Don’t Let Bitterness Take Root (Part III)
Forgive to Be Free
I recently watched a television program about Rudy Tomjanovich, the former coach of Houston Rockets basketball team. The program recounted an event in 1973, when as a robust twenty-five-year-old; Rudy was playing for the Rockets. In the middle of the close game, a fight broke out at center court. Rudy rushed over there, running at full speed, to try to break it up. Just as he got there, a player whipped around and without even looking, swung as hard as he could. Unfortunately, the punch landed right in Rudy’s face. It was called the punch heard around the world. It fractured Rudy’s skull, broke his nose and cheekbones, and nearly killed him. Although Rudy was sidelined for months following the devastating blow, he eventually recovered.
One day after Rudy had recuperated; a reporter asked him, “Rudy, have you ever forgiven the player that did that to you?” Without hesitation, Rudy said immediately, “Absolutely. I’ve totally forgiven him.”
The reporter shook his head as though he was perplexed. “Come on, Rudy, that guy nearly killed you. He caused you all that pain. He stole part of your career. Do you mean to tell me that you don’t have any anger, any hatred or bitterness toward him?”
Rudy smiled. “I don’t have any at all.”
That reporter stared at him in disbelief. He finally asked, “Rudy, tell me, how’d you do it? How could you possibly forgive that man who hurt you so badly?”
Rudy replied, “I knew if I wanted to move on with my life, I had to let it go. I didn’t do it for him. I did it for me. I did it so I could be free.”
That’s good advice. You need to forgive so you can be free. Forgive so you can be happy. Forgive so you can get out of that bondage. We have to remember, when we forgive we’re not doing it just for the other person, we’re doing it for our own good. When we hold on to unforgiveness and we live with grudges in our hearts, all we’re doing is building walls of separation. We think we’re protecting ourselves, but we’re not. We are simply shutting other people out of our lives. We become isolated, alone, warped and imprisoned by our own bitterness. Those walls aren’t merely keeping people out; those walls are keeping you penned in.
Do you realize that those walls will also prevent God’s blessings from pouring into your life? Those walls can stop up the flow of God’s favor. The walls of unforgiveness will keep your prayers from being answered. They’ll keep your dreams from coming to pass. You must tear down the walls. You must forgive the people who hurt you so you can get out of prison. You’ll never be free until you do. Let go of those wrongs they’ve done to you. Get that bitterness out of your life. That’s the only way you’re going to truly be free. You will be amazed at what can happen in your life when you release all that poison.
When I was growing up, we had a former chairman in our church. His hands were so crippled with arthritis, he could hardly use them. They looked as though they had shriveled up and were deformed. He couldn’t open a car door. He couldn’t shake hands or anything like that. For as long as I’d known him, his hands had been that way. But one day, he went to my dad and showed him his hands, they were perfectly normal! He could move them like any of us, almost though he had received a new set of hands.
My dad was surprised, but so happy for him. He said,“Man, what in the world happened to you?”
“Well, it’s an interesting story,” the former chairman said. “Several months ago, you were talking about forgiveness. You were speaking on how it keeps God’s power from operating in our lives, and how it keeps our prayers from being answered. As I listened, I began to ask God to show me if I had any areas of unforgiveness and resentment in my life. And God began to deal with me. He brought to light several situations that had happened to me down through the years in which people had done me great wrong. I didn’t even know it, but I still had anger and resentment in my heart toward those people. That’s the odd part. I didn’t realize I was carrying it around. But as soon as I saw it, I made a decision to forgive them and totally let it go. And the most amazing thing began to happen. One by one, my fingers started straightening out. One week went by and this finger would get healed. The next week this finger got healed. The next week this finger. As I continued to search my heart and eliminate all that bitterness and resentment, God brought complete healing back to me, and now look at my hands. I’m perfectly normal!”
You, too, will be amazed at the great things that will start happening in your life when you rid yourself of bitterness and resentment. Who knows? Perhaps, like that old chairman, you may experience genuine physical and emotional healing as you search your heart and are willing to forgive. You may see God’s favor in a fresh, new way. You may see your prayers answered more quickly as you let go of the past and get rid of all that poison you now harbor.
When my mother discovered that she was sick with cancer in 1998, one of the first things she did was to make sure she didn’t have any unforgiveness in her heart. She sat down and wrote letters to her friends and family, asking us to forgive her if she had ever done any wrong toward us. She wants to make sure that her heart was pure. She wanted to make sure that nothing she was doing or had done would interfere with God’s healing power flowing into her.
You may be at the crossroads in your life. You may have issues to deal with, people you need to forgive. You can go one of two ways. You can ignore what you now know to be true and keep burying that bitterness in your life, pushing it deeper and allowing it to poison and contaminate you and those around you. Or, you can make a much better choice by getting it out in the open and asking God to help you to totally forgive and let it all go.
“But Thế,” I hear you saying. “You don’t know what they did to me?”
No, I don’t. But you must turn the issue over to God. He will make it up to you. God will make the wrongs right. He’ll bring justice into your life. Don’t be hardheaded and stubborn and miss out on God’s best. Be willing to change.
I heard an old story about the captain of a ship that was sailing on a dark, pitch-black night. The captain suddenly noticed a bright light directly in front of him, and he knew that his ship was on a collision course with the light. He rushed to the radio and sent an urgent message, demanding that the vessel change its course ten degrees east.
A few seconds later, he received a message in return. The message said,“Cannot do it. Change your course ten degrees west.”
The captain got angry. He sent another cryptic message, “I’m a navy captain, and I demand you change your course.”
He received a message back a few seconds later. It said,“I’m a seaman second class. Cannot do it. Change your course.”
The captain was now furious. He sent one final message. It said, “I’m a battleship, and I’m not changing my course!”
He got a curt message in return. It said, “I’m a lighthouse. It’s your choice, Sir.”
Many times, we are like that navy captain; we can be hardheaded and stubborn. We can think of all the reasons why we’re not going to change: They hurt me too badly; They did too much wrong to me. I’m not going to forgive.
This reflection is your lighthouse, beaming truth into your life, saying you must change your course. Forgiveness is a choice, but it is not an option. Jesus put it this way:”If you don’t forgive other people, then your Father in heaven is not going to forgive you.” (Mt 18, 23-35) When you hold on to unforgiveness, you are headed for trouble. You are on a destructive path. And God is saying to change your course.
Forgiveness is choice, but it is not an option.
If you want to be happy, if you want to be free, get that junk out of your life. Quit holding on to it, let it go. Don’t let the root of bitterness continue to poison your life. Search your heart. When God brings issues to light, be quick to deal with them. Keep your stream pure. Friend, if you’ll do your part and keep the poison out of your life, you’ll see God’s favor and blessings in a new way.
Do you want God to bring justice in your life? How would you like for God to restore everything that has been stolen from you? Come on, I’ll show you how that can happen.
The Pham July 2011