As I look out my living room window I see our maple trees. Those trees are beginning to change colors. The season is about to change. Not long ago my season was very difficult-probably the most difficult season I have ever endured. By the grace of God I weathered that stormy season just like our maples have endured many stormy seasons. Every year they lose their leaves in preparation for the hard winter. They freeze and shut down. The spring comes. The trees wake up, they thaw and their sap starts flowing again. Do you know what that sap produces? Deliciously sweet maple syrup. After a long hard season those trees begin to produce good “fruit” again.
Just like those trees, I shut down during my long, difficult season. I weathered a long winter. Then the spring came. My heart began to open and thaw. I began to produce good fruit again. I became human once more. My attitude changed. My spirit lifted.
My life isn’t perfect by any means. There may be more difficult seasons ahead. The one thing I know for sure is that God, and only God helped me through. One major breakthrough that God revealed to me is that I needed to forgive.
John 15:5-8 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Forgiveness is huge. When we don’t forgive someone it doesn’t hurt them. Sometimes they don’t even know that they hurt you. That unforgiveness is like a disease that roots itself into our hearts. Bitterness grows and it can turn into hate, resentment, envy. It takes up residence in our lives and it isn’t destroying the life of that person who hurt you it’s hurting your life.
I thought I had forgiven my dad for the difficult season that I had endured. I told myself that I forgave him anyway. The more that the negative thoughts and even the negative attitude showed up the more that God revealed to me that I had not forgiven my dad completely. There were others that I needed to forgive too. Those burdens, yes multiple burdens, were still there and I needed to hand them over to God. Most of all-I needed to forgive myself.
A lot of the time there are opportunities that you can physically or at least call, text or email someone to offer forgiveness. But, what if that person is no longer living. Offering forgiveness to someone who isn’t around is hard but it’s essentially letting go of the hurt, it’s letting go of the disappointment, it’s letting go of every situation that ever had a negative impact on your life. Its letting those leaves fall in preparation for new fruit. It’s giving ALL of that over to God; and do you know what he does with it? He throws it all away. It doesn’t matter anymore. Let that season help you grow stronger.
Colossians 3:12-14 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
If you need to ask for forgiveness-that is hard. That means you have to swallow pride and admit that you were in the wrong. I don’t think anyone likes to do that. I’ve had to ask for forgiveness several times and it has never been easy. However, once it’s done a new relationship can grow. Hearts are mended. Trust is renewed. What is really hard is forgiving yourself. Letting go of self destruction, admitting that you have been hurting yourself is never easy. Admitting that what you are going through has been dragging on because you just couldn’t let it go. Give that over to God.
When I decided I needed to forgive myself and my dad and others I had so much bitterness and negativity in my heart. I realized that I needed to let it go. One day I decided it was time to move on. I clinched my fists hard. I said out loud “God, I don’t want to carry this burden anymore. I need you to take it now.” And I opened my fists and symbolically let go of that burden. I instantly felt lighter. I felt at peace. I felt as though God had actually lifted a boulder off my shoulders.
Friends, I want you to honestly offer yourself some grace. Offer yourself and others forgiveness. Maybe you didn’t realize that is what needed to happen until today-but try it and see if your attitude changes or if your season begins to change. Though I may not know you or your situation I pray that you can let those bitterness seeds fall into the hands of Jesus.