For the past week, some friends and I have been experiencing what it feels like to have our hearts turned inside out and upside down. The Lord has used the isolated experience of one as an amazing tool to cleanse the hearts of us all, of some known, but mostly unknown and unrepented of bitterness and ghastly unforgiveness! We have had the sinful contents of our bitter hearts, ever so gently shaken loose, so that we could choose to either acknowledge the presence of sin and repent of it, or continue to ignore its contents and go on growing more and more removed from God. For some of us, the existence of bitterness was no shock! We had a moderate awareness on some level of its existence. But for others, this revelation broke our hearts, and brought agony to our souls as these evils were revealed under the all illuminating light of Gods Word…
For most of the week, I have remained silent…reading the emails that have gone back and forth as one thing after another was revealed or exposed…as one realization after another pierced the hearts of those of us impacted. What God revealed to one, He revealed to another, and with each revelation of the depth of the darkness still lurking in our hearts, we prayed all the more…and with each prayer came another level of confession and repentance… and the more we confessed and repented, the more healing took place.
The biggest hurt/most humbling thing for me was realizing that I had NOT forgiven as I thought I had. Or rather, that I had not forgiven at all. And that bitterness is just the tip of a very evil, ugly iceberg! The root of bitterness is unforgiveness…and the root of unforgiveness is and has ALWAYS BEEN PRIIIIIDE!!!!!! (That was me yelling at myself) Foolish pride. Evil pride. Ugly pride. God offending pride. And after all of the years that I have known the Lord, it is still found in me… in my heart. Some may ask why is this such a big deal, after all, we’re only human right. Wrong! We are women of faith! And not just a faith but THE faith. We have placed our faith in the One True and Living God and in His Son Jesus the Christ! We have been changed … trans-formed! (“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Cor.5:17) Because we are His we no longer desire the things of this world!!! We no longer want to be like the world!!! And we no longer are ok with the world being in us!!! We want it out!! Out of our hearts!!! Out of our minds!!! Out of our families!!! When speaking of people of the same Faith that we profess, the Book of Hebrews said the following;
“How much more do I need to say? … They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.” Hebrews 11:32-40
This experience…this full recognition of the evil pride that repeatedly spawns bitterness in the hearts of Gods people everywhere, including in my own heart, has worked to revive the fight in me. Hebrews has reminded me of the spiritual stock that we all come from…of the cloth that we’re cut from. We are ‘more than conquerors’ (Romans 8:37), and that means that we can, by the power of the life-giving Spirit that now abides in us, conquer even bitterness…pride… envy…jealousy…and all of their ugly relatives!!!! The healing that began in the hearts of our small prayer group is just the beginning!!! We are able to overcome bitterness, and through our testimonies, help others to overcome and experience healing too!!! God’s mercy has empowered us to not “just pretend to love others. [but to] Really love them. [to really]Hate what is wrong. [to truly]Hold tightly to what is good. [to] Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other… [to] Bless those who persecute [us]. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think [we] know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead,“If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:9-21)
You see, pride says that I deserve better…in my case, that I deserved to be treated better than they treated me, 20 years ago as well as off and on throughout the years. Unforgiveness sets in because I want God to punish them and to do it quickly and visibly, where I can see that they got ‘in trouble’ for wronging wonderful me!! Bitterness sets in over time when the punishment never seems to come, and the wrong never seems to be made right. Over time these evil emotions begin to feel normal, and comfortable, and we begin to feel justified, and pride begins to grow and gain strength. And eventually, our refusal to forgive becomes justifiable, and bitterness becomes our friend. We don’t even realize that we are now living in a prison of our own making, and while pride has convinced us that we are right, its true evil is camouflaged…hidden from our view, and the absolute distortion of the image of Christ being perfected in us is now all that is visible. Bitterness makes us unattractive…it manipulates us, our responses or reactions. Where we should be acting in the love of God and displaying His mercy, when bitterness takes our hearts captive, we become the puppets of the enemy of our souls. And the name of our God is defamed….
“But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?” 2 Corinthians 2:14-16
I am going to wrap this up with one more thing that I was reminded of this week; Ephesians 5 tells us that Christ not only loved the church, but that he
“gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
This past week my beautiful prayer sisters and I experienced that ‘washing of water by the word’, and it was painfully glorious!!! Bitterness no longer reigns in the most holy place of our hearts! We now know what it looks like and smells like and sounds like…and how it feels!!! And we know most of all that it is an overwhelming offense to the presence of our merciful, forgiving and gracious God. More than ANYTHING we want to honor Him!!!! More than ANYTHING we want our lives to bring Him glory!!! More than ANYTHING we want to hear Him say ‘Well done!’!!!!! We are choosing daily to forgive. we are choosing daily to love. We are FIGHTING MINUTE BY MINUTE to remain humble. And by the power of His life-giving Spirit we will be VICTORIOUS!!! Won’t you join us??? Forgive today…resist the self-imposed prison of bitterness that the enemy is trying to sneak into your hearts under the guise of justifiable anger or wisdom…choose today to love with Gods love, and let it heal our hearts together….