The word of God states in Hebrews 12:14-15 (NKJV): “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;”
We had never met!
I had a meeting with this patient. As I approached her in the reception area, I called out her name and said hello. Her immediate response went something like this… “That is not my name! You pronounced my name wrongly.” Her demeanour was one of anger. The interview that ensued was one of the most challenging and difficult ones that I ever encountered.
I soon discovered during the interview with her that she had suffered hurt and abuse from many who were close to her and had a problem forgiving each one of those people. As a result she lived in the past and was stuck in the pain and hurt from others. She could not move on.
I left that interview feeling heavy in my own heart and the rest of my day was nearly marred by this encounter.
In later interactions that ensued between us, much of this woman’s conversation was centered on the hurt she had experienced from other people. She had a choice to either let go of painful memories from the past or keep holding on to them. She chose the latter. As a result, she could not move on with her life, the very thing she said she wanted. I believe that secretly what she really wanted was to get even. No physician could help her. Indeed, she had been to see many physicians/therapists in the past but not much had shifted in her situation: she was still miserable, depressed, anxious and upset with every little thing.
Many of us are like that. We have been hurt by others and never been able to let go of the hurt because in our minds we believe we deserve justice or a settlement.
When we hold a grudge or harbor offence and bitterness in our heart, several things happen to us:
1. Peace within ourselves
One dimension to the mental health of any human is peace of mind. This, we often take for granted until we lose it. This asset to our mental health is priceless. No wonder our peace of mind is contested every day from different angles in life and often manifested in the form of worry.
Yet as a Christian, you are given the peace of God as part of His inheritance to you “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15).
According to this scripture every Christian is called to a life of peace. Secondly, this peace, like an umpire must rule in the heart of a Christian for him/her to enjoy all that God has for them. Furthermore the responsibility for keeping this peace lies with you. In other words one can lose this peace. One of the easiest ways of losing the peace of God is by keeping hurts and offences in your heart – the very place that the peace of God is meant to rule. You can never be at peace within yourself when you live in a perpetual state of strife. It is not possible! Strife puts you in a state of unrest and keeps you always on edge.
2. Peace with others
When we are not at peace with ourselves, we cannot be at peace with others! Unforgiveness not only affects you. It affects others around you and the relationship you have with them. The heart is made impure or defiled when we do not forgive. It is defiled by thoughts and feelings of getting even, cynicism, bitterness, resentment and hatred.
This is what the bible refers to in Hebrews 12:15 “…looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;”
Often people who are bitter at heart turn others away from them by the aura they carry around them. It is true that often hurting people try to hurt others also even if inadvertently.
Unforgiving people are easily offended by other people’s seemingly harmless comments or remarks. Everything is interpreted from their self-centred focus.
3. Peace with God
One of the immediate results of salvation for anyone who turns to Jesus Christ and accepts Him into their life is this inexplicable peace and tranquility that clothes one’s heart and mind. I believe this is a result of knowing that one has been forgiven by God Almighty.
In the Christian journey that ensues after this foretaste of the Kingdom, this peace is meant to be maintained by keeping one’s mind on Christ and putting one’s trust in His Word. This is how the bible puts it: “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.”(Isaiah 26:3). How then is it possible to keep your heart and mind on Christ when the same is focused on the hurt caused by others? One of the surest ways to lose the peace of God is when we hold on and fail to let go of the hurt caused by others.
May we never take the peace of mind we have for granted and may God give us His grace to keep it at all cost!