Several years ago, I attended a grief support group to observe and gather information to take back and share with the leadership in the counseling ministry at the church I attended at that time. I was able to observe programs at several churches, and was amazed at the support and encouragement such groups offered each person attending these meetings.
A Life of Anger and Bitterness
At one particular session, I met an elderly man who had lost his wife in the last year, and wept bitterly over the loneliness he now experienced. As he wiped away a flow of tears he could not stop, he shared that his wife was the one who had friends, and now that she was gone, no one was there for him. He told us the reason was because he had been a bitter, angry man for many, many years and he admitted that now, he was sorry for holding on to offenses from the past and never letting go. He spent most of his adult life angry at God and angry at people that had hurt him, and now all he was left with were tears of regret.
Dealing with Pain
Sometimes, our response to a deep and painful hurt is anger towards God. Because of that anger, we can’t find a way to deal with what happened in order to heal and move forward in our lives. Anger is normal, but staying angry becomes unhealthy and keeps us from healing. Holding on to anger leads to bitterness, depression, and more anger. Ephesians 4 (NIV) says in verses 26 and 27, “In your anger do not sin; do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” There are multiple warnings in the book of Proverbs regarding anger and explaining its many dangers. Proverbs 18:19 (NIV) declares “an offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.”
Moving Beyond the Pain
The natural human reaction often leads us to angrily shake our fist at God for allowing painful events that occur in our lives. Taking God’s hand and walking with Him through the valley of pain is the path to His healing work in our heart. Holding on to the Lord is how we overcome, work through, and move beyond the pain - and find our healing and experience wholeness again.
Moving from the place of shaking your fist at God to taking His Hand is how we demonstrate to our Lord that we are surrendering our lives and our circumstances into His loving care, and trusting Him fully that He will take us past the pain and to a new place of hope, peace, and joy.
Letting Go…to Heal
Letting go opens the door for God to do His healing work. The enemy wants us to think this is just too hard and painful for us to do. Yet, God’s Word strongly teaches us we are to forgive our offender seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22). For us, the hard part is arriving at the decision to make the choice to let it go, but in letting go, we will reap the sweet fruit of peace and freedom. It takes a step of faith that requires trusting God, and when we do, He gives us the strength to let go. And when we obey this principle taught in His Word, He will make it possible for us to do what has seemed too hard to do…until now.
Those of us sitting around the table offered the elderly man hope, because it is never too late to take that step and let go of the anger, bitterness, and offenses a heart has been holding - even for decades. His countenance changed and we knew God was softening his heart. The fresh tears he wiped away were now tears of hope.