He (my dad) sat on the couch, tears flowing down his cheeks, sharing what was on his heart. The burden he carried for his children, and for others, was clearly seen through his emotions and the depths of his words. It was a topic that seemed to pop up over and over again during the last few weeks. When God has a lesson for us to learn, He has a way of making it known through all different ways, reminding us that this is a huge matter we need to deal with and that we need to sit up and listen to what He has to say.
Forgiveness...letting go...giving it all to the Lord...there is freedom in releasing that anger, hurt, and bitterness that wants to stay in our heart, poisoning us one day at a time. We think that by staying mad at the one who hurt us will somehow hurt them over time, but it does nothing of the sort. It only causes misery in our own life, burning a big black hole in the heart so bad that not even God will hear our prayers.
People have this image that God is a white haired elderly grandfather that sits on a throne in heaven, looking down on the people of earth, doing whatever they ask when they need it - a vending machine faith so to speak. If life is going well we fail to look up and ask God to help us because we think we have it all figured out, but as soon as a trial comes along, such as financial hardship, a sickness, or an argument with a friend or sibling, we suddenly need God's help to get us through the tough times. We think we can simply put our money into the machine, push the button, and get our answer out immediately. That is not the way with our God. Yes, our God is a God of love and compassion, but He also has a law book, the Bible, which contains promises for us, IF we follow the commands that He has stated in His Word.
Pastor once gave a sermon on forgiveness and brought up the point of mercy - mercy is the act of giving someone something (forgiveness in this case) when they do not deserve it. The way we show mercy to others should be a reflection of how God has shown mercy to us. No matter who has hurt us, or disappointed us, we need to make sure we forgive others even as Christ forgave us. God will not hear our prayers if we build up a wall of unforgiveness for others because He requires us to forgive in order to forgive us. Even in the Lord's prayer it says, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." If we expect God to hear and forgive us, then we must take the time to stop and make sure our hearts are right with those around us. We cannot hold a grudge and expect God to reach down and answer our prayers as if everything is fine and dandy. He will eventually stop talking to us in order to get our attention.
A few years back a friend of mine hurt me in a way that I let get under my skin. She did not intentionally hurt me, but the way some events played out was not the way I expected or wanted. I knew it was wrong to feel the way I did, but I focused on all the negatives and the bitterness set in like a poison. I did not want to admit the truth, and kept it all inside, hoping that one day it would eventually work itself out. My friendship was affected that summer, and even my marriage was affected because my husband began to wonder if I was mad at him for something he did. I grew depressed, and did not feel like smiling or having fun with the family. I hated the way I felt, but I did not know what I could do to change that feeling. How could I force myself to forgive?
I remember the morning I finally broke down and explained to Joe what was going on. He was greatly relieved to find he was not the one that was causing the extreme emotional roller coaster. After I told him I believed God was telling me to write a letter to my friend asking her for forgiveness, he encouraged me to follow the Lord's leading. I cried as I wrote that letter, begging God to grant me the forgiveness I needed in order to be real and tell the truth. And amazingly enough, a flood of forgiveness began to wash over me as I wrote, and the tears that flowed were ones of relief and pure joy as I was set free from the prison that had held me bound all summer long. My friendship with this precious lady was renewed and we had many sweet visits together. My only regret now is that I cannot see her like I used to because God saw fit to have her and her family move away. Yet, I am glad to say that I dealt with the situation before it was too late and I had complete healing.
There is a story I heard where someone did not quite get to have such a happy ending, from what I can see. It was about a man who was just a teenager when he stopped talking to his sister because of something she did that embarrassed him at the dinner table, but it was enough to cause such a strife in his heart that he decided he would stop talking to her completely. Years went by and he did nothing to change this lack of communication. He completely ruined his relationship with his sister; he eventually did talk with her again, but it was never the same again.
Eventually, the brother had a conversation with his sister, to try and smooth out the deep ruts that had been caused by the lack of communication over time, but I don't think it was ever a situation that was completely healed. Maybe in his mind it was over with, but I don't know if the walls of unforgiveness were ever broken down to the ground. The sister still does not know what happened to cause such a hatred and unforgivable attitude between her and her brother, but then it was too late because God chose to take her brother to heaven. Those reading this still have time to make things right...with God and with family. So examine your hearts today and make sure it is clear of unforgiveness because you do not want to be eaten up by that poison, nor do you want to have a wall built up between you and God ...He will not hear or answer your prayers if there is unforgiveness for someone in your heart. Forgive just as Christ forgave you.