WOMAN2WOMAN: THE NAOMI & RUTH EXPERIENCE
Forgiveness / Overcoming Bitterness
Only forgiveness will heal the internal wounds of the mind, will and emotions. Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door and releases all forms of hurt (emotional pain that follows a grievous event). On the other hand, bitterness is the poison that keeps an offense alive in our hearts and minds. Bitterness uses the voice of torment to continually remind us of our injury.
Romans 12:21 says, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” We are overcome with evil when we don't forgive, because Satan uses unforgiveness to grow his kingdom of hatred in the hearts and lives of humanity. The devil's desire is for us to return evil thoughts for evil deeds. He knows that by creating painful offenses in our lives he can cause us to hold resentment toward others. He knows that the unforgiving poison of resentment will keep the goodness of God's kingdom from working in, and through, our lives. Unforgiveness gives Satan the victory as bitterness grows into anger, wrath, hatred, revenge, violence and even murder (either through our thoughts and words, or, by our actual deeds).
When we choose to forgive a perpetrator from biting words, rejection, abuse, or even physical harm, we have overcome that evil with good. God’s wisdom surpasses our understanding as His grace gives us the ability to forgive even the most heinous of crimes. Not only does forgiveness release us from the invisible prison of pain and torment, but it also releases God’s love to heal our wounds.
Take a moment and read Matthew 18:15-35, which is all about forgiving. One important principle is in verse 18. Did you know that you can bind unforgiveness and loose forgiveness in your heart and soul? Discuss.
Ps 133:1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
A DEEPER LOOK
In Hebrews 12:16-17, we are reminded of Esau despising his birthright. Our birthright into God’s kingdom is a gift based on the forgiveness given to us through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Esau sold his birthright for some meat (obviously, he didn’t value it). God requires that we forgive others as we have been forgiven by Him for our sins (Matthew 6:12) - this is how God’s kingdom works. He gives to us, and we give to others. It is a dangerous thing to devalue our birthright by not forgiving others. Just as Esau sold his birthright, we can sell ours for bitterness. The act of forgiveness is an extension of our birthright.
If there is still hurt attached to the memory of an offensive event in our lives, then forgiveness is not complete. God’s completed work of forgiveness will enable us to remember the wrongdoing, but we will not suffer from the painful effects of someone else's actions any longer.
Remember, forgiveness does not mean that we submit to further abuse from that same source. We can forgive people who have mistreated us, and at the same time not tolerate their victimization any longer.
Recognize and make a list of the hurts you have experienced.
But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
WORKING IN YOUR LIFE
- Forgiveness from the heart is the only kind of forgiveness that works. Forgiveness from the heart is not an intellectual forgiveness, nor is it the result of someone trying to be super-spiritual; instead, forgiveness is an attitude that emulates Jesus.
- Forgiveness is not an emotion, but an act of will. If you wait for an emotion, you won’t forgive because unforgiveness is already present and at work in your heart, mind and body.
- Learning to separate the person from the sin makes it possible to forgive people who have done evil things. You can hate evil and that is a very good thing (Proverbs 8:13), but you can’t hate the person. Jesus was able to forgive those that murdered him. He was able to separate sin from the person, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” As Christians, we are born-again into the same Spirit (1 Peter 1:22-23) so we can also respond in the same manner as Jesus.
- Forgiveness is something we need to do every day. Take an inventory of each day, and make those hurts, whether big or small, inconsequential with forgiveness. When we fail by returning evil for evil, we must quickly repent so that we can move ahead. Forgiving quickly will protect us, by not giving place to the devil in our lives (Ephesians 4:26-27).
- God is so much bigger than the evil done to us; so, we can trust Him with all hurtful events. Evil is never right, but God is the avenger.
Read Luke 6:31-36. What is God saying?
Do you think you can forgive? If not, why?
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE
What does bitterness do? It avoids people, turns stomachs, causes mental and emotional pain, causes piercing hostility, builds invisible walls, causes paralyzing thoughts and it can even make someone physically sick and/or terminally ill. Manifestations of bitterness might be seen in self-doubt, sarcasm, a hardened face, a gruff voice, foul language, rebellion, negativity, addictions, spitting, hitting, withdrawal from society, hoarding, and/or sexual promiscuity. Perhaps you've witnessed the bitterness of someone else. If so, what you saw was their bitterness defiling them.
One example of the manifestation of bitterness in the Old Testament is the story of Joseph and his brothers. Their dislike was so great that they were going to kill him, but instead, ended up selling him into slavery. Bitterness separates us from God, separates us from others and even separates us from ourselves. Unchecked bitterness will result in destroyed relationships.
Has anyone else's bitterness ever affected you? Explain.
Would you be willing to confess that you hate bitterness and what it does to mankind? Will you ask God to take all bitterness from you?
Will you take responsibility and name any sinful responses of bitterness that you have had?
MAKING IT HAPPEN!
1. When we fail to read and understand God's word, painful offenses can even cause us to develop bitterness toward God. Harboring lying thoughts such as; "God has forgotten me" or, “God has caused this to happen to me" can play into the devil's evil device of luring us away from the only One who can truly save and heal us from our torment. Scripture tells us plainly that the devil is the one who wants to kill, steal and destroy and that Jesus is the one who gives us life more abundantly (John 10:10). God is love (1 John 4:16). Repent to God now for any bitterness you may have toward Him.
2. Forgive yourself if you hold regret, shame and guilt. With repentance, God not only forgives, but also cleanses us from all unrighteousness. It is sinful to not forgive ourselves when Holy God has already forgiven us.
3. Forgive others for the pain they have caused you. Take the list you made of "hurtful events" and repent to God for any bitterness you have toward others. Tell God you forgive and release each person of the debt of sin that was committed against you.
4. Ask others for forgiveness. If you have caused pain, offended or defiled someone else, you may need to go to that person and tell them that you are sorry for your actions. Make this easy and don’t replay the "hurtful event" as that could stir up anger. Simply say, "I have had bitterness towards you, and I am sorry. Please forgive me."
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Our homework is the ongoing process of walking out of bitterness and changing our ways of thinking to the mind of Christ. We do this by holding every thought captive and rejecting those thoughts that don’t line up with the Word of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). This is an ongoing effort, so be kind and patient with yourself. God is thrilled that you are learning about your birthright!
Ask God to give you His love for all people and then practice making statements of faith that declare where you want to go in your forgiveness journey. Remember, forgiveness is a process that begins with a decision. Although difficult to feel, initially, forgiveness is where your heart is pointed and complete healing will be the end result of God's forgiving grace.
NAOMI & RUTH REFLECTION
Initially, Naomi blamed God for her problems. We know in the whole council of the Word of God that the Lord does not bring us evil; He sent His Son to destroy it. There is hope for all of us as we see Naomi work through her "‘hurtful events" as she returned to her home and to her God. The reward for her obedience was restoration of her life. This is also available to you.
***This lesson was contributed by Marlene Bussert. The Woman2Woman: Naomi & Ruth Experience Bible Study is a joint project between Deborah Ross Ministries and Safer Communities Ministry. Many teachers and ministers of the gospel from across the USA have contributed lessons contained in this study. Deborah Ross is the main contributor and the chief editor of this project.
About this Study
The Woman2Woman: Naomi & Ruth Experience Bible study uses the example of the relationship between Naomi and Ruth as a model for women who desire to participate in a discipleship program to the glory of God. It is specifically designed for use in a mentoring setting that takes place once per week whereby a more mature Christian woman makes a commitment to serve as the mentor in a Bible study relationship with another woman who is newer (less knowledgeable) in the faith. By sharing and discussing one study topic at each meeting, the hearts of both women involved will be transformed as God in their midst speaks to each of them through His Word (Matthew 18:20).
In addition to cultivating a new believer’s knowledge of the Word, this in-depth study guide is a great resource that can be used to minister help and healing from: a broken heart; shattered relationships; addictions; prison/jail time; a life of dysfunction; abandonment; mental, physical or sexual abuse; depression; and beyond. This material is also designed to bring healing to extended female family members of those suffering, as well.
Realizing that there are many potential mentors who really want God to use them in a powerful way, this material has been designed to ease the apprehension that may cause the willing leader to feel inadequate. Like Naomi, you don’t have to be perfect (free from struggles) in order to mentor and disciple another woman. You just need to be following the Lord in honest, scriptural ways and you’ll need to make yourself available to love another person by sharing what you do know about the Lord at this time in your life.