"When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, He asked him, 'Do you want to get well?'"
- John 5:6 NIV
Many times, I've read the above words by Jesus and thought to myself, "Who wouldn't WANT to get well if they were hurting in some way?" That question was answered for me recently when I was having a conversation with a neighbor. She was going through a very difficult time in her life, and she was having a hard time dealing with all of the injustices that were being heaped upon her, seemingly all at one time. As we chatted, it became clear to me that she was harboring a lot of bitterness and resentment toward all the people who she felt had done her wrong. When I reminded her that Jesus has commanded us to forgive those who offend us, she insisted that she had a right to be resentful, and that she had no intention of forgiving those who hurt her. When I suggested that there might be a connection between her recent health problems and her feelings of resentment, she said she didn't care. She also confessed that she was angry with God, and that her troubles were not drawing her closer to Him, but only further away. I decided then to drop the subject, and to commit myself to pray for her in a more earnest manner from then on.
Why is it that some people become bitter when they go through hard times, while others become better? Perhaps part of the answer lies in an old saying that still rings true today--"The same hot water that hardens an egg, softens a carrot." We don't always have a choice about what happens to us, but we do have the power to choose how we will respond to the difficulties that come our way. Because my neighbor chose to withhold forgiveness from those who wounded her, she had also made the choice to forfeit the valuable help the Lord would have given her if she had only obeyed Him. Jesus said, "If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. " (Matthew 6:15 NIV) Unforgiveness is serious business in God's eyes, and we need to view it the same way, and act accordingly. Fortunately, we don't have to forgive others in our own strength. We have the Holy Spirit pouring the God-kind of love into our hearts as we walk with Him daily. (Romans 5:5) The apostle Paul warns us that withholding forgiveness from others can open the door to Satanic attack. (Ephesians 4:26-28) Maybe my neighbor’s recent health problems weren't a direct result of her resentment, but one thing was certain--her bitterness was hindering her prayers, including her prayers for healing. In at least two places in the Gospels, Jesus reveals a link between the effectiveness of our prayers, and our obligation to forgive others. (Matthew 6:14-15, Mark 11:25)
Perhaps the Lord is asking you today, "Do you want to get well?" No matter what you've been through, or how many emotional scars you've built up over the years, healing and restoration are available to you. All you need to do is to stop focusing on your wounds, and begin focusing on the cure. There is no pain, injury, or hurt that the love of God cannot heal. I'm living proof of that, and so are many others. Ask the Lord to search your heart and reveal to you who it is you need to forgive. Then leave all your bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness at the foot of the Cross--and let the healing begin!
Prayer: Lord, teach me how to forgive others quickly and thoroughly when they hurt me or treat me unfairly. Remind me that You are faithful to right the wrongs in my life, and to heal and comfort me, when I look to You for wisdom and help in these situations. Thank You, Lord, that by Your grace, I will benefit from my troubles and trials, and I will become better instead of bitter!
- J. M. Farro