“What if you just let it go?” That’s a question most people can only ask others and not themselves. When a wrong has been done, it seems easy for those looking in from the outside to posit the suggestion that “letting go” would be easier and more productive than “hanging on” to hurt. Let go and let God the religious ones might even say. And you know what, it’s even scriptural it appears;
Philippians 4:5–7 (ESV)
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
That sounds really nice doesn’t it? Not being anxious. Experiencing peace. Letting everyone see and know your a reasonable person. Letting God carry the pain, trauma, hurt and anxiety that others have caused you. It seems as if it’s too good to be true. Just let it go they say. But they don’t always stop there.
“What if you went a step further and forgave the person who perpetrated against you?” Now they’ve gone too far. To not carry it is one thing, but to let the other person off the hook? To remove from them the burden and the baggage of having to live with what they did to me? “I don’t think I have the stomach for that”, we say. “You don’t understand what they did to me. The hurt they’ve caused me. The reality I now live in because of who they’ve been, what they’ve done, or what they said. It’s my RIGHT to carry it around and hold it against them for as LONG as I see fit.” Only one issue with that for us Christ-followers though – BOTH Testaments have something to say about this one;
Leviticus 19:18 (ESV)
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV)
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
It’s as if God doesn’t understand what it’s like to be the victim of something awful. Like He doesn’t understand that hanging on to hurt is what gets some of us out of bed in the morning and drives us until our head hits the pillow. It’s as if He thinks there’s a better way that we’re just not seeing…
Luke 6:27–31 (ESV)
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
Oh. Well see now, that last line seems to be the clincher. For most of us, grudges only have one side – ours. We sit and dwell on ALL the injustices that have been done to us, without even considering the life and reality of the person who did them unto us. We don’t for one second consider what brought them to do it, or what caused their misgivings. Worse yet, we usually aren’t even AWARE of the evils we’ve committed towards others. They happen, we don’t notice or understand, and there sits someone else in the world who holds on to hurt because of us. Because of what WE did, or said, and caused to happen. Hurt people, hurt people. Or so they say.
So what if just for one day, or one week, or one month – we stopped holding on to hurt, and started laying it down at the feet of Jesus. What does that even mean? I think it means giving up the right to carry it around with us every day and in every situation. To stop taking about it, to stop using it as an excuse, to stop letting it define who we are – and instead let ourselves be defined by who God says we are.
Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Masterpieces are full of mistakes, it’s just that no one else notices them. Only the artist knows of their existence, and after a while, given the right circumstances, even they forget. What if instead of carrying around a bag of junk that other people handed us, we carried around a sign that said “masterpiece” – and we wrote it on our hearts? And what if we didn’t stop there?
What if, instead of holding on to hurt, we started hanging on to God’s promise to forgive us for all the wrongs we’ve done, and repaid the favor to those who have “done onto us?” It doesn’t mean forgetting what they’ve done. It doesn’t mean letting them back into the secret places of your heart. It just means giving up the right to be controlled by it anymore. Forgiveness, at least in situations like these, is more for those who have been hurt, than those who did the hurting. Even if they never know the pain they’ve caused you – your choosing to forgive them, takes away the power they have over you – and hands it back to the One who always had it anyway.
“What if you let go? What if you forgive?” I guess it turns out the only person who loses if you don’t – is you. So now I guess the only question left is – “what are you waiting for?”