As an old head, I've had many bitter experiences. You don't need to hear about all my bitter tales of woe. You don't get to be an old head without being burned and back-stabbed many times. Bitterness, loneliness, anger, anxiety, misery and a bunch of other ugly words could easily describe my emotional state on many occasions. I've found a way to beat bitterness.
I can't take any credit for this revelation on how to relieve the emotional indigestion of bitterness. Something happened to me when I wasn't prepared for it nor was I seeking it. I had been burned big time and I was carrying a grudge. One sunny morning, the grudge went away. I'll never forget the day, it was Sept 11, 2001. You probably recognize that date which lives in infamy alongside our Nation's worst historical events. Almost 3,000 people were killed as 19 hijackers committed murder-suicide. On the same day that terrorists attacked our country, I learned one of the secrets of removing the burden of bitterness.
My pickup truck was cruising along near 70 miles per hour on the New York State Thruway. I was on my way to Chautauqua High School about 90 miles outside of Buffalo for a speaking engagement with the Freshman Class. The radio started giving surreal reports of planes being flown purposely into buildings. At first I didn't believe it was real, but as the reports continued, the savage facts of lives brutally lost hit hard. Then I began having thoughts about the brevity of life as the number of casualties mounted. Sometimes our greatest life revelations come in the midst of cataclysmic destruction.
As I was driving, the name of the person who had burned me came to my mind and three things happened simultaneously. It's important to note that I did nothing to make these things happen.
1. His name came into my thoughts.
2. I instantly felt forgiveness toward him.
3. There was a physical release in my body. So much so that I felt a burden released from my shoulders and thought my head would go through the roof!
It's hard to describe the physical part. The release affected every part of my body. I drove the rest of the way to the school with peace in my heart - even as I was deeply saddened by what I was hearing on the radio.
Only God can bring about forgiveness when we're not asking for it. I do believe we have to want it, but I don't remember any actions on my part to ask God to help me forgive. He took the action and I accepted the results.
The life of Jesus on earth could be viewed as a continuous journey of bad to worse and then worse still. They put him on a cross and then mocked him. Here's what He said in the midst of torture and agony, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Jesus doesn't sound like he's holding a grudge or has a bitter heart. Every person has many reasons and opportunities to forgive. I personally believe that we all have an equal amount of opportunities to seek forgiveness for the times we've wronged others.
When God gave me the gift of forgiveness, my heart condition was examining the brevity of life. My empathy and compassion were heightened. It may be that God wanted me in a vulnerable place where I could be teachable. Here are some one-liners to dwell on as you seek your own revelation that will release your burdens of resentment.
- Be Prepared - Expect God to move no matter how long it takes.
- Seek Wisdom - In all situations ask God what He wants you to learn.
- There's Always Pride To Release - One can never be too humble.
- Pray For Change - When things go wrong or people do you wrong, pray for patience to wait for God to act. He always takes care of injustice.
- Foster The Desire To Be A Forgiving Person - If Jesus can forgive murderers, torturers, liars, traitors, backstabbers, cheaters, adulterers, thieves and all the rest of us, we should go and do likewise.
"And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!"
John 16:33 The Passion Translation
The pictures below all have Bible verses to help you reflect on the Jesus Way of forgiveness and peace.