When I think of February, Valentine’s Day and love immediately pop into my mind. Those thoughts are quickly followed by the thought that spring is here in Texas. (A short winter is one of the benefits of living in the southwest.) It would be ideal if we could all approach love with the same level of warm anticipation as we do when thinking about spring. But for many of us, love of spouse, family, or friends can be a mine field of missed expectations, hurt feelings, and bitter disappointments. Many of us walk through life carrying resentments toward those people who we should be closest to. Whether you are angry over an unfaithful spouse or a gossiping friend, the burden of unresolved resentments can start to seep into every area of your life.
I am not normally a person who holds on to anger. But recently, I find myself sitting with resentments, holding tight to anger, and reviewing past hurts over and over again in my mind. This is so out of character for me that I have been a little surprised by my behavior. I am reminded of one of my least favorite childhood story characters, Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.
“Good morning, Eeyore,” said Pooh.
“Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily. “If it IS a good morning,” he said. “Which I doubt,” said he.
“Why, what’s the matter?”
“Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.”
“Can’t all WHAT?” said Pooh, rubbing his nose.
“Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush. …I’m not complaining, but there it is.”
― A.A. Milne
Recently, I was sitting in my home office with the sun shining in the windows, and it was a beautiful morning for an extra cup of coffee, a little music, and some time to be alone with God. But I could not rest in it, nor could I find the peace I was desperately seeking. I was clearly holding resentments from a laundry list of issues, some of them several years old. As I have prayed for God to soften my heart, four very clear spiritual truths have helped point me in a new direction.
- Nothing is gained by holding on to past failures. One of the hardest things to do in life is to forgive someone who has wronged you, failed you, or intentionally hurt you. How many times have you found yourself rerunning a conversation in your mind, thinking of things you “should have said” or actions you “should have taken”? I don’t know about you, but I am always smarter, faster, and stronger with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight than I am in the moment. While there is some cathartic value in the rerun, in the end it is wasted energy. This type of ruminating is not healthy and traps us in the moment of anger. It prevents us from moving to a place of healing and does nothing to mend the fractured relationship.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15
2. Only with forgiveness can trust be rebuilt and love restored. A breach of trust, such as a teenage child who sneaks out in the middle of the night, a husband who stumbles in his addiction, or a business partner who steals money, are worst-case scenarios in which your trust has been broken. In each of these situations and others, big or small, you may start to question your judgement. Should I have trusted them? Why did I trust them? Am I a fool for believing in them? When trust is broken, healing can only come when you forgive the failure and offer the opportunity to start again. That offering of opportunity is not something we are wired to do naturally. Only Christ can give us the courage to walk through that process.
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in Heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25
3. Willingness to forgive opens new doors. It’s true, when there has been a failure in the relationship, even with healing, the relationship will never be the same. For some, there is a peaceful rest in the past but closeness can never be restored. But in other cases, there can be a richness of healing and recovery that will bond the relationship in new ways. Often, a couple working to restore a broken marriage will find a closeness and a relationship of honesty and trust they never experienced before. They only found this new relationship when they were willing to forgive the past and walk with Christ to the future.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
4. Forgiveness heals a broken heart. Walking through life carrying a burden of anger and hurt separates us from the communion with Christ that He seeks to have with us. In Ephesians, Paul reminds us to forgive those who have hurt us and those we carry bitterness and rage against. As we do that, God offers us the ultimate forgiveness. Healing happens when we turn to Him, walk with Him through the pain, and allow Him room to work in our lives.
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
I think it is important to remember…forgiveness is NOT a onetime event, but something you go through over and over again. Much like an athlete who trains for a marathon. The repetition of training and practice builds endurance, improves performance, and shortens the recovery cycle. The practice of forgiveness is much the same.
Christine Clark is the Ministry Coordinator for Family Ministry at Stonebriar Community Church. She has a passion for supporting parents and helping them gain confidence and tools to be spiritual leaders in their homes. She is blessed to be the mom of a high school freshman and the wife of her college sweetheart for more than 20 years. She is also an avid sports fan who loves all things football, especially in the fall in Texas.