The other day, I heard from a dear lady who confessed that she was struggling with unforgiveness toward someone who had deeply hurt her. The thing that was most discouraging to her was that she had been under the impression that she had gotten over her negative feelings toward this person. When the old familiar pangs of resentment resurfaced, she realized that she still had some residual ill feelings. I tried to reassure her by reminding her that forgiveness is, in fact, a process. It takes time, and we simply can't rush it. We can make the decision to forgive - which is our part, and which the Lord won't do for us - but then we must rely on God to give us the divine enablement (grace) to let go of the hurt, the anger, and the bitterness.
I could really relate to this woman's struggles. It seemed as though there was always someone that I was in the process of trying to forgive. I could make up my mind to forgive someone, and I could be fine for weeks. And then all of a sudden, I could sense those old feelings of resentment trying to rise to the surface again. I don't want to just bury my negative emotions. I used to do that years ago, and I wound up needing tranquilizers and psychiatric care. Now that I know that Jesus can heal us everywhere we hurt, I carry these destructive feelings to Him in prayer, and I trust Him to deliver me from them, as I cooperate with Him.
There are a number of ways we can cooperate with God to overcome feelings of unforgiveness. One way is to stop talking about how others have hurt or offended us. Talking about it just keeps us bleeding. And it keeps our negative emotions stirred up, when we desperately need them to calm down. If we need to initially vent, we can share our feelings with a godly person who we can trust, but then we need to keep quiet about it. And we should never forget that the Lord should be the first One that we turn to. He is the best listener we will ever find, and He's the only One who can really help and heal us.
Another way to cooperate with the Lord in this area is to stop thinking about how we have been hurt or mistreated. The Bible says that we are to "cast down" the wrong kinds of thoughts, and make all of our thoughts "obedient to Christ". (2 Corinthians 10:5 NKJV) The Message Bible describes this as "fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ." With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can discipline our minds, instead of always being at the mercy of our fleshly thoughts and impulses. Let your mind dwell on how others have hurt or offended you, and you will become more and more agitated, angry, and bitter all the time. Pretty soon, your mind and your body will begin showing signs of strain and illness.
Cooperating with God for the renewal of our minds is absolutely essential in the forgiveness process. Scripture says: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2 NKJV) The Amplified Bible translation refers to this as having a "new attitude". The best way to renew our minds is to study, memorize, and meditate on the Word and promises of God. It is not enough to stop thinking about the wrong things, but we must begin, on purpose, to think about the right things - things that the Bible calls "true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy". (Philippians 4:8 NIV) Scripture says that the Word of God is "alive and full of power - making it active, operative, energizing and effective". (Hebrews 4:12 AMP) And feasting on it will literally reprogram our minds, and will help us think like God, rather than like the rest of the world.
Isaiah 8:11 (NLT) says - "The Lord has said to me in the strongest terms: 'Do not think like everyone else does.'" If you are struggling with feelings of unforgiveness today, I urge you not to think like everyone else would in your situation. Cooperate with God to adopt a new attitude - and lay hold of the peace, joy, and freedom that are found in a life lived for Christ!
Prayer: Lord, please don't ever let me be content to live in the bondage of unforgiveness. Whenever someone hurts or offends me in any way, help me to turn to You for Your perspective, comfort, and healing. Teach me how to resist talking and thinking about my hurts and resentments. Thank You that as I cooperate with You for the renewal of my mind and my attitudes, You will reward me with supernatural wholeness, well-being, and peace!
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