The Bitter Heart Eats its Owner
The good news is that Christ came to heal the broken hearted and set us free from the negative burdens that hold us back (Luke 4:18). Paul instructs us to let go of the destructive attitudes of our sinful nature by walking in the fruits of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Galatians 5:24-25 elaborates: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with
the Spirit.” Paul adds in verse 13 that we are ‘called to be free’ and encourages us in verse 16 to “live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
However, stuff happens during our journey through life and letting go may be easier said than done – like a fishing line that is all tangled up and impossible to unravel. Perhaps a combination of agonising experiences we feel others have inflicted on us such as betrayal, pain, abuse and mistreatment have given us that ‘bitter heart.’ Yet resentment never settles the score, but is like an open wound that festers. To clear the inner sanctuary of our soul of these toxic emotions that relentlessly eat away at us, is
well nigh impossible on our own strength. But Christ can untangle that mess. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit opens the doors to a brand new future, unchained from the past and free from the shrinking world of bitterness.
An act of courage and strength.
It is also through appreciating and accepting God’s love and forgiveness that we develop the capacity to forgive others, no matter what they have done to us. Indeed a forgiving attitude will lead to a new world of possibility, transforming what may be a troubled spirit into a loving spirit of joy and peace. Forgiveness is not an act of weakness but one of courage and strength. Revenge is the broad path of destruction while forgiveness is a tough work of love that frees your spirit to become who you are meant to be in Christ. Indeed, forgiveness is not a feeling but a choice to end the cycle of revenge, hate and bitterness. In his book Unconditional, Brian Zahnd notes: “Being a recipient of the infinite love of God should create within the forgiven sinner a wellspring of infinite capacity to forgive. We forgive out of our capacity of being forgiven...Jesus calls us to give what we have received - unbounded forgiveness.” Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch Christian, endured enormous and pain and suffering at the notorious Ravensbruck camp during the holocaust, including the loss of her father and beloved sister. After giving a speech in 1947 at a church in Munich, she recognized one of Rabensbruck’s cruellest guard making his way towards her. He stunned her with the following words: “You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk. I was a guard there...I have become a Christian and I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I have done there. Will you forgive me?”
Vivid memories flooded her mind as she thought about the pathetic pile of shoes and dresses in the centre of the floor; the shame of women walking naked past this man, her sister’s frail form ahead of her, ribs protruding sharply beneath her parched skin. A thought flashed through her mind; ‘could she erase the memory of Betsie’s slow and terrible death?’ Yet she had worked
with victims of Nazi cruelty and tried to rebuild their lives, emphasising that those who nursed their bitterness would become invalids.
With all my heart.
As she stood there with coldness clutching her heart, praying to Jesus for help and realising that although powerful emotions may rage in her heart, forgiveness is in itself and act of the will and needs to rise above the temperature of her heart. Then through tears of healing and joy they joined hands and she said: “I forgive you with all my heart... I had never known God’s love as intensely as I did then. But even so, I realised it was not my love, it was the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus forgave those who hated and despised Him, even as they drove nails into His hands. Notice Christ’s response during His dying moments on the cross. “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” There was not an ounce of self pity in Jesus’ attitude, just total selflessness and love to the core. The fire of God’s love enabled Him to endure the most excruciating of trials. While He demonstrated the power of this radical kind of love on the cross, Jesus was in essence saying to each one of us, forgive others as I have forgiven you. As Brian Zahnd explains: “Christian forgiveness is not cheap as it flows from the cross, the place where injustice and forgiveness collide and where grace triumphs over evil.”
The Greek word aphiami, usually translated ‘to forgive’ also means ‘to throw’ or to ‘let go’. Now is the time to let go of the negative emotional entrapments that have imprisoned you for so long. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28- 29 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”