After a long, hot day of studying in Mexico, my hands eagerly dialed my boyfriend’s phone number. It had been several weeks since I had seen him. With baited breath, I waited for him to answer. “It’s so good to hear your voice,” I exclaimed when he answered. I could feel the hesitancy on the other end of the line and my heart sank. I knew what was coming. Our relationship was over.
Shortly after our break up, I found out from a mutual friend that he started hanging out with another girl just a few days after I left the country. I felt betrayed.
Anger welled up in my heart like I had never experienced. I shed quite a few tears, talked to friends, and journaled. I even wrote a song about the whole situation. Although these actions helped me feel a little better, they were not healing my heart. I was bitter and I knew I needed to do something about it.
Please don’t misunderstand me… It is not wrong to be upset when you have been hurt by someone. However, the Bible tells us that we should not sin in our anger (Ephesians 4:26-27). Our response becomes sinful when we hold on to our anger, refuse to forgive and allow bitterness to settle into our hearts. Ephesians 4:31-32 says,
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
I began to pray for God to take away my bitterness and fill my heart with forgiveness. Knowing that Christ had experienced betrayal allowed me to pour out my anger and frustration to the Lord. As I prayed, I also asked God to help my ex-boyfriend to grow in Christ and live according to the Scriptures. This was a very difficult thing to do at first, but doing so helped me deal with my bitter heart. It is hard to stay angry at someone you are praying for.
While I was still in Mexico (and after), I scoured the Scriptures for encouragement and instruction. There were several verses that helped me endure the painful journey toward forgiveness. One that was especially reassuring was Psalm 34:18.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
The act of forgiving was a daily decision in the beginning. Slowly my heart began to soften as I allowed myself to extend mercy through the strength of the Merciful One. How could I not forgive when I had been forgiven for so much? Colossians 3:12-14 says,
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
It is important to understand that forgiveness does not always require reconciliation. In some situations it is best for both parties to discontinue any sort of connection in order to maintain peace and/or safety. Pray for God’s direction in this. In my situation we remained cordial, but decided to refrain from being friends again.
As bitterness gave way to grace, my heart was filled with peace. Though the hurt will never be completely gone, I can truthfully say that I am no longer bitter. Thanks to a merciful God that leads me in righteousness, I have learned to forgive. I am finally free. And you can be too.
Who needs your forgiveness today?