A few months ago I was struggling, really struggling. Something happened to someone close to me (Don’t you find it easier to ‘let it go’ when the hurt has happened to you instead of someone you love?) and it was my responsibility to do something about it. I prayed, prayed some more, and for extra measure prayed even more before taking action. I knew that the action I was taking was justified and even necessary, but that didn’t make it easy.
I did what I needed to do, kept the issue between our family and the parties involved, and then it should have been over … only it wasn’t. I get the feeling the enemy wasn’t too happy that I took the problem to God and handled it His way, so he was going to do what he does best, and use my own emotions against me. The problem was … while I had given the problem to God, I was willfully holding onto the anger.
If I had asked others’ opinions, they might have told me I was justified to be angry. They might have said I get a free pass this time, or this instance is the exception to the rule and supported me in my anger. But, the problem is … I knew better. I know what God says about anger, and unforgiveness, and He doesn’t give us a free pass. He doesn’t make exceptions.
I’m close enough in my walk with God to know that holding onto unforgiveness, bitterness, refusing to let it go or pray for the person who wronged the one I love becomes a sin that separates me from my Heavenly Father. And I felt every square inch of that separation. And I found I couldn’t pray.
How could I pray when I was willfully and wrongfully holding onto anger? I couldn’t. Thankfully my stubbornness only lasted a few days. I couldn’t stand to be out of God’s favor. I couldn’t stand to have distance between me and my Heavenly Father.
So one night I made the choice. I told God I would give Him my anger … and probably have to give it to Him again tomorrow … and probably again in another five minutes … but I was going to give it to Him until I didn’t feel it anymore.
It’s been a little over a month now … and I can honestly say the unforgiveness and anger are gone. Not because they magically disappeared. But because I made the choice to forgive, and forgive again and forgive again until forgiveness was greater than the initial anger.
While the incident I’m talking about occurred in a short period of time, the person who wronged the one I love showed remorse and asked for forgiveness, and I have seen a heart change in that person. One could say that makes it easier to forgive and let go of the anger. And I would have to agree.
I have other issues in my life I’m dealing with repeatedly and it’s harder to forgive. I’ll forgive one incident … and then something happens again a week, a month later and I have to choose forgiveness all over again. And I do … most of the time. And when I don’t, God lovingly reminds me what the alternative is … emotional separation from Him until I get my heart right.
I don’t have answers at this point for those types of forgiveness situations, except that again, in the Bible, there are no exceptions and no free passes. Whether someone needs forgiveness extended once or a million times, it is not for us to decide. It’s simply for us to forgive.
What I’m still having a conversation with God about is how to set up appropriate/healthy boundaries for all parties involved. To where I can forgive, have a healthy relationship and yet not continue to put myself in situations where I’ll be hurt (or someone I love will be hurt).
The only thing I know for sure is this … I can’t pray and stay angry at the same time. Can you?
© Cheri Swalwell 2020