Years ago, I had the worst argument with my father that I ever had in my life. My husband, Joe, was away on a business trip at the time, and my parents had come to visit me and our two sons. Unfortunately, my dad was in one of his argumentative moods, and he started yelling at me for no reason. I tried to calm him down, but when I realized that this was impossible, I went into my bathroom and got on my knees to pray. I asked the Lord to intervene on my behalf, and to show me how to handle my dad's anger. That's when I clearly sensed Him telling me to ask my parents to leave my home. I had never thrown my mom and dad out of my house before, so it pained me to ask them to leave. I will never forget the look on my mother's face as she tearfully hugged my sons and walked out the door.
When I poured my heart out to the Lord later that day, He led me to a verse in Proverbs, which says, "Throw out the mocker, and fighting, quarrels, and insults will disappear." (Proverbs 22:10 NLT) He reassured me that I did the right thing when I asked my father to leave my home, because he gave me no other choice. But while the Lord was reassuring me, He also gave me a warning by showing me some verses about the dangers of unforgiveness. "BE ANGRY [at sin - at immorality, at injustice, at ungodly behavior], YET DO NOT SIN; do not let your anger [cause you shame, nor allow it to] last until the sun goes down. And do not give the devil an opportunity [to lead you into sin by holding a grudge, or nurturing anger, or harboring resentment, or cultivating bitterness]." (Ephesians 4:26-27 AMP) This was a reminder to me of how destructive harboring resentment against someone can be to our lives, our relationships, and especially our fellowship with God. Holding a grudge can give Satan and his demons permission to "steal, kill, and destroy" what is near and dear to us - including our mental, emotional, and physical health. (John 10:10)
I made a quality decision that day to forgive my father for his shameful and hurtful behavior, and I asked the Lord to forgive him, too. When I prayed for wisdom for what to do next, I sensed God telling me to give my dad time to think about what he did. Weeks went by without any word from my parents, and my heart ached. Then one day, I felt led to sit down and write my dad a heartfelt letter. I let him know that I didn't want us to go on living separate lives. I put the letter in the mail, and before the end of that day, I received a phone call from my father. He asked if I would forgive him for his awful behavior, and I told him that I had already forgiven him, and I thanked him for his call. After that, my dad and I got along great until the day he died.
To this day, I find it interesting that my father didn't call and apologize until I actually mailed my letter to him, expressing my desire to reconcile. My dad had no idea that I had written him a letter when he made that call to me. But God knew. He wanted me to do my part in the reconciliation before he prompted my dad to make that call. Holding grudges and harboring resentment don't fit who we are as followers of Christ. I can tell you from personal experience that if you will do your part to heal the broken relationships in your life, God will do His!
Prayer: Lord, help me to have the kind of relationships that please and glorify You most. Show me how to establish and enforce godly boundaries to protect myself and others from those who would mistreat us. Teach me the difference between righteous and unrighteous anger. Work in my heart so that I will always be quick to forgive, and so that I will never hold grudges or harbor resentment against anyone. Thank you that by Your grace, I will live in the freedom of forgiveness, and not in the bondage of bitterness!
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