Today, my focus is on letting go of anger and learning to forgive. These are really two different things, neither of which is easy. Letting go of anger means allowing someone who has wronged you to walk away from the situation and not seeking revenge. When people hurt us, our natural response is to want to hurt them back. Forgiveness, which in many ways is much more difficult, means wiping an offense off the slate completely, as though it never happened, and not allowing it to influence a relationship.
A couple months ago, I threw a baby shower for my best friend, and my sister came, along with my 3-year-old niece. I was standing near my niece and talking to someone when I felt little hands on my back and turned to find my niece sobbing. It took her several minutes to calm down and tell me what happened, and of course, the whole time, I was worried that she had hurt herself. When she finally got herself under control, she told us that one of the women at the party, a young mother, had snapped at her when my niece tried to go say hello to her baby.
I don't really know this woman, but I know about her from things my friend has told me, and I did not doubt for a moment that she had done just that. I could not believe another mother could be so cruel and then just sit there a few feet away while my niece sobbed, acting as though she had no idea what had happened. I was furious, and I found myself remembering it over and over again in the weeks that followed. I know I will be seeing this woman again in a couple months, and I kept thinking of all the things I wanted to say to her.
As I thought about it, though, I realized this is not how we are supposed to handle our anger. I prayed about it several times, asking God to help me forgive her. I spoke forgiveness towards her out loud, even when my feelings were the opposite of my words.
After just a couple days, my perspective changed dramatically. Instead of anger towards this woman, I felt sorrow at how terribly lost she is. I believe that her behavior often stems from a feeling of insecurity and a need to be in control of each situation. What a miserable way to live, being so insecure that being cruel to a child somehow makes you feel better about yourself. I realized that she must be incredibly unhappy, and what she really needs is the unconditional love of a Savior, not another person pointing out her faults. I was able to start praying for her in earnest, and I felt the anger seeping out of me and being replaced by a calmer, more loving attitude.
This morning, when I went to pull a Derek Prince proclamation card out of my Bible, I stumbled on one of my favorite verses, Isaiah 49:25: "Surely, thus says the Lord, 'Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away, And the prey of the tyrant will be rescued; For I will contend with the one who contends with you...'" Immediately, I thought of this young mother who, a few weeks ago, I was eager to put in her place. Any remaining anger in me washed out in that moment when I realized that God is (as always) way ahead of me. It doesn't mean that I can relax now because God is going to smite her or send lightning bolts down to teach her a lesson. Quite the opposite. It means that I can let go of my anger because God is in control of the situation, and He is going to take care of it for me.
Photo by Aaron Burden, Courtesy of CreationSwap
As part of my planned devotions this morning, I also read Ephesians 4:32: "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Whenever I have a particularly difficult time forgiving someone, I try to remind myself that God forgave me and that Jesus died for my sins. When we refuse to forgive others, after such grace has been accorded to us without restraint or condition, we are essentially spitting on the sacrifice made for us. This Easter weekend, I plan to reflect on the great suffering that Jesus willingly endured for my sake and look for other situations in my life where I am still holding on to anger and resentment.