“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. (Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV)
Many people in our lives are truly godsend – they are there when we need them, with a sympathetic ear and a kind word. They step in with godly advice, an encouraging word or a helping hand in our time of need. Thank God for true friends.
But there are others who are also ‘Godsend’- but in a different way. They bring out the worst in us, expose our true thoughts and attitudes. They are sent by God to teach us some hard and necessary lessons – about patience and common sense, about being wise with words and money, about not taking others or allowing ourselves to be taken, for granted, and most importantly, learning to love and forgive people who let us down.
Dealing with such people is never easy. CS Lewis wrote that God expects us to love our neighbours as ourselves, but we shouldn’t worry if we don’t always like them, since we don’t always like ourselves. This makes a lot of sense to me. I find it difficult to like people who are dishonest or unreliable, though I do try (and sometimes fail) to love them.
There was an incident sometime ago when someone I know let me down badly. Deeply upset at being taken for granted, I found it hard to forgive this person. For the next one week, I woke up each morning feeling empty inside. My inner peace was all gone as I let bitterness and anger seep into my spirit. I had no desire to pray.
In despair, I found myself struggling to stay afloat spiritually. My scripture portion, one morning, was about the parable of the unforgiving servant. I remembered the verse in Ephesians 4:26. Yet, didn’t I, like Jonah, have the right to be angry?
It came to me that I ought to have taken the matter to the Lord in prayer, and settled the issue with Him before I had gone to sleep.
Things grow when we are asleep. The bud becomes a flower in the morning. Weeds multiply. Sleep is an incubator for our thoughts. Negative thoughts grow and take root in our spirits during the night, so it is necessary to nip them in the bud. “If angry, beware of sinning. Let not your irritation last until the sun goes down…” (Ephesians 4:26 Weymouth NT)
The lingering irritation is a fertile soil for the enemy to plant his weeds, and an open door for him to enter. If we give in, he will have more and more such incidents lined up to frustrate us and make us stumble, till our character and relationships are tainted by a bitter and unloving attitude. We will feel crushed, and drained of all our spiritual resources. How the devil enjoys wrecking our happiness. A heart free of bitterness and full of love, on the other hand, is a slippery ground for Satan – he and his minions fall when they they try to gain entrance. No wonder he tries to use people around us to rob us of our peace of mind and sow seeds of bitterness. We should not give in to his ploy even for a moment.
It is finally all about our relationship with the Lord. He longs for us to be free to serve Him. We cannot be free when our minds are full of negative thoughts. Our prayers are blocked, and the poison grows within our souls. But with the Lord’s help it is possible to eradicate the negativity that is building up; and to overcome the hurts within us. However justified we may feel about responding negatively, we will suffer if we don’t tackle bitterness in the early stages. So, I turned to the Lord in prayer –
Father, please help me. I cannot handle this on my own. Come to my aid. Clean my heart and mind of all negative thoughts towards people who have let me down. Help me to forgive everyone who has hurt me. Let me learn to forgive quickly and easily as You do. Remove all bitterness from my heart, and cleanse me with the blood of the Lamb. Grant me a loving heart and help me to please You. Fill me with Your peace, and restore to me the joy of Your salvation. In Jesus’ name.