Psalm 118:24

"This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Confession: I'm Angry and I Can't Forgive!

I'm struggling with anger and forgiveness today.  If you read my post from last week, you'll know that I've been praying to know and love God more.  (If you haven't read the post, click here to read it.  It explains the process I've been going through and how God has been speaking to my heart and in my life.)  Boy oh boy, has He been answering my prayer!  And not exactlt in the way I had hoped or imagined.

I'll be honest, when I prayed for more of Him, and his response was 'are you prepared?' I sort of laughed it off.  My soul was saying, 'Of course I'm prepared!  You're God...all you have to do is look at me and POOF, I'm changed!'  But even though God CAN work like that, He often doesn't.  It's a process.  And I feel like this situation is part of God's process to make he able to love Him more.  It's His way of refining me.  It's also His way of answering my prayers, because I've really been spending alot of time in the Word this week -- and as a result, I'm learning more about Him.  Funny how God works, isn't it?

I taught Children's church last week.  And wouldn't you know, the verses God kept bringing to my mind last night are the same verse I studied with my CC kids.  The unit we're studying is called I Wanna Be Just Like Jesus and this lesson was called Loving Others, and the verses we looked at were 1 John 4:7-12.  It says,

      7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:7-12 NIV)

We talked about how easy it is to love people who are nice to us, but how hard it is to love those who are, at times, unlovable.  It's also hard to love someone when you have anger in your heart.  And yet, isn't that what we're supposed to do?  If I am earnestly praying for more of God, to know Him more, to be more like Him, then isn't this the kind of person I want to be?  What a lesson to learn the hard way!  This situation is a struggle. 

But wait!  There's hope!  I went to my Bible and started looking at verses about anger...or better, why we should be slow to anger.  Here is what I found that comforted me.
  1. "Whoever is patient has great understanding,
    but one who is quick-tempered displays folly." (Proverbs 14:29)
  2. "19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." (James 1:19-20)
These verses really spoke to my heart about my anger because the way I'm feeling right now, I would definitely say something that I would later regret.  And I don't want to be the kind of person who is quick-tempered and foolish, as described in Proberbs 14.  I also want to be slow to become angry because God wants me to be righteous.  Webster's defines righteous 'as acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin.'  God wants me to be free from sin in this situation.  I want to be free from sin in this situation.  To be more like God, I can't let my anger get the best of me. 

But of course, being angry wasn't the only thing God was convicting me of.  I was also reminded this morning that I need to forgive this person.  It's hard to love someone when you have unforgiveness in  your heart.  And it's really hard to forgive some who
  1. hasn't asked for forgiveness
  2. has hurt you or someone you care about.
A couple months ago my pastor preached a sermon that really resonated with me.  At that time I wasn't dealing with any kind of unforgiveness, and so I wasn't really sure why it stayed with me this long.  But this sermon really hit me hard.  I even made sure to stick my notes from the sermon in my kitchen cabinet so I could find the scripture references easily.  I now know why God hid this sermon in my heart, and my kitchen, the past couple months.  Here is what I learned from that sermon.

Forgiveness means to wipe away a debt.  It's receiving mercy when we deserve wrath and trusting God will give mercy or wrath to those who deserve it.  Forgiveness releases the need for revenge and stewing about a situation.  Forgiveness is what God generously offers to us.

Our problem with forgiveness is this: Because forgive means to wipe away a debt, we think that if we forgive, then that person just 'gets away with' whatever it is they have done.  But Romans 2:6-11 says,

"6 He will give to every man what he should get for the things he has done. 7 Those who keep on doing good and are looking for His greatness and honor will receive life that lasts forever. 8 Those who love only themselves and do not obey the truth, but do what is wrong, will be punished by God. His anger will be on them. 9 Every Jew and every person who is not a Jew who sins will suffer and have great sorrow. 10 But God will give His greatness and honor and peace to all those who obey the truth. Both Jews and those who are not Jews will receive this. 11 God does not show favor to one man more than to another." (NLT)

I like the New Life Translation of this verse.  I take away from this that God is just.  He doesn't show favorites.  We all will one day be held accountable for our life here on Earth.  When we forgive someone, we don't cancel out the justice of God, because His word clearly says that God 'will repay each person according to what they have done.'

However, I think this is a verse we need to be careful with.  If our hearts are not in the right place, it would be really easy to say, "sure, I'll forgive you.  God's gonna get you good for what you did!"  But is that true forgiveness, or is that spite and revenge talking?  I believe that is a vengeful attitude.  Especially in light of the rest of this passage.  If we keep reading, we see that verse 6 applies to everyone. Sin is sin and we will be held accountable for our actions as well.  Yet God -- this amazing, wonderful, merciful God -- still offers us grace, mercy and forgiveness when we don't deserve it (and we don't ever deserve it).  So if I want to truly live out the verses I pointed out earlier, 1 John 4:7-12, then I have an obligation to forgive, because to forgive means to show mercy and love.  So I don't have to worry about what happens after I forgive...I just need to do it.  Why?  Because God's got this under control! :)

I'm happy to report that God has helped me today.  I no longer have anger or unforgivness in my heart.  I'm truly saddened by this situation, and I know that I cannot allow things to go back the way they were.  But I can move on now.  God is truly merciful!  I pray that you experience his mercy, love and compassion today -- and everyday for the rest of your life!

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness
Lamentations 3:22-23


  1. Great post! I love the way you worded everything. So true and I am proud of you for forgiving this person for what they did. Now I need to work on forgiving them for what they did to you. ;) Thanks!

  2. Beautiful post. The thing I learned about forgiveness is it is not for the person you are forgiving, it is for you. God planned it and requires it (Ephesians 4:32) to set you free. The ones that I have forgiven have no idea that I have done it and they probably do not care but I am set free from that burden. I had no idea the blessings God would pour out on me because I was obedient to His Word and relied on His Grace to help me. God bless you. I love you.

  3. Thanks Aunt Diana. I love you too! It's so funny that we were just talking about this. I've been wondering why these verses about forgiveness have been on my heart for the past couple months. And you're right, the forgiveness is for me, not her. I feel so much better not carrying around that burden of bitterness. Thanks for reading it!

  4. Heather, my RCIA class at church and our priest has been teaching about practising forgiveness for a few weeks now. During Mass we pray the Lord's Prayer (or the Our Father for us Catholics) and when we ask God to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, we need to mean it. I am guilty of going through the prayer daily and not considering the gravity of the words. We are not in communion with God if we don't forgive others. It doesn't take the hurt away but it gives you the peace in your heart. Saying please forgive me to someone is hard to do but it is what God expects of us if we want His forgiveness as well. Love your blog, by the way and I love you!!