Updated: May 15, 2022
Thorns of resentment in the heart are veiled until the speech of our mouths manifests the truth.
One day, I opened my mouth and bitter words came out. Something that I thought that I'd forgiven lingered in my heart like a slow-drip poison. Thoughts like teeth that chew on offenses and prepare like a lawyer for imaginary conversations are not fruits of a heart freed by forgiveness.
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. Matthew 15:18
Gossip, delighting in the misfortune of an offender, and a tongue ready with begrudging complaint are revealing symptoms of a malignant tumor that God says removes us from his mercy. (Prov. 30)
Jesus tells us to forgive seventy times seven whatever was done to us. (Matt 18) He doesn't tell us to do something that he doesn't make a way for. Sometimes, setting boundaries is wise, but even at a distance, are we picking at scabs when God is trying to tilt our chins to gaze on him instead?
We can't muster forgiveness. It comes as fruit of a relationship with the Great Forgiver, Christ, who died so that we might be forgiven. When we repeatedly hand back to his open hand painful memories and anger, he will, in his justice, take care of it so that we can be free. Deliverance comes from abiding in his love. We can't give up the grudge any other way.
As we begin to practice submitting every thought to the Lord, albeit imperfectly, he paves the way to healing and restoration. We are human, indeed, but we are also called to live in the spirit and not our flesh. The Holy Spirit is keen to help us with unforgiveness and resentment because of its dire spiritual consequences:
There are those who curse their fathers
and do not bless their mothers;
those who are pure in their own eyes
and yet are not cleansed of their filth.
Proverbs 30:11 - 12
The eye that mocks a father,
that scorns an aged mother,
will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley,
will be eaten by the vultures.
Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Deuteronomy 5:16
"Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
God's amazing love convicted my heart and rescued me from the entanglement of vines that had grown ugly and thick around me (even more, through the counseling that, ironically, was intended to release me). This is the machete to memorize for memories that we need to bushwhack out of:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4 - 8
After Joseph was sold into slavery by his family, he named his first son Manasseh, which means, the "Lord makes me forget", declaring that God "made me forget all the afflictions of my father's house." Joseph showed the fruit of forgiveness by blessing his family with his mouth and his resources, even after all they had done to him. (Gen 41:51)
God hated whatever was done as much as it pains our own heart. He takes it and he promises to make it work for the good of those who love Him. (Rom 8:28) No offender, no matter how grievous, can get in the way of God's perfect plan for his beloved. Let's let our eyes be focused on the cross that heals and the inheritance that he promises that far outlasts anything stolen. The only way to release ourselves from the bondage of bitterness is to diligently trek into a deeper understanding of the freedom, love and healing that Christ offers.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.