Emotions originate from within our focused thoughts; in turn, the more we focus on the thoughts, the more we strengthen the emotional output. When these thoughts are fed by the memory of wrongs committed against us, we allow space for a root of bitterness and of unforgiveness to be planted within our hearts.
Under the influence of our flesh, we can so easily become bound by unforgiveness. We feel the weight of the inward pain placed within us by another person and consequently look to them as the one who must remove the inflicted pain. As we passively suppress the emotions or seek to avenge the wrongdoer, we feed and deepen this root of bitterness, which is never satisfied. As the pain lingers and the root deepens, our hearts grow colder, harder, and more cynical because we do not understand why the hurt remains. Within the bounds of this self-focused view, we move away from the Christ-founded qualities of patience and love and allow our emotions to take control, halting our spiritual growth. We cannot grow nor produce the Fruit of the Spirit if we are feeding our lives with a selfish or a fleshly perspective and harboring unforgiveness.
Unconditional love and forgiveness are both drawn from a source that is beyond the scope of human understanding and origin, so each of these can only be extended through the strength and the love of Christ. The debt of damaged feelings surpasses the capacity of all possible scales or forms of payment. Earthly restitution is not feasible, and by insisting this repayment, we are emotionally demanding the humanly impossible from a human being.
We must draw upon Christ’s strength and example in order to look beyond our feelings and extend forgiveness. Forgiveness is not outwardly forced but is tenderly instilled within our hearts as the love of God softens our hearts. We do not forget nor downplay the sin or wrong committed against us, but we feel the weight of the Father’s love expressed in spite of our sin-stained lives and are compelled to extend this same grace and mercy to others. When we understand the gravity of our own sinfulness, our eyes are opened to the impossibility of humanly making restitution and restoring someone to wholeness.
As we reflect on the grace of our holy God, we resolve to live with the consequences of not only others’ sin but also of our sin. Jesus chose to live with and be impacted by the consequences of our sin, and He did this without grudge and without retaliation. Jesus received all of our sin and experienced the weight of our guilt, shame, and agony. Even though He was without sin, He knows the unrest involved with the separation that sin forces between us and a holy God; He understands the hopeless trap of sin. And, because of His love for us, God reached out to us first through Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is a one-sided choice made possible only by the love of Christ. As we specifically pray for God to reveal unresolved hurt and the associated emotions, we are able to draw upon His strength and forgive both ourselves and others. Because Christ lives in us, we can allow this same forgiveness and love to flow through us, uproot all bitterness, and free us from the stronghold of unforgiveness. Through Christ’s love, we can live in freedom and victory.
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