God Wants to Set You Free
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:19a, ESV).
Last January I prayed about my one word for the year. I hoped for words like "discovery" or "new" or "intimacy." Something beautiful and fresh in my relationship with God.
As I knelt I sensed the word "forgive."
This wasn't logical. I teach on forgiveness. I write books and articles about forgiveness. It's the one word I thought had already defined my life.
Yet, every time I prayed, that one word remained.
So, in 2013 I began to let this word saturate my life, and discovered new lessons my Heavenly Father wanted to show me. One of those was a shift in the way I viewed forgiveness. We often hear these directives:
You need to forgive.
You should forgive.
But as I let this word guide me in my conversations, in my responses to people and events, in my feelings, and in my faith, a powerful truth emerged:
We get to forgive.
We aren't prisoners of bitterness, locked behind the walls of our anger. We have free will, and can choose to step out of unforgiveness, into a place of beauty at any time.
However, if we choose to hold on to our hurt, it can feel like a dry wasteland has taken up residence in our hearts. It roots its way into our thought process, and in the way we view life or people. It may make us feel strong as we hold on to a grudge or build a wall to protect ourselves, when in actuality we have only hemmed ourselves in from all that God wants us to experience.
In Isaiah 43, the Israelites had a choice as well. They were in a hard place, and had been for a long time. They had heard about the miracles performed in the past, but God was offering to "cut a path through the wilderness, and create rivers in a dry wasteland" (verse 19b). He was prepared, if they followed His leading, to show them something they wouldn't see or experience otherwise. God makes the same offer to us.
We are meant to live free. Totally free. This is what we discover when we start to live a forgiving lifestyle. Not hindered or encumbered in any way.
As I lived out my word in 2013, I was reminded that although I had forgiven big things, I needed to address little offenses. God showed me the power of little things that irked or flared in resentment, robbing me as I nurtured a hurtful word or action... long after the person who caused the pain had left the scene.
If there's unforgiveness lurking, festering, hurting you, will you consider allowing God to move into those broken and wounded places in 2014?
Will it be easy? Not for most of us. Living life as a forgiver is one of those acts of faith that may seem impossible, especially when another has caused you pain. But forgiving leads you from a place of hurting to healing, it clears away past baggage that weighs you down, and offers a new identity based on who you are to God, rather than what someone did.
"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"
Forgiving offers a fresh slate.
Forgiving allows us to discover new depths and facets of our faith.
Forgiving leads to deeper relationship with God as we live out this word daily, even when it is difficult. For we aren't alone in this journey, and God has more for us as we follow where He leads.
Dear Lord, may this be the year I forgive and live free. Show me day by day what forgiving looks like, and give me wisdom and strength to live it out. Thank You that I get to forgive so I can discover what You have for me! In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
You never know where your one word might lead. Mine led me to the words I first hoped I would hear: new, discovery, intimacy!
Prayerfully ask God for a word. It may not be forgive, for God knows what you need. As you begin each day, ask God to show you the opportunities to live out your word. How will it affect your choices? The way you respond to others? The way you live out your day?
2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (NIV)
Matthew 6:12, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (NIV)
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