“Create in me clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not they holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”
I learned a valuable lesson over the Thanksgiving holidays. You can’t cleanse your own heart. God has to do it. However, you have to let go of the dirt. Letting go is the biggest problem many of us face. We want vengeance. We want justice. We want to see them crawl. We want validation of our feelings and hurts.
Let’s talk about letting go. People are always telling me and probably you, too, to let it go. Lay it on the altar. Give it to God. For years people have been telling me that, but no one could ever tell me how. Their telling me that just made it worse.
Letting go begins with forgiveness. The Bible tells us that we are to forgive.
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.”
Mark 11:25 “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”
Luke 17:3, 4 “So watch yourselves, ‘If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
Ephesians 4: 32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
So, God orders us to forgive. I have a good friend named Jo Ann. She’s one of my best friends, but we fight a lot. At one time we tried to be lovers, but it just wasn’t meant to be. It took me a very long time to admit that. We have argued countless arguments over the past four years. Many of them were not about the actual thing we were arguing about, but they were about me wanting validation for my hurt feelings. I’ve gone to her countless times and asked her to forgive me. She’s come to me countless times and asked me forgive her. Every time we have both agreed. Then one of us goes and does something else and sets the other one off. One of the reasons we have so much trouble is because I was hanging on to the hurt. I wanted Jo Ann to do something to rectify that hurt, but Jo Ann could not physically, emotionally or spiritually do what I thought I needed her to do to make it right. But I wouldn’t let it go. Even now, there still is a part of me that believes Jo Ann owes me something. Until I can let that go, I am not going to be able to achieve 100 percent success at forgiving her.
Why do I have to forgive her? I found the most amazing thing in the word of God. Proverbs 19:11 states, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”
What if the person doesn’t repent? What if the person does not acknowledge a wrong? If we simply forgive, are we letting that person get away with doing wrong? Not according to the Word of God. In fact, if we refuse to forgive, we are the ones doing wrong.
Ephesians 4:30-32 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ, God forgave you.”
People who refuse to forgive hurt themselves. Bitter people are no fun to be around. We need to remember that we are new creations. That God has transformed us through the Holy Spirit. That is why I have to forgive.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come. All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Make a fist and hold it as tightly as you can for one full minute and then let it go. Letting go of that clenched fist feels really good, doesn’t it? Think about doing that to your heart for 5, 10, 15, or 25 years. Think about doing it for a lifetime. That’s what holding on to hurt and bitterness does to our souls. Born again Christians are not designed to hold onto grudges and hurts. Our spirits are not made for it, and we have to keep our souls tightly clinched up just like we did our fists a minute ago to keep that stuff inside. Our spirit is the part of us that connects us to the Holy Spirit and our soul is our mind and our will. When it is at odds with our spirit we run the risk of putting some distance between our spirits and the Holy Spirit. We have to do some hard work holding onto a grudge. Letting go should be the easy part.
Often not being forgiving is tied into our self-esteem. We won’t let go of something because it is a blow to our ego to say it’s okay, or to say we were wrong, or even to say, “I’m sorry I think I may have misunderstood what you meant by that statement.” Sometimes people seem to get the notion that admitting they are wrong is the same thing as admitting some kind of weakness. I know for myself admitting I was wrong was the same thing as admitting that people who told me I was stupid when I was younger were right. Since I knew that was not true, I would adamantly defend any position I took, even after I was convinced I was wrong.
A blow to our pride or our ego should be able to withstand what someone else says or thinks about us. Because once we become these new creations, our worth is not based upon ourselves, but upon how we reflect the Holy Spirit. We may not be loveable in the eyes of human beings, but if we put ourselves in the eyes of God then we’re talking about a whole different thing. This is a hard thing to do sometimes because we have a lot more proof on man’s part that we are unlovable. Do we really believe that God would give that kind of consideration and care to someone who was not worth it? We have to take God’s love on faith, although these verses confirm it for us.
Deuteronomy 32:10 “In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.”
Zechariah 2:8 “For this is what the Lord Almighty says: “After he has honored me and has sent me against the nations that have plundered you – for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye.'”
Isaiah 49:16 “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”
What do you think that means?
Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
Sometimes letting go of a hurt or a slight means letting go of other things as well. Seemingly innocent statements that trigger something from the past can quite often hurt people. That requires letting go of a whole truckload of excess baggage. Because we are new creations and we are on a road to good mental health, and to the fruits of the spirit, we rejoice in a future without those issues.
Psalm 30: 10-12 “Hear, Oh Lord and be merciful to me, O Lord be my help. You turned my wailing into dancing: You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.”
We must be strong and we must stand fast and let the joy of the Lord be our strength. [Nehemiah 8:10] I found out if you really want something out of your life bad enough then you have to ask God to come and get it. We aren’t strong enough or forgiving enough or loving enough to let it go. God is going to have to come and get it. He will come and get it and he will dispose of it.
Psalm 103: 11-12 “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgression from us.”
Ezekiel 11:17-19 “Therefore say, ‘this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again. They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.'”
Recently, our prayer group was talking about taking out the trash. This isn’t something you can do once and then just forget about it. Trash piles up. If we want God to come and remove our trash and dispose of it, we are going to have to ask him to come and get it. Once we take the initiative to ask, God will do the rest.
If there is something you are holding onto, then you need to look at the reasons you are holding onto it. Is it because you want revenge?
Romans 12: 17-19 “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Are you not letting go of something because of pride? Proverbs 11:2 — “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” If you compare your accomplishments to those of Jesus, I think you might reconsider. Another reason for holding onto hurt could be because you are embarrassed to admit you were wrong. Psalm 19:12 — “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sin, may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless innocent of great transgression.”
I have what I perceive to be a lot of hidden faults. Often I am embarrassed to admit I may be wrong about something because it might mean I am admitting that I am not perfect.
If you are not letting go of something because you don’t want to admit you made a mistake then you are sadly mistaken. God knows you made a mistake, even if the rest of us don’t. So let it go. Open up that fist and let it go. Put it out by the curb and let the Holy Spirit pick it up and dispose of it. Is it because you don’t want to let go of the hurt? Remember how good it felt to open you fist a few minutes ago? That is what your soul really wants to do. It wants to open up and receive the fullness of the fruits of the spirit.
Stop thinking about how someone snubbed you or said that you were stupid. Stop thinking about how your family, friends, church rejected you. Think about how God loves you and accepts you, and embrace that. Read Psalm 34. It will give you a wonderful perspective. Follow the words of Paul because when you are meditating on the word of God it is difficult if not impossible to hold onto the bad things in your life.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” — Philippians 4:8
Journalist and one-time disc jockey and stand-up comedian Stacy Reynolds began writing at an early age and is the author of the thriller The Sound of Silence. She graduated from Southwest Texas State with a degree in English and journalism and settled in Austin, Texas.