Years ago, I had a neighbor who was a believer and a Christlike example to everyone she met. Then one day, she lost her job, and she began to experience some serious financial problems. She did her best to rely on the Lord for wisdom and strength, but eventually, she gave in to feelings of anger and bitterness. She felt alone in her most desperate times, and she became resentful toward those who she felt had abandoned her in her time of need. When she began telling me how she wanted to see her loved ones suffer because of their treatment of her, I began to reprove her and warn her that her ungodly attitude could only spell disaster. Nevertheless, she persisted in her bitterness, and she eventually had an emotional breakdown and was committed to a mental institution.
When I think about this lady, I can't help thinking about the warnings that the apostle Paul gives us in Ephesians 4:26-27 (AMP): "When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down. Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him]." Instead of "getting over it quickly," as one translation says, this woman nursed her anger and held fast to it until it festered inside of her and destroyed her from within. Her ungodly behavior also invited satanic attack, because the devil can use our sin to bring about greater evil. The apostle Paul reiterates this point in Second Corinthians 2:10-11 (NASB), when he talks about being aware of Satan's "schemes," and not allowing him to "take advantage" of us through unforgiveness. Any way you look at it, anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness are highly destructive, and they can wreak havoc in a believer's life. I heard someone say, "Bitterness is like taking poison, hoping that your enemy will die." This strategy doesn't make a bit of sense, and yet countless people live by it every day.
After Paul talks about the destructiveness of anger and bitterness in Ephesians 4, he goes on to say: "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." (v. 29-30 NIV) My resentful neighbor planned her own downfall when she began speaking ill of her loved ones, and wishing them harm. Her words grieved God's Spirit, and they opened the door for the Destroyer to come into her life to "steal, kill, and destroy." (John 10:10) Paul continues by saying: "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 4:31-32 NIV) This lady lost sight of how much the Lord had forgiven her, and how much mercy He extended to her on a regular basis. If she couldn't find it in her heart to forgive her loved ones for their sake, then she should have at least done it for the Lord, to whom she owes so much.
Maybe you're thinking right now about how impossible it can seem to forgive those who deeply hurt you. Let me assure you that if you are a follower of Christ, you have heavenly resources at your disposal to "fight the good fight." (1 Timothy 6:12) The Spirit of the living God abides in you continually, and He equips you with the same awesome power that raised Christ from the dead. (Ephesians 1:19-20) As you make the decision to walk in love and forgiveness, the Spirit Himself enables you to carry out the Lord's will. Paul declared: "I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power." (Philippians 4:13 TLB) We can make that same declaration as we rely on Christ's Spirit to empower us. Who is it that YOU need to forgive today?
Prayer: Lord, I thank You that through the blood of Christ, You have forgiven all of my sins. Give me a heart like Yours so that I can extend that same forgiveness to others. When I'm tempted to remain angry or bitter toward anyone, remind me of what it could cost me. Thank You for the divine love that Your Spirit continually pours into my heart! (Romans 5:5)
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