"Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
'I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,'
says the Lord." Romans 12:19 (NLT)
Hey girlfriends! I am back from an absolutely fabulous Thanksgiving week spent with the Lantz side of my family. We had four days of chaotic fun as this house held fifteen people over the last week. We did stuff together that will imprint memories in our minds and hearts for a lifetime.
I recently heard this phrase from a pastor I respect very much:
What you can walk away from will determine what God can bring you to.
Although peace reigned, for the most part, in our house this last week, I know that family get-togethers can sometimes be anything but peaceful. Sometimes, some of our deepest wounds have come from family members that sit around our tables at the holidays. Tradition can bring us together, but our hearts can bear grudges from hurts received five, ten, or twenty plus years ago. Maybe we have even forgotten what exactly was so offensive to our spirits. We just know that the wound still festers and forgiveness becomes more and more difficult to justify as the years go by.
My sweet sister, what is Jesus asking you to walk away from today? We know that we are stuck, but we can't put our finger on why we can't move on. Is He asking us to move away from bitterness today? We have every right, humanly speaking, to stay estranged from that family member or friend that hurt us so badly, don't we? Not according to the Word of God.
You and I have been forgiven of a debt that we can never repay if we have accepted Christ as our Savior. But have we made Him our Lord? How about Lord of our hurt? My sweet friend and Bible study leader, Holly, talks about something called 50/20 vision. This vision is from Genesis 50:20:
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."
Who said that? A man named Joseph whose ten jealous brothers sold him into slavery and covered up their wickedness toward him by making their aged father believe that a wild animal had killed Joseph. Do you know what position Joseph had when he said this amazing statement to his brothers twenty years after their betrayal to him? He was the second most powerful man in the known world at the time. I am sure that it took many of those years to come to a point of forgiveness. Joseph's brothers had let their envy harden them to Joseph's pleas when they sold him to the slave traders. Joseph could have taken his revenge on his siblings who had made his life so miserable, but he didn't. He forgave them and saved them and their families from starvation.
I look at Joseph and realize that only God could have enabled him to forgive as he did. I can easily think that Joseph got the short end of the stick. The brothers were forgiven and taken care of for the rest of their lives. What did Joseph get out of the deal? I believe he was given a gift more priceless than anything money can buy. He was able to trust God with his desire to avenge himself.
Is it possible, my sweet sisters, that the harm you and I may have experienced from those who should have been the most careful with our hearts could be intended by God for good? What would happen if we gave God the right to do what He has promised in Romans 8:28 for us? Does He have the freedom to be Lord over our deepest wounds? One day we will stand before Him to receive rewards for actions and attitudes when we shed our human desire for vengeance and allowed Jesus to use that hurt to make us like Himself. There will be no reward in heaven for the longest grudge held, least forgiveness shown, or being the most cunning in getting back at someone else. But there will be crowns given for those of us who are willing to crucify our own flesh and the very real and human desire to get back at someone who we have an earthly right to hurt.
Jesus said it better than I ever could. During His last hours on earth before His death on the cross, Jesus prayed out loud to His Father in front of His disciples. He prayed many things for and over them, but one stunning truth that I so often forget stands out to me from John 17:16:
[My disciples] are not of the world, even as I am not of it.
Girlfriends, we are not of this world. We have the power of the Holy Spirit in us to enable us to do what is simply impossible to do on our own. Have we ever tapped into that power? Are our lives living, breathing examples that God's Word works?
Maybe we are stuck because we have not walked away. Something amazing that God wants to bring us to is right around the corner if we are willing to walk away from our bitterness and unforgiveness. We cannot do this by ourselves. We need our Jesus to do it through us.
Jesus, we are powerless to not experience some of the most bitter anguish we have ever known caused by the wounding of those close to us. But we do not have to live in that hurt! You have forgiven us of a debt with our salvation that cannot be repaid. We are in Your debt to forgive those we feel justified in continuing to harbor offenses toward. We are not of this world! You have made us new creations. The old is gone, the new has come. Help us to desire what You will bring us to more than what You ask us to walk away from today.