Secrets of the Lord's Prayer: How to Release Bitterness and Vengeance We Have against Others
"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (Matt. 6:12)
We are in the middle of understanding the process of forgiveness, a critical piece to master in order to have a deep, intimate relationship with God the Father. We have learned so far that there is more to the process of forgiveness than just saying "Forgive me," or "I'm sorry," and that it begins with confession of our own sins and trespasses. For past articles in this series, simply click HERE.
In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus knew that a lack of forgiveness would not allow the disciples to go deeper in relationship with God without addressing this issue, whether it is for our own sins or sins others have done against us. (Matt 6:9-15) The same is true for us today. Step two is this:
2. Forgive other people for their selfishness, wounds, and sin against you.
In prayer, Jesus is inviting us to dialogue with God about our wounds, guilt, and pain. Are there people in your life that you have not released for God to deal with? If so, they still are a bitter pill in your soul. This dialogue with God will involve letting Him search the arenas of your life to see if there are people that you have not forgiven for their sins and slights. Talk with God about the arenas of your life (God, Marriage, Family, Self, Work, Friends, Church, Society, Finances) and let Him deal with the people who have become enemies and attackers. This may require many discussions and interactions with God.
Let me give you a few exercises that I recommend people work through in this area of releasing bitterness and vengeance. As you pray through the various aspects of your life, if God brings a particular person or organization to mind as someone who has deeply hurt you and you have not released them to God for the appropriate justice, then follow these steps in prayer:
Make an assessment of the nature of the offense against you. (Matt 23:34; Acts 16:35-40; Matt 18:15-18; Col 3:13; Acts 6:1-3)
Was it a personal offense, a relational offense, an organizational offense, a civil offense, or a criminal offense? It can be very helpful to take the time to classify the offense, because we can inflate an offense against us as a criminal offense, but it really was just someone being rude. The response to a criminal offense (something which damages or destroys others) is significantly different than a relational offense (something that damages our relationship). This is where we might have a discussion with God about the nature of the offense and how to move past it and what or who you might alert if it is serious enough so as to protect others.
Hire God as your hit man. (Rom 12:17-19)
God tells us that we were not meant to carry the responsibility for vengeance against those who have deeply hurt or wounded us. We need to hand the job of vengeance and punishment to God and His representatives. I have helped many people have dialogues with God about the people who have wounded them, handing them over to God's all-knowing and all-powerful abilities. If we continue to try and carry out our schemes, then God will not handle it. But if we get out of the way and get on with our lives, then He will take what ever actions are necessary. We can trust Him, and we need to move on from these issues defining us.
Educate your offender. (Luke 17:3)
Another discussion that we may need to have with God is about educating our offender as a part of our healing. God says that if someone sins against us, then we are to rebuke them (educate them). There is often an appropriate time in our healing when we can and should let the people know who hurt us what they did to us. Do not educate your offender if doing so would put you in greater danger of being hurt. But there is often a place in your discussions with God where He wants you to let the people who hurt you know that they did not win in what they were trying to do. He did this in Joseph's life in Genesis 50:20. He had Joseph wait until after their father, Jacob, was dead and then tell them that he, Joseph, knew that they sold him into slavery. It was evil but God redeemed it for good so that all of their families could be saved. This education process of Joseph's brothers was years in the making and surely required many discussions with God to bring about.
Look for good to come from it. (Rom 8:28)
One of the things that God promises us is that He is powerful enough and wise enough to turn any evil that may happen to us into something good in our life. This is not something that we can usually see right away when the evil and destruction is still new and devastating. This idea that God can bring good out of this tragedy takes lots of talks with God and lots of looking for how God might redeem this incident. Let me just say that many times people from the outside are too quick to want us to look for and see the good that could come from a wound. We must give people time to work through the reality of what happened. Then they can begin to see how God might want them to partner with Him to bring good out of this awful thing.I have often had people write out lists of potential good before they could really begin to see what God might do with it. Ask God to show you the opportunities, pathways, insights, ideas, and relationships that could lead to this wound becoming a good thing. Remember, that God's good things often do not appear in our lives as completed projects. They come as small problems, little ideas, or new opportunities that need work, learning, effort, and resources to develop. It is these that we could easily overlook that are the way out of the depression, damage, and destruction of the past. Be in dialogue with God about the fact that you know that these are coming -- "Oh God, show me what these are and how I can embrace them to move past this pain."
Take your time working through each of these as you feel led. Bitterness and vengeance can eat you alive if you don't deal with it. It's important for moving forward in your life. I hope you will pray a prayer to God that asks him to open up this idea of forgiveness to you in ways you haven't contemplated before. Connect with me on this! I would love to hear about some of your new revelations and how God has impacted your life in this area. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, your greatest life is just ahead.
In His service,
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