Have you ever held a grudge? You know, held it in your arms and nurtured it, fed it, watched it grow over the years? People might suggest along the way that you let it go - but no, you kept it like an overgrown pet. And then one day you realized that it had taken over your life. Every choice you make, every thing you do and say - it's all about the Grudge!
How do you forgive when you've been hurt? I don't mean how do you say the words - I mean how do you FORGIVE someone from the heart. How do you move on without the hurtful words or deeds replaying in your mind on a daily basis, generating tension and frustration all over again?
One of the most vital lessons that I have learned about forgiveness is that it is similar to sanctification in that it is both a 'one time' event and an 'ongoing process.'
What I mean is this - when we are saved, we are sanctified by the work that Christ did on the cross. Although we are declared holy, because God sees not our sin, but Christ's sacrifice, we are not perfect; we continue in a process of sanctification throughout our lives as Christians.
Similarly, when we forgive someone, we have the initial moment when we say that we have forgiven - and then we have an ongoing process of demonstrating that forgiveness on a daily basis. Whenever circumstances or the enemy tries to bring the offense before us again, to stir in us resentment and frustration, "we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5) Given that Christ gave His life to forgive us - we can be confident that making our thoughts obedient to Christ means forgiving others. Each time the hurt comes to mind and we are tempted to dwell on it, to recall the pain, to remember the hurt, to think about how unjustly we were treated - we must make a conscious choice to forgive again.
If we don't, over time, the hurt grows into bitterness. Bitterness marries trials in our life and brings forth a Grudge. It starts as such a small thing - but it feeds on every disappointment and grows with amazing speed!
Don't let your little pet Grudge grow into a monster that rules, and eventually destroys, your life. Starve it to death. Deny it the anger and frustration on which it thrives. Feed it forgiveness and love every day and it will waste away to nothing - and in its void will be peace.
Lord, there are so many people in my life right now who are dealing with hurt. Although the offenses against them differ, each is in pain. Some of the wounds are fresh and raw while others have never properly healed and continue to cause them suffering years later. Help them sense your Holy Spirit giving them the strength to let go of the pain and to forgive today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And every day until one day they realize that, though a scar may remain, the wound has healed.