Proverbs 20:22(ESV) – “Do not say I will repay evil;” wait for the Lord, and He will deliver you.
Additional scripture reading: Psalm 37
Hearing the word “gracious,” always makes me think of one of my former Bible class teachers. She was soft spoken, friendly, and always had a quick smile or kind word for everyone she met. She often told our class that she used to pray that God would give her a gentle and joyful spirit because she did not want to grow into a bitter old woman (I Peter 3:3-4).
Her words stick with me to this day, sometimes bringing me encouragement. But, more often than not, they bring conviction to my heart.
Although she never told us her entire life story, our teacher shared some of the hardships she endured in her life – unfair treatment on the job, a broken marriage, crime against her family, sickness, scorn and being shunned from the church. But as she told her story, there were no words of bitterness or hatred, only thanks to God for His mercy and grace, which kept her through several years of trials.
I continue to admire her for her honesty and courage.
I want to be a gracious woman of God, too. I want to set an example of extending love and mercy, but I’m afraid that I fail more often than I succeed.
I notice that it is easier for me to forgive strangers, co-workers, or people I’m not really close to when they hurt me or treat me wrong. But, when I am cut to the core by those closest to me – parents, brothers and sisters, best friends – I have a really hard time letting it go because that’s when the pain is the worst. Those closest to us have the potential to either build us up, or they tear us down and shake our confidence.
I find it difficult to let go and trust God when the very people I trust the most, end up doing the most harm to me. I am quick to want to retaliate and hurt them as deeply as they hurt me. But I know that if I act out how I really want to, any witness I might have had is ruined.
If you are like me, you can recall a situation that nearly devastated you. Whenever you think about it, you feel the same hurt, anger, frustration, embarrassment, or fear that you felt when the incident first occurred. It’s almost like it is happening all over again. You want to let go, but you find yourself feeling stuck.
Fear of being hurt again keeps us from fully engaging with the people in our lives, including the person who wronged us. We put up walls and go through the motions, but we are not actively or truthfully seeking fellowship. We are in survival mode, often thinking of safe guarding ourselves and pulling away as soon as friction begins. Our existence becomes shallow, maybe even false. What are we to do?
In the story of Joseph, he had a dream of a great future. When he shared it with his family, they ridiculed him, and the seed of jealously was planted. His brothers envied him, his dreams, and the special treatment his father gave him (Genesis 37).
What about you? What cruel situation do you find yourself in? Is there someone in your life who rubs you the wrong way? Are you holding on to a past hurt? Has someone offended you and you cannot forgive them, no matter how hard you try?
I’m not sure what you’ve been through, or what is weighing on your heart, but I would like to ask you to give it over to God. Trust Him to deliver you from the bondage of anger, hate, and fear. He will give you the strength and courage to forgive and to move forward. It may not be easy, but with the power of Holy Spirit, you can do it.
Joseph’s life is an example for us. We see how trusting God, even when we are wounded and hated, can lead us to blessings and put us in a position to help the very people who hurt or betrayed us. As we remain faithful to God, He will use our trials to bring deliverance into the lives of the very same people who tried to cause us harm. When they see the grace of God at work in our lives, they have no choice but to marvel at His power and love. When we conduct ourselves in the way that God wants us too, we allow God’s power to be reflected in a mighty way. And, we end up with a powerful testimony.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we give all of our anger, hurt, and frustration to You. Heal us from the damage and from any emotional pain that lingers from the past. Pour out Your Spirit on us every day, so that we can be an extension of Your love. Help us to trust You to bring good out of everything that happens to us, and let us live our lives as Jesus instructed in Matthew 5.