“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19 (NLT)
I had been lied to, betrayed, rejected and hurt. I was heartbroken, but after a while, that heartbreak turned to anger and unforgiveness, and I felt I had every right to both.
Day after day, the feeling of righteous anger would overpower the desires of my heart to forgive. Although I would ask God for the ability to give mercy and forgiveness, my long mental list of justifications for being angry would override my hollow prayer. It felt as if there were voices in my head arguing with each other, one trying to convince me I was justified in feeling angry, and the other trying to convince me forgiveness was the best choice.
For months, the loudest voice was the one partnered with my damaged human emotions, and unfortunately, it was the one I listened to the most: Yes, I have a right to be angry, and yes, I deserve to feel anger toward this person. Anyone would agree.
However, after listening to the wrong voice, my thoughts and emotions began to steal my peace and ability to be happy. Because my mind was consumed with what had been done to me, it made it nearly impossible to have positive thoughts and feelings, much less enjoy life.
Then one morning while doing my Bible study, I came across today’s key verse, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (James 1:19).
In this passage, James is imploring God’s people to understand the damage negative thoughts and emotions can cause. Notice how he says “everyone” should be slow to speak and slow to anger, leaving no room for excuses or righteous indignation from those who feel they’ve been wronged.
From a worldly perspective, I did have every right to be angry and unforgiving, but from a godly perspective, my anger and unforgiveness held me hostage to a lack of joy. The longer I felt justified in my anger and the more I held onto it, the stronger a foothold the devil had in my heart, and the tighter the chains became.
I realized I’d been living in a state of oppression by the enemy, and it was affecting my every thought and action. Affecting how I lived out each day. Affecting my peace, joy and happiness. I wanted to be free, even if it meant forgiving someone I felt didn’t deserve my forgiveness and hadn’t even asked for it.
As I continued reading, I read James 1:22, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (NIV). Through this passage, God softened my heart, making me aware that although I had forgiven with my words, I had not yet truly forgiven with my heart. As a result, my habit of justifying my anger caused an overflow of negative emotions to build inside me. It was choking my happiness and preventing me from living my life abundantly — with the joy of my salvation.
In every area of life, including managing strong emotions and practicing forgiveness, God calls us to be “doers” of His Word, not just “hearers” — even when nothing in us wants to.
But I learned something through that experience: Forgiveness had set the prisoner free. And that prisoner was me. Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves, not our offender, and this gift opens the door to living with joy.
Dear Lord, please forgive me for harboring anger in my heart, even when it feels justified. Equip me with a supernatural ability to forgive those who’ve hurt me and to guard my heart when old emotions threaten to surface. Strip my heart of anger, and replace it with joy. Thank You for Your mercy and for forgiving my own sins. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Ephesians 4:26-27, “And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” (NLT)
Do you struggle with forgiving someone who’s hurt you, or maybe forgiving yourself for your past mistakes? Tracie Miles’ book, Love Life Again: Finding Joy When Life is Hard, can help you overcome both of these struggles and learn to live life with joy again.
Visit Tracie’s blog to stay connected to her.
REFLECT AND RESPOND
Ask yourself, “Have I felt justified in my anger toward someone? Do I need to ask God to help me sincerely forgive with my whole heart, so I can be freed from the bondage of my negative emotions and hurt?”
What is God teaching you about forgiveness lately? Join the conversation and let us know your thoughts!
© 2018 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.