Be happy - tip #20

In Matthew 18, Jesus tells the parable about the servant who owed a ginormous debt to the king.  (Side note - I always wondered what in the world that man did to run up such large debt!!  He was still a servant!!!  ANYHOW....)You're probably familiar with it.  Remember how the story goes?  He asked the king for mercy and the king graciously forgave his debt but then the servant turned right around and refused to forgive a fellow servant who owed him a piddling amount.  The king was not happy.  Familiar story.  But perhaps it bears pointing out a couple of verses that tie this to our topic of being happy. 

Verses  34, 35 - And in anger his master delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all his debt.  So also my Heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

Tip # 20 - Forgiveness.

Unforgiveness locks us in our own cell of isolation.  But its not solitary confinement  - our suite mates are unwelcome tormentors such as depression, anger, jealousy, feelings of rejcction and insecurity, etc.  When we fail to forgive others for the debt they owe us (debts of acceptance or love or loyalty or faithfulness or whatever), the Bible is clear that we are subjecting ourselves to Satan's invasion.  (Ephesians 4:26,26)  No, he can't own us if we belong to Christ but he can insert his unwelcome presence  and wreak all sorts of havoc in our lives.

So, what are we to do if we want to be happy instead of depressed?  First, we must ask the Lord if we are harboring any bitterness or unforgiveness towards anyone.  Then listen to what He says.

Next, before I can actually forgive, I find it helpful to do a bit of tattling.  Yep, I tattle on my the only One who can do something about it...I pour out my heart to the Lord instead of letting the feelings remain inside and putrify. And instead of telling my friends how hurt I am.  I tell Him not only what the offense was but mostly how it makes me feel and how I well as any honest feelings of what I wish He would do to the offender!  He can take it.  As I pray, I usually calm down and gain perspective a bit.  I ask Him to grant me grace so that I can obey Him, acknowledging His command that I forgive.  I remind myself that forgiveness is so that I can be free - not to let the offender "off".  Forgiveness does NOT MEAN that what they did to me is "OK" - instead it means that I am indeed owed a debt from that person but that I will not make them pay it.   I will trust God to handle the payment. 

At this stage, I usually don't "feel" forgiveness.  But by His grace, I choose to release the person from what they owe me.  And I remind myself of that decision day by day...hour by hour...until eventually feelings of mercy and grace replace indignation.  Maybe this is not the application Jesus intended when He spoke of forgiving someone 70x7, but that's what I do when I need to forgive someone.  I remind myself that I have made that choice in my heart/mind over and over and over until a new thought pattern is established.  So that when I think of that person, my initial response is not one of anger or retribution but rather a reminder of forgiveness...and how much The King has forgiven me.

Probably the main thing that helps me practice this decision of forgiveness is to pray for the offender.  I have already prayed about them so now I need to pray for them.  And not "God, please give them what they deserve!!"  Not based on how I am feeling about them at the moment but rather based on obedience to Christ's command to pray for our enemies, I pray for them the same things that I pray for those I love.  That they would know the love of Christ.  That they would be forgiven for they don't know what they are doing.  That they would walk in a manner worthy of their calling.  That they would experience the peace that passes all understanding.  That God would grant them favor and blessing.   Yes, sometimes I almost choke on the words.  At least at first.  But remember that forgiveness is about what God wants to do in ME, not necessarily the other person.  So I plod on.  Asking for His grace for ME, so that I can walk in obedience.

This really works.  It ushers in a work of grace that otherwise is just not possible.  The offender may not become my BFF but I will be free from bondage instead of being tied to them through unforgivness.  Free from anger and to love, and forgive again.

The last step is really icing on the cupcake.  I guess you could forgive without doing this but it's actually the best part.  It's the part that gets the debt paid.  You know, the debt that the offender owes you.  Even though we have released them from payment, the debt is not erased.  It still needs to be paid.    So what's the solution?  What's the payment plan?  You pay it yourself

You pay it investing in the offender.  Outrageous, right?  Pretty much scandalous, actually.  But God's economy is contrary to our own.  And the way to get the debt that we are owed erased is to pay it ourselves, into the life of the offender.  I know it sounds ridiculous.  But it's true. The payment plan can be gradual and creative. God will show you.  Sometimes He has had me write the offending party a note of encouragment.  Or bake a cake.  Or take flowers.  Other times, He has me NOT do things - like NOT telling my story.  Not telling something derogatory about that person --even when it's true.  Not putting them in a bad light in someone else's eyes.  Each act - or NONact - is an installment on their debt to me.  And, one day, to my surprise, when I encounter that person in the grocery store or their name comes up in conversation, I no longer feel that angst in my gut.  The debt is paid.  Hallelujah!