God: The First Grudge to Go

The first grudge you need to let go of is the one you have against God. How do you view God? Do you feel He’s let you down in the past, that praying is like rolling the dice? If you don’t have faith in Him to always do what’s best for you, it’s very likely you are harboring a grudge against Him.

Consider Adam and Eve in the garden. They were sinless until the serpent gave them something to hold against God. He had held out on them, and that was something they didn’t like, so they briefly had a bone to pick with God, a bone large enough that they disobeyed God and changed the course of humanity.

What makes this particular grudge curious is that you can’t forgive God because He’s done nothing wrong to you. He’s never sinned against you, hurt you, or plotted against you. There’s been no betrayal or abandonment. God is the only one you’ve ever gotten close to who hasn’t done anything bad to you at all. He’s always been on your side and His mercies are new every morning. He forgets our sins willingly and protects us.

Also, God doesn’t owe you any sort of explanation for what He does. He is bigger than the Universe He created, more powerful than you can hope to fathom, and infinitely wiser than all of the people who have ever lived combined. Who are you, that He should be mindful of you? (Psalm 8:4) It’s not wrong to seek to understand why things are happening to you, but some Christians get this attitude that God owes them an explanation, that He somehow serves them. It’s the most arrogant attitude possible. All you have earned from God is eternal separation from Him; the salvation He’s offered, much less anything beyond that, is a gift, given solely because He’s decided to love you.

If you are angry at God, you are actually sinning against Him because you are unjustly accusing Him of being anything less than holy, loving, and righteous. Not only are you questioning Him when you don’t have and could never earn that right, you are judging Him and finding Him unworthy. You need to not only let go of your grudge against Him, but apologize for having a grudge against Him in the first place.

Of all the grudges you carry, the most important one to let go of is the one against God, even more important than the grudge you carry against yourself. The reason is that though you can love someone you have a grudge against, you can’t want to draw closer to that person. You don’t want to be around someone you’re angry with or someone you don’t trust at all. The only way to want to draw closer is to let the grudge go.

You need a strong relationship with God, not just because He is the most important relationship in your life, but because it is only when you are close to Him that you can have enough faith in how He sees you for it to transform your life, which is necessary if you’re going to forgive anyone else.

So why do we carry grudges against Him? Because our understanding is limited. When I was young, a well-meaning pastor said that if we were righteous, God would answer our prayers. I did my absolute best, but most of my prayers went unanswered.

When it didn’t work, I took the promises of God to be a load of bunk. I stopped praying, stopped reading the Bible, and stopped paying attention in church. When I got to college, I rarely went to church. There was no desire to draw closer to God because I didn’t think He heard me or cared about my family. I reasoned that if my prayers were falling on deaf ears, why should I get to know the Being ignoring me?

This developed into a deep hatred of God. It wasn’t just the things I had prayed for growing up, it was being in my mid-20s without ever having a girlfriend while my friends seemed to be in a new relationship every couple of months. It was people in my company getting promoted faster than I was, despite not working as hard. I felt He’d let me down not just by ignoring my prayers, but by making me a complete failure.

It wasn’t until five years after I graduated college that I began to slowly change, to start opening up to God again. Once He started chipping away at my walls, I knew that there was a lot of growing that I had to do. I was a stubborn student and my heart deceived me more times than I can count.

Yet God was with me through all of it. He never left me, never stopped loving me, and never stopped leading me. With endless patience and unwavering grace, He kept drawing me closer little by little, teaching me something whenever I asked Him to, even when it was a lesson He’d taught me dozens of times before.

Through this teaching process, my anger at God lessened somewhat, but my love for Him didn’t increase much. The grudge was still there, even if the fury of it had somewhat subsided. Despite all the abuse I piled on Him, He never failed to be there for me. He loved me in spite of myself, and it was realizing this that finally helped me let this grudge go and start loving Him again.

There are still a few areas where my trust in God is not as strong as it should be. I still worry about finances from time to time and I still let some things upset me that shouldn’t. These are signs of a lack of faith in God’s goodness (since I have complete faith in His power), which are likely related to a hidden grudge that I have not fully explored. There is something in my past that still whispers that God may let me down like I believed He had.

There are two reasons I mention this last part. The first is that getting rid of this grudge against God is a very deep and potentially long process. It is not enough to say, “Oh, God hasn’t done me any wrong, so I trust Him completely now.” It’s incredibly unlikely that you will trust Him in everything after just that.

Instead, examine the areas of your life carefully, one at a time. For each, ask whether you’re trying to make it on your own or trusting God fully. Be brutally honest with yourself. For every area you find where you haven’t given yourself over to God, ask why it is difficult for you to trust Him completely. The answer is almost certainly some instance where you feel He let you or someone else you know down.

A second reason may be that you aren’t used to relying on God; it may be more of a lack of knowledge about who God really is rather than a grudge against Him. The same lack of faith can still be a problem, however, if you feel abandoned in a particular area. For example, if your father ran out on you, leaving your mother to support the family alone, it may be difficult for you to trust God with your finances because you remember the hard times your family had. Feelings of mistrust from one party can be applied to another, but when we apply them to God, we sin because we are indirectly accusing Him of being no better than the person who harmed us.

Instead, we need to think of all the times He’s been there for us, even before we became Christians, and learn what the Bible says about His faithfulness and goodness. Only when we have let go of our grudge against Him can we trust and love Him the way we should. We need to trust Him so we can believe what He says about us, and we need to believe what He says about us so we can forgive ourselves and others.

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The Grudge List: Your Path to Forgiveness

Today, I’m going to give you a very useful tool to aid you in forgiving everyone. First, though, let’s talk about what sin is. Sin is any thought you dwell on or any action that is against God’s will. God created the Universe and all that is in it; therefore, it is His rules we are under. It’s not a sin to be tempted, to have a thought flit through your head, but it is a sin to dwell on it and imagine yourself giving into that temptation.

We can wrong others, but even then, our sins are 99% against God. Imagine that you had a golden retriever puppy named Goldie (because you’re so original with names) and someone, even a good friend, comes over and kicks your puppy. Not on accident, just being a jerk. Even thought the dog is wronged and nothing was done directly against you, you still take offense because you care about Goldie. She’s yours, and so the offense done against her is taken personally as one against you.

How much more so do you think God takes it when we wrong His sons and daughters or even non-Christians, since He loves us all?

Also, when we wrong each other, we’re breaking God’s will because He tells us to love each other. This makes our wrongs against each other sins against the Creator of the Universe. Just as stepping on a roach is a lesser crime than spitting on another person, so is anything we do to each other compared to the crime of disobeying Him.

I mention this because we all need to be forgiven of our sins. There are no perfect people on this earth, so we all need forgiveness and grace. And, as I wrote yesterday, God will only forgive us if we forgive others.

But not all of the things that we take offense at are sins, are they? There’s the woman who gets in the express checkout lane with 19 items instead of 15, the coworker with the annoying laugh, or the guy with no social skills whatsoever. These things may get on our nerves, but they’re not sins. We need to let go of these grudges, too.

So, how do we let them go?

The best way I have found is by using what I call the ‘Grudge List.’ To make one, start by writing down the names of everyone you can remember. I recommend going by periods in your life (grade school, high school, early 20’s, etc.), then by location (church, school, work, neighborhood, family) so you don’t miss anybody. If you remember a person, but not their name, write down enough of a description so you can remember them when you go through this list.

Next, go through each name on this list and think about the person for a moment. If you have any negative feelings about them, write their name on another list. This is the beginning of your Grudge List.

On your Grudge List, for each name that made the cut, write down all of the offenses you can remember and how they made you feel. Resist the urge to sum up; be specific so you can let go of all the wrongs done to you. It will take time, but it’s better to do a thorough cleansing than a light rinse. Don’t be overly nice here, either. They won’t read this unless you show it to them, so say what’s really on your mind. You can lose the benefit of this exercise by not being completely honest.

Next, write down your own sins against the person. I highly recommend this because it will let you see that you were wrong, too. Don’t put in any statements like, “I wouldn’t have done this if you hadn’t started it,” or, “It may not be as bad as what you did to me, but…” This is the time for you to just admit to yourself that you were wrong, regardless of who started it. You’ll be able to see the argument better from the other person’s point of view, too. Doing this will help ward off the pride that is sure to fight you.

Finally, write a statement of forgiveness for each person. Keep out language such as, “You may have cheated on me, but I have someone way better now, so I can finally forgive you.” Your forgiveness can’t be based on what’s happened in your life since the event; in fact, that’s part of the point. You have to forgive based on what Jesus did for you 2,000 years ago. Forgive because you’ve been forgiven of so much more.

Doing this once probably won’t get rid of all the negative feelings you have against everyone, so you may have to keep going through it. Each time you do, though, it should get a little easier. Some of the minor grudges you may be able to cross off immediately, some may take months (and might still pop up years after you thought you’d forgiven them). Just have patience and keep reminding yourself of what Jesus has done for you…if you forgive as He’s forgiven you.

Why We Should Forgive and Why We Must Forgive

One of the biggest barriers to having real self-confidence is holding on to grudges. Most of us have grudges against God, ourselves, and others and we need to let them all go before we can enjoy the confidence God wants us to have. All this week, I’ll be posting on forgiveness, starting with why we should forgive and why we must forgive.

There is a quote attributed in a variety of forms to various people that reads, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” When you hold a grudge against someone else, you’re doing far more harm to yourself than to them.

Unforgiveness will affect you negatively in several ways:

1. It will take your time, energy, and focus off of God and the things you should be focused on. There was one woman I was interested in during college who gave me a rather harsh, public rejection. I replayed over and over in my head what I wish I’d said for years after, getting angry again at both of us. That time could have been better spent doing almost anything else: reading the Bible, praying, writing, editing, working out, or even sleeping. All my grudge did was waste time and make me angry.

Think about your grudges for a second. How much time do you devote to them? Are you daydreaming of getting even? Are you seething? Do you automatically get angry whenever you’re around that person?

This is neither healthy nor productive. It is stealing time and energy away from God, your job, relationships, family, and other important things in your life. And honestly, would you rather think about something that makes you happy or something that makes you miserable and angry?

2. It will prevent you from moving forward in the relationship in which you have a grudge. You cannot want to grow closer to someone or love them more deeply when you are angry with them. You have to let go of that grudge for the relationship to become closer. This is true of all relationships, whether with other people, God, or even yourself. You cannot force yourself through this barrier by spending more time with that person, either. Trying to force it will only deepen the grudge because your mind will keep turning back to it. The only way to deepen the relationship is to forgive that person.

3. It will get in the way of future relationships. When we hold grudges, it’s very difficult to only be angry with the person who wronged us. You’ve heard this before when your friend breaks up with someone and decries all men or women or when your boss upsets you and you vent against bosses in general. We tend to stereotype people and get mad at the lot of them, rather than just the ones with whom we’ve any right to be angry. When we do this, we make false or unfounded accusations and these get in the way of building healthy, solid relationships.

4. As Christians, we are called to be one body. Ever wake up in the middle of the night, stumble toward the bathroom, and find furniture with your toe? It hurts, but do you cut your toe off so it won’t happen again? Of course not!

Why, then, do we not do this within the church? When we refuse to forgive each other, we act like the world does. If the Gospel we’re bragging about isn’t enough to make us radically different than everyone else and help us rise above the petty concerns that so much of the world is bogged down in, then how can we expect them to want to become Christians?

Moreover, those in the church are our brothers and sisters. They should be people we love and always forgive. In Matthew 18, Peter asks how many times he’s supposed to forgive his brother and offers seven times. Jesus says it should be seventy times seven. That’s not a literal number, but Jesus was telling him as often as Peter’s brother sinned against him, Peter should forgive him.

5. Unforgiveness is an indictment of our faith in God to fix whatever mess we’re in. God doesn’t just let us suffer for the fun of it. He doesn’t allow things to be taken from us because He’s asleep on the job. He allows these things for a reason. When the New Testament apostles were beaten and imprisoned, they weren’t given fine new houses and bags of gold, but they were given something even better: a deeper relationship with God. They piled up treasures in Heaven as well, but even on earth, they got something that no earthly treasure could buy them.             God does not allow things to be taken from us unless He intends to give us something better. Even when He’s taking things from us as a chastisement for our sins or because they’re not good for us, the end result is taking something from us that was between us and Him. We get more of Him, more of what we desperately need. When we refuse to forgive, we’re telling God we don’t believe He’ll work all things out in the end for our good, meaning that the person who hurt us is more powerful than His ability to restore us.

6. Lastly, it is arrogant to put yourself above God. In the United States, the President has the power to issue a full pardon to anyone. Imagine a murderer in Texas is on death row and the President issues such a pardon. The man’s crimes are all exonerated. It’s as if he hadn’t even gotten a speeding ticket. Then some guard decides to punish this guy anyway, so instead of freeing him, he hauls him off to the execution chamber and injects the shot himself. He is no longer a government-sanctioned executioner, but a criminal himself, guilty of murder. Why? Because that man on death row, whatever he had done, had been pardoned and is now deemed innocent. The President’s forgiveness of him matters more than that guard’s opinion or even the facts of the case.

When we hold a grudge against other people, we’re essentially telling them they owe us for something that God has already forgiven. That puts us above God, saying that our opinion of their wrongdoing is more important than God’s opinion of it. We put ourselves in the Throne of Judgment, which is God’s place alone. And then we further profane it by using it to judge others according to what they have done to us rather than with God’s mercy and a remembrance that all sins are done primarily against Him.

Not only that, we’re saying that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough to wash out that person’s sins because that person doesn’t have our forgiveness. Think of the preposterous arrogance of this: Jesus, part of the Trinity, God Himself, is not powerful enough to wash out someone’s sins, but the forgiveness of you, a fallen, weak, petty human is? You not only set yourself up as God when you don’t forgive, you trample Jesus’ sacrifice as not good enough.

All of these are reasons that we should forgive. Are they the reason we must forgive, though? No. The reason we must forgive goes even deeper.

We must forgive because the Bible commands us to.

There are two basic commandments that Jesus gives: Love the Lord with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself. As part of the Lord’s Prayer, He gives us a commandment that’s part of the latter. He says in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” This is the only part of the Lord’s Prayer that He specifically highlights afterward. It’s that important.

Why does He grant leniency for loving Him and loving others (what else can we call the forgiveness of our sins?), but doesn’t grant leniency for forgiving them?

The answer is because “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. The key phrase in this discussion is “through faith.” You have to believe that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to wash out your sins. If you do not believe this, then it will not work for you.

Here’s the issue, though: Jesus didn’t die for just you. He died to offer Himself as a sacrifice for everyone. Anyone who believes in what He did can take advantage of His sacrifice. It is the ultimate one-size-fits-all gift. This means that the same gift was given to you as was given to everyone else, and accepting this gift is based on faith. If you do not believe it is enough for someone else’s sins, then it is not enough for your sins, either.

Read that last paragraph again…slowly. When you refuse to forgive someone, you’re not just saying that the offending person needs your forgiveness to really be forgiven; you’re saying that God Himself is not strong enough to cleanse that person, which means that God Himself is not strong enough to cleanse you. You are dooming yourself by your own unbelief, by your own unforgiveness. His blood is either strong enough for everyone, or it’s strong enough for no one. You must decide which of those two options you believe because there is no third option.