It should not have been a surprise to me how the reading last week nudged deep places in this tired, battle weary heart. We all go through these seasons of life where our hearts are under attack, and as the attack continues our hearts stiffen. We go into what the hubs calls “survival mode”. You stop thinking about the future. You stop making plans. You have one goal and one goal only, and that is to make it through today.
The thing about this stiffening of the heart, is that it happens so gradually, we don’t truly realize the effects of it.
Last week I read about how Naomi returns to Bethlehem, saying ” ‘Don’t call me Naomi,’ she told them. ‘Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.’ ” (Ruth 1:20). Naomi was going through a season of life that would create a battle weary heart. Her husband had died. Now both of her sons had died. Just the day to day implications of what that meant for her. Her heart, her emotions, her thoughts, her duties, her workload, her food source.
In the hard seasons of life we can take on this attitude. Someone greets us and our response is “Don’t call me RaZella, call me Bitter, because God has made my life so hard right now it just sucks.”
I don’t want to be a woman who carries that attitude. Even when I can completely and utterly justify it. Even when it’s true that I’m going through something that is incredibly hard, and hurtful, and painful. I want to be a woman who says “Yes, I’m Razella, and God is bringing me through something that is so hard right now I’m in a place of struggle.”
I don’t believe we will protect ourselves from bitterness with unrealistic living. For Naomi to walk into Bethlehem singing praises to God, dancing and laughing, to me is unrealistic. She was hurting. Sometimes we hurt. I do believe we can help protect ourselves from bitterness by being honest. Rooted in the truth. The truth is that there are periods and times in life that are hard. You don’t see them coming.
There is also this truth that God is sovereign.
He may not intervene right away.
The cure may not come.
The bill may not get paid.
The other person may not return.
Which is why I’m also beginning to believe that Faith goes beyond this knowing God is sovereign. It goes into believing God is sovereign. And believing that if I turn to face Him, even with my pain, my hurt, my feelings of injustice, He will bring me through it. It’s that assignment of refinement from last week. Now we are in it. Now we determine to persevere through it.
And part of that perseverance for me is letting go of the bitterness.
Of course the next question we ask ourselves is how.
Not through our own power, through His power.
I used to think forgiveness was something as simple as saying “I forgive you” and then moving on. It’s not. It’s a process of submission and humility. It’s a process that directly opposes pride and self-justification.
We stand before a righteous, holy, all powerful God and our only hope is in the forgiveness that is freely given to us as we turn to Him in repentance. He did all the work. He provided the way. He humbled Himself for the sake of His great name. I’m not forgiven because of what I do, I’m forgiven because of what Jesus has done on the cross.
Which means that for me to truly forgive those in my own life, it’s a process that begins with my willingness to submit. I submit to Jesus and am washed in His grace, God’s forgiveness. So too I must submit to Jesus in order to be washed in His healing to forgive others.
Don’t misunderstand my words please. This process of healing from bitterness through the restorative power of forgiveness is not easy. It’s not simple. It’s difficult. It’s about seeking God first. Sometimes the Holy Spirit can walk us through this. Sometimes we need help through other believers. Or maybe even we need help through professional counselors because the hurts of our heart are so deep we are overwhelmed with how to begin the process of healing. The key is there is HOPE of letting go of the bitterness.
The good thing about tasting the bitter pill in your heart,
is now you know it’s there.
And with the help of our Savior,
you don’t have to swallow it anymore.
Despite my feelings, press on.
To completion. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Don’t stay in bitterness.
Seek forgiveness. Give forgiveness.