8 Habits of a Forgiving Heart

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How do we heal from those wounds for which no restitution can be made? How do we extend true forgiveness when we don’t feel like forgiving? How do we ease that burning in our hearts for justice?

Forgiveness is one of the most challenging commands given to the Christian. Sometimes complete forgiveness takes more than a day, a week, a month, or even a decade. What we feel on the inside must not dictate our actions on the outside. We must make a conscious effort to obey God externally while fighting the battle internally.

In the previous post, we discussed Peter’s flawed question of how many times we ought to forgive. Today, I hope to encourage you to develop a mindset of forgiveness, particularly for those hurts which run deep.

Forgiveness is not merely an action, it is an attitude we must develop and nurture until we return to dust. Continue reading

The Ultimate Secret to Conquering the Haters.

This is Part 3 of the 3-part series on dealing with the haters. For part 2 click here.
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God never gives us an impossible task.

For the past couple weeks I’ve been posting on the topic of Trust. Through the experiences of both Gideon and Moses, we see an enduring truth about God: Whenever God tasks someone with something, it always comes hand-in-hand with the words, “I will be with you.”

Remember Gideon? The first words from the angel of the Lord were: The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”

Remember Moses? “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

I have to admit that on my walk the other day when I was visualizing all the verbal punches I could deal out to my enemies, my heart wanted to rebel against the idea of blessing my enemies. Pray blessings? (Choking, gagging sounds) It took several minutes before I was able to say the words, “Bless ______ and _______ and ________ (those who have hurt me).”

I am still working on it. I keep asking God to help me rip out those weeds of bitterness that are in my heart and grant me the power to forgive. I don’t want to be bitter when I am old. I don’t want anger, resentment, and hurt to deplete the soil of my heart.

You may be feeling fresh hurt even as you read this. Someone may have abused you physically or emotionally or both. Women who have been raped, spouses who have been cheated on, friends who have been betrayed, daughters or sons-in-law who have endured years of berating from their spouse’s parents—all of us are wounded critically at some point in life by the people who are supposed to love us. We live in a world where evil runs rampant. Pain is an inevitable result of evil and pushes people towards God or away from Him.

But there is a secret to overcoming your enemies. We pray blessings on our enemies, we ask God to give us the strength and courage to forgive, we rip out the roots of bitterness within us… but without this one thing, this great secret, we will be unable to achieve either of these. And the secret is….(Drumroll please).

Love. 

I can hear your groans of disappointment across the pixels. Bear with me while I elaborate. The love of which I speak is not human in origin. It’s a love produced within us by God and demonstrated to us by His Son, Jesus Christ. It is a godly love, different from any other type of love on this earth. It is not an emotion, it is an intention; not a feeling, but a willingness to love others the way Christ has loved us.

To illustrate my point, I want you to think of your enemy. I want you to use the questions below, put their name in the blank and ask yourself each question honestly and objectively. This is your strategy: to work on loving your enemy, not in an abstractly, but in an actively. They say actions speak louder than words. Let’s put it into practice!

My Strategy for _________ (insert name):

Love is patient (or suffers long). Am I showing patience toward ____________? How long have I suffered their indignities?

Love is kind. In what way can I (or have I) shown kindness to __________?

Love does not envy or boast. Is __________ doing better than I am in this life? Or am I doing way better? I must endeavor not to envy _________ or what they have. I need not try make myself look better than ________, or gloat over them when calamity overtakes them. I need to bring those thoughts into captivity.

Love does not behave rudely. How do I respond to _________ when they hurt me? Do I lash out, give them the cold shoulder or the stink eye? Or do I hold my peace?

Love does not seek its own. Would I be willing to let _________ have a better seat at a major league game? Would I allow _________ to be first in line? Would I give up something important to me—my already limited time, money etc—to help _______? Would I bring _______ flowers if their husband or wife died of cancer?

Love does not take into account a wrong suffered. What has _______ done to me? How many times has __________ hurt me? Do I hold on to these incidents to throw them back in their face as my line of defense? (If you are dealing with a poisonous long-time adversary, this is difficult. I’m not advising you to keep putting yourself blindly in harm’s way, but you have to stop dredging up the past in order to treat them with love.)

Love bears all things. Every insult, every wound, every betrayal. Do I bear with all of ______ oddities, jabs, and irritating behaviors or do I lash back?

Love believes all things. Do I believe that __________ can become a better person if they learn to obey the Lord?

Love hopes all things. Do I hope __________ will turn their heart around and start treating me—and others—as God would want? What have I done/what am I doing to help ________soften towards God?

Love endures all things.

Love. Never. Fails.

God is love, therefore, God never fails.

Your enemy may never change. They might even act worse as you return evil with love. But there is also the chance that as you treat them with love, they will come to see Christ living in you. If we truly desire people to turn their hearts the Lord, it is imperative they see Jesus through us. Otherwise, we are no different than the people around us.

We are in a war. A war against a cunning adversary. Satan will try and lure us into his sphere. If he can prevent us from learning how to love like Jesus, he wins.

One obedient person plus God equals victory.

You can forgive. If it seems impossible, remember that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. If we want to be like Jesus, we have to learn to forgive the haters no matter how often nor how much they have wounded us.

Consider these two passages from the Bible as a final thought:

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter‬ ‭2‬:‭21-24‬ ESV, emphasis mine

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you…

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

~Luke‬ ‭6‬:‭27-28, 32-33, 35-36‬ ESV

This week, pray for your enemies once each day. Write these verses on cards and pin them where you can see them, to remind you of what your mindset needs to be toward the haters in your life.

Pray for the Lord to remember His promise to be with you as you carry out his command to love your enemies.

Do not be overcome by evil. Overcome evil with good and with God.

What are you growing in your garden?

This is part two of a 3-part series. To view the previous post, click here.

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I am an amateur gardener. Growing vegetables is not my strong point. I live in a harsh climate with extreme heat, low humidity and high winds. It’s hard to grow vegetables, though herbs and weeds seem to thrive.

I have learned a few things about gardening:

  1. Soil is important. It needs good fertilizer or else the plants will be less robust and the vegetables or fruit will contain fewer minerals.
  2. A good layer of mulch suppresses weeds & retains moisture. A good gardener keeps a good mulch layer and regularly replenishes the soil.
  3. Keep out weeds. Weeds choke out the good plants and deplete the soil of necessary nutrients.

So, you may be asking what this has to do with the price of eggs, or, more importantly, having good relationships with God and man. Yesterday, we talked about haters, or more particularly people who are supposed to be allies but are actually enemies. As a quick recap, Jesus and Paul told us that we are to bless those who curse us. It’s so much easier said than done!

There is another aspect of dealing with haters that we need to address: bitterness.

I want you to think of your mind and heart as a garden. Our character traits are sown in the soil of our heart. They grow over time as we nurture them and feed the soil with the replenishing, nourishing word of God. We lay down a thick layer of faith to suppress weeds and retain what God supplies us each day.

Unfortunately, like any garden, the good productive plants can get choked by weeds if they are neglected.

Bitterness is a weed whose seed is sown by cruelty, fertilized by anger and nurtured by resentment.

Bitterness takes over a heart like an invasive weed. When we are young, we can conceal that weed really well, but as we grow older and our strength fades, that bitter weed will—after years and years of free reign—choke out whatever good characteristics had previously been growing there.

The deadly danger of bitterness is that it is often concealed. People harbor bitterness for years and even their closest friends may be none the wiser.

The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.

~Proverbs‬ ‭14‬:‭10‬ ESV

But be warned: that concealed bitterness will sap all the nutrients in your soil. It will cause your good traits to become infected with disease. If bitterness is allowed to take root, it will destroy all the fruits of the spirit you are trying to grow in the garden of your heart.

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Have you ever known an old person who is bitter and their every word is poison? They allowed too many people to sow seeds of bitterness in their hearts. Their bitterness didn’t come upon them suddenly. It is the culmination of a lifetime of pain and injury. They allowed it to take root and encouraged it to grow using full-proof anger-gro fertilizer and a thick layer of resenta-mulch.

Forgiveness is like pulling weeds. When we forgive, we uproot and toss away bitterness, allowing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control to flourish in the soil of our hearts.

Do not permit others to plant bitterness within you. If they throw those seeds in your garden, tear them out immediately!! Lay down a thick layer of mulch so they cannot grow.

Forgive. 

Do not give power to the haters.

Tear out those weeds of bitterness before they take root in your heart.

I implore you to remember that the Lord, He is God. If you truly believe in God’s great power, then believe that He is strong enough to tear out the bitterness from your heart. Weeding out the bitterness is a team effort though. God won’t barge in and start tearing it out, He wants to be invited first. He will help us if we simply ask.

Don’t count on your own strength to forgive your enemies. Ask the Lord to help you. Through obedience to God we can accomplish the impossible.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled… 

~ ‭Hebrews‬ ‭12‬:‭15‬ ESV

Press on to know the Lord. Press on to be like Christ.

Lord willing, tomorrow we will examine the greatest weapon we can use to conquer the haters.