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It’s easier to be bitter
Than to feel the pain of grief
It’s easier to be angry
Than look for true relief
It’s easier to blame someone
For all the sufferings
It’s easier to sit alone
When imperfect grace stings
But if my Lord I’d follow
I’ll not seek ease, escape
I’ll face myself and give to Him
My pain, even for rape
And when my bitter heart is healed
And sweet love reigns supreme
I’ll never feel rejected again
My words will be pure cream
For I will say as He did
Forgive them, they know not
And with those words will flee away
My dirty bitter spot
I pray my Lord this day, please wash
My heart and sweeten it
That praises free of bitterness
Rise by Thy Holy Spirit.
You are hurting. Jesus feels that pain. He, too, was cruelly treated by people who should have known better. In fact, they hypocritically claimed to be righteous, God-fearing leaders of society. Betrayed, his every right violated, his kindness and gentleness savagely abused, Christ was stripped of his clothes and every shred of dignity, publicly humiliated, and sadistically tortured to death. He, the totally innocent One, went to extremes to identify with your agony, opening the way for the supernatural comfort of God to touch you. At any moment Jesus could have called down vengeance from God upon his tormentors and stopped his agony. Amazingly, he restrained himself. He even prayed, ‘Father, forgive them.’
Although you have not suffered to the point of death like Jesus, perhaps in your agony you think that would be almost preferable to your daily torment. You would rather it were you who had been touched than your loved one. God, too, knows that pain. No one loves humanity like its Maker. No one is as aware of injustice as the Judge of all the world. Yet still he reaches out in love to those who crush him by hurting his loved ones.
Your loving Lord is calling you to rise to the challenge of Christlikeness. It’s a high calling; a path strewn with glory. The wonderful thing is that the Almighty not only asks you to do the impossible, he empowers you to achieve it. If you are truly born again, you already live in the realm of the impossible. It was impossible for you to be made fit for heaven. But it’s happened.
While you are hurting so deeply, to be asked to follow your Savior by forgiving, is a bitter pill. Yet it’s a pill prescribed by your loving Healer. It brings not just spiritual honor, but the healing of your hurt.
The following will help you deal with your difficult and painful trial. Reading someone else’s prayer might be unusual, but I expect you will find it therapeutic. We will call the person who has caused the heartache ‘Jim.’
Thank you, dearest Lord, that your love for me is so immense that my slightest twinge of pain touches you. It’s comforting that although Jim has hurt me more than I feel I can bear, I don’t carry that pain alone. You feel my agony. You feel it because you love me. You feel it because you know me. And you feel it because you live inside me 24 hours a day.
Thank you that now that I at last bring to you not just my pain but this whole mess, to be dealt with your way, you will bring comfort and healing. I’m sorry for dishonoring you, and intensifying my own pain, by not doing this earlier. If a doctor prescribed treatment to minimize pain, I’d follow his instructions to the letter, and yet the instructions of the Great Healer – that I should forgive – I have ignored. I had told myself that I was not saintly enough, and in just too much pain to forgive. I had almost convinced myself I was being humble, but I now see that thinking forgiveness is too hard for me is the equivalent of saying you don’t know what you are talking about. I’m sorry, Lord. I’ve really been messing things up lately. If you say I should forgive, then I am able to forgive. Without you it might be impossible, but I am not without you.
I also thank you that the pain I feel gives me the slightest insight into the pain I caused you, and what it cost you to forgive me. You are totally innocent and undeserving of the way I have abused your kindness over and over in my pre-Christian days and even since.
But let me be blunt. You aren’t being fair. You wouldn’t forgive me if I had Jim’s attitude, so why should I forgive him? He hasn’t asked my forgiveness. He hasn’t shown the slightest regret. He won’t even admit he’s done anything wrong. You wouldn’t forgive me if I acted like that. How can you expect me to be more forgiving than you? Admittedly you didn’t strike me dead when I sinned the first time . . . or the second . . . or the hundredth . . . or the ten thousandth time. And you didn’t stop loving me. And you didn’t wait until I repented before you died for me. And you haven’t asked me to be crucified for him. Wow! To die in agony out of love for him while he’s spitting on me . . . I guess I’m getting out of this rather lightly. And my forgiveness doesn’t change the fact that it’s still up to Jim to repent or he’ll suffer eternally for his actions.
Jim does not deserve forgiveness. He should go to hell for what he did. The sobering fact, however, is that I, too, deserve hell for my sins. It’s not fair that Jim should go unpunished, and neither is it fair that you should have suffered so that my sins could go unpunished. How dare I demand justice! If you were to execute justice in my life I’d be instantly banished to hell. I was your enemy. You should have struck me dead to spare your pain and to rid this world of a sinner. Instead, you loved me and suffered horrifically on the cross to remove my every trace of filth and shame. Instead of striking me dead, you permitted me to repeatedly hurt you, allowing me time to come to my senses, just as you let Jim do what he did, allowing him time to repent. I deserved to be treated like dirt, and instead you have made me like royalty. Ignoring the shame, closing your mind to the hurt, you have welcomed me into your very family.
I love you for going beyond what is fair.
I keep seeing myself as so much better than Jim. His sin seems so very much worse than anything I’ve ever done, but I must remember that I was on the receiving end of Jim’s sin, and I’ve never been on the receiving end of my own sin like you have. In Jesus’ parable, the debt representing my offense against you – how much my sin cost you, and how much I owe you – is a colossal sum, more than half a million times bigger than the sizable but much more manageable debt representing my enemy’s offense against me. It sure doesn’t feel that way. I must be so hardened and blinded by my sin and so self-centered that I cannot grasp how bad I have been and how much I have hurt you. It’s painful to face the truth about myself, but I want to stop running from reality. It’s scary to ask for it, but I must force myself to ask you to open my eyes to my own sinfulness, lest my sickening hypocrisy continue.
It is hypocritical to call you ‘Lord’ and disobey your commands. You’ve repeatedly said in your Word that I should forgive. I’ve rebelled against your command and then had the hide to imagine I’m so much better than Jim, who has also disobeyed you. The same God who said do not kill, steal, rape also said do not harbor unforgiveness in your heart.
I have become self-righteous, which is frightening, since to your pure eyes my ‘righteousness’ is as repulsive and useless as used toilet paper. I should sooner proudly display my own bodily filth than feel smug about any moral ‘accomplishment’ that I could rightfully call my own. Tormented by mind-numbing shame, I must trash self-righteousness and cling to Christ’s righteousness with the urgency of someone drowning in his own filth.
I realize what a dangerous situation I have been in when I recall how tender Jesus was to anyone feeling the weight of their sins and yet how strongly he condemned hypocrisy. I remember the Pharisee who thanked you that he wasn’t like the sinner next to him, and yet the sinner he despised went home forgiven, while the Pharisee left, blissfully blind to his tragic spiritual condition (Luke 18:10-14). Over and over you say in your Word that you exalt the humble but oppose the proud. I desperately need your forgiveness for my hypocrisy in considering myself morally superior to someone who has committed such gross sin as Jim.
The original sin was an attempt to ‘be as God’ (Genesis 3:5). I’m guilty of virtually the same thing; arrogantly trying to set myself up as Holy Judge in my condemnation of Jim. I’m so sorry for the way I have hurt and dishonored you; calling myself a Christian and yet acting so unlike the forgiving Christ. He wrestled in agony, saying, ‘Not my will, but yours.’ I wrestled, saying not your will, but mine. Here I am, squirming and complaining about being asked to forgive Jim, when your forgiveness of me cost Christ not just an emotional struggle, but being literally tortured to death.
I repent of hoping that I could make you – the perfect Judge – guilty of double standards. Of course, I’m not guilty of the exact sin Jim committed, but to hope you would punish those acting like Jim and let those committing my sins go unpunished is a disgusting attitude that should send me reeling in shame. I might as well ask you to only punish those who have different color eyes to me. I had maliciously defined sin worthy of your wrath in a way that condemned those I hate, but let me off the hook. And then I tried to make you partner in my bigotry.
In the Lord’s prayer I prayed that you forgive me ‘as’ (to the extent, or in the same manner as) I forgive others. I can’t take that back, now that I find it doesn’t suit me. As you remind us so often in your Word, you are ‘no respecter of persons.’ You don’t show favoritism. I loved you for that when it suited me. I should now honor you for it when it’s not so convenient. As usual, you are right!
But I don’t want Jim to ever repeat his offense. It would be awful if he did to someone else what he did to me. So make him regret what he has done, and make me regret my every sin. But please be as gentle and as patient as possible in bringing us to genuine repentance. May both Jim and myself comprehend the magnitude of our sin so that we both might fully repent of every sin we have committed, and receive not just your forgiveness but the power to never act that way again. As regards the legal system getting involved and Jim being jailed, please allow only what is essential to protect other people and to bring Jim to his senses so that he might call out to you and be saved.
Your love overwhelms me. It’s exhilarating to realize that despite hurting you so much that I cannot even grasp the magnitude of what I have done, your love for me is also so vast that it defies my comprehension. And now you have honored me further by allowing me to act like God and forgive. I ask for the grace to rise to this high calling. You have trusted me to act like you. May I not let you down.
You have said, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you’ (Luke 6:27-28). Everyday I’m on the wonderful receiving end of that beautiful attitude as you pour your love over me. Now it’s my turn. In the precious and powerful name of Jesus, I bless Jim.
Everything within me seems to rebel against pronouncing that blessing, but I know it is an illusion. It cannot be everything within me that rebels because you, the forgiving God, are within me. I’m tempted to feel a hypocrite because I find it so hard to spit out words of blessing, but in reality I know that by attempting to bless Jim I’m acting less like a hypocrite than I have done for weeks. At least I’m no longer pretending to be a follower of Christ while at the same time refusing to even attempt to forgive. So I again say, bless Jim, and especially bless him with salvation that he may enjoy eternity in heaven.
You said the measure by which I give, is the measure by which I will receive (Matthew 7:2). I want to receive your blessing abundantly and ungrudgingly, so I ask your enabling to pronounce this blessing as fully and as ungrudgingly as I can.
When I put together much of the Bible’s teaching (judge not lest you be judged, give and it shall be given unto you, love your enemies, etc.) it seems your justice is such that you will treat me like I treat others. I was your enemy, so it is right for you to treat me with the kindness and generosity or the severity with which I treat my enemy. I want you to ‘forget’ the way I have hurt you, not, of course, in the sense that you lose your mental powers, but in the sense that you never again hold it against me. So that’s the way I should ‘forget’ Jim’s sin against me. It would be wonderful to have it wiped from my memory. My guess, however, is that you want me to grow more like you by handling this memory in a Christlike manner and ‘forget’ it in the sense of not holding Jim’s past actions against him.
Until he changes, I feel I should avoid putting myself in a situation where he might again harm me, unless in your loving wisdom you specifically ask me to act differently. I think I sometimes manage to hide my real motives from even myself, but you see right through me. I guess my greatest motivation is to protect myself from getting hurt. Beyond this, however, I am my brother’s keeper and I must act in love towards Jim. I don’t want him to fall into sin because of me. By making it easy for Jim to hurt me, I would be making myself available to be used as a tool of Satan to tempt Jim. For me to knowingly do this would be sinfully irresponsible. I pray, however, that Jim changes and that when he changes you give me the faith to trust him. In the meantime, I ask your help that I act as cautiously as I should, without holding any ill-feeling towards him.
I’ll try not to get hung-up about my feelings because I know the Evil One can toy with them. No matter how I feel, I ask you to treat Jim as kindly as I want you to treat me, and I refuse to give in to spiritual pride and regard myself as being better than Jim. The satanic illusion that I am morally superior is very convincing, but I take it by faith that I deserve eternity in hell. Before you saved me I was dead in my sin. No one can get deader than dead. So no one’s spiritual condition could be any worse than mine was.
I’ve stopped trying to handle this situation my way. Your loving wisdom and power and justice are far superior to anything I could dream up. I now hand this whole situation to you to deal with as you see fit. So I thank you that the healing process has begun. I can stop fretting and start celebrating. I have a spiritual enemy who will try to make things seem as if they haven’t changed, but I know things are now different because you are a prayer-answering God. I know that people on the road to physical recovery may at some stages of their healing feel worse rather than better. So I’ll do my best not to let the way I feel affect my certainty that you are healing me. I will endeavor to keep thanking you for my healing, no matter how I happen to feel at that moment, just like at times I’ve had to trust you for my salvation when I have not felt saved. You are trustworthy!
Those who forgive much are granted a unique opportunity to display Christlikeness. It is my conviction that just as martyrs are especially honored in heaven so are those who have suffered great injustice and yet have forgiven. Even if their suffering happened before they knew Christ, if their forgiveness is because of Christ, their reward is waiting for them.
Resentment is a terrifying affliction. The scariest thing about this ‘heart disease’ is that it turns a normal person into a spiritual monster. People holding a grudge are so blinded by pain and pride that they feel morally superior to others (the person they resent, if no one else). They become so infatuated with someone else’s moral failure that they lose sight of their own spiritual condition. They are tragically unaware that they have set themselves up as judge (as God, in fact) and become hypocrites. They are like people driving down a road, so intent on telling off another driver for bad driving that they take their eyes off the road and crash into another car. No one is in a more dangerous spiritual situation. They have cut themselves off from God’s forgiveness. In his mercy, God will forgive anyone who seeks forgiveness, but the tragedy is that hypocrites will never seek it. They have fooled themselves into imagining they don’t need forgiveness for their hypocritical attitude. Anyone – a serial killer, child molester, you name it – who realizes his need of forgiveness, is better off.
You can begin the healing process in your own life by opening yourself up to the divine Healer and inviting the God of all comfort into your painful situation. It could be a deeply healing experience for you to read this webpage to God as a heart-felt prayer, replacing the name of Jim with the name of the person who has hurt you, and modifying the gender, and anything else, as you feel necessary. If you can’t pray a certain part with honesty or sincerity, tell God about it and get as close to it as you can. For instance, you might pray ‘help me to be able to say so and so with sincerity,’ or ‘I don’t presently feel so and so but by an act of my will I declare so and so.’
Your loving Lord longs to wrap his arms around you and hold you close. Don’t fear the pain of forgiving the person who has hurt you. It is nothing compared to the joy of knowing God’s blessing and opening yourself up to God’s healing of your hurts.
Forgiving others is a tough one, partly because it is so critical to our own emotional and spiritual well-being that our spiritual enemy strongly attacks us on this issue. I find that people who have huge difficulty forgiving others, often have difficulty forgiving themselves. The two things tend to go hand in hand. When we realize how much God has forgiven us, it is easier for us to act more Godlike and have that same forgiving attitude towards ourselves and others. For this reason, I recommend my pages about handling guilt. There’s a link at the end of this webpage.
The decision to forgive is like deciding to break a bad habit. It’s a highly significant moment, but it’s only the beginning of the end. Like other bad habits, the craving for resentment will return and each time you will again need to hand it over to the Lord and deny yourself the self-destructive pleasure of wallowing in the mud of resentment. Since the desire to harbor ill-feeling is a temptation, my webseries about overcoming temptation should encourage you. (You’ll find a link at the end of this webpage.) Each time the ugly temptation returns and you resist it, you have experienced a significant victory, which powers your spiritual growth. Growing spiritually is usually painful, but the rewards last forever.
Try repeatedly telling yourself, ‘I will not think of blue giraffes.’ Of course, the more you try, the more your mind will be filled with thoughts and images of blue giraffes. To constantly focus on forgiving is a little like that. It is likely to inflame your emotions, rather than calm them. After doing your best to forgive, instead of continuing to focus on forgiving that person, focus on loving the person. And one of the best ways to express love is to pray for the person. This brings the almighty God of love into the situation. Once he is involved, the possibilities are mind-boggling.
My friend Louise Plaskett shares some intriguing thoughts:
Final thought: There is another, very different side to this matter. Although warped by our own selfishness and hypocrisy, our yearning to see the execution of justice originated in the heart of God. The Lord is furious at the way you have been treated. He will avenge what you have suffered. For a moving insight into this aspect of God’s heart, see Sweet revenge! The Execution of Justice.