation on what he does—in this case, believing that the fruit of repentance he has brought forth is genuine. And whether or not you are able to quickly trust your offender, you must always trust God to work through him and to protect you from danger.”

If the person is not a believing Christian, pray that God would get their attention. I always say, you can’t expect non-Christians to act like Christians. And sadly, due to our fallen-ness, even Christians will not always act like Christians.

Lou Priolo assures us that the answer to all of this is to trust God: with our hurt (trust that He sees it and can heal it); and our future protection (to overcome evil with good). 

Nothing escapes God. Others may behave poorly and unfairly. God sees that. However, God calls us, His children, to a higher standard: the standard spelled out in His Word and prompted by the Holy Spirit in us. We need to set our radio dial to God, not the world and people around us, and tune in to Him alone. Only then can we be sure that, come what may, we are not part of the problem. And bitterness will not take root.

copyright Barb Harwood

"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:29-32

"Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:14-15

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