I was at the bedside of a dying woman some years ago. In her last few days, she talked about her brother. She didn’t describe what he’d done, but she was still angry more than 75 years later.

That memory had gnawed at her all her life and left a root of bitterness that was so deep it had become anchored in her heart. We talked about the importance of forgiveness, but she chose to hold the memory and the anger close as if it were a kind of prize.

Holding the memory was a prize, but it wasn’t hers. That tight-fisted holding was a trophy for the evil one.

When bad things happen, and they will, we can process the bad thing, forgive, and find the healing only Christ can give, or we can hang onto it and let it devour us with anger and bitterness.

Which one makes sense to you?

Overcome evil with good.

Evil abounds in this world, but we are to overcome evil with good. That’s not my own Pollyanna-style foolishness. It comes straight from Scripture.

“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” Romans 12:21 NLT

Before we go further, let me make a few things clear. There are terrible things that are done to children, and they leave a lasting impact. I hate those wicked deeds.

There are acts of betrayal that feel like you’ve been kicked in the gut and trampled in the mud, and they can leave a lasting impact. I hate those acts of betrayal.

What I hate more, however, is the way those terrible deeds and acts of betrayal can gain the upper hand and destroy the rest of our lives. They can, in a way, train us to believe that we deserved the evil or that everyone betrays, that everyone will act in an evil way.

Those are lies from the evil one and there is no freedom in them.

Choose freedom

“It is for freedom that Christ set us free…” That’s Galatians 5:1. Christ died and rose again to give us freedom over the wickedness in our own hearts and the wickedness of others perpetrated on us.

I’m not saying processing our hurts is easy or that freedom is cheap, but it is possible and we can have it if we want it. If we’re willing to work for it.

I’ve had my share of hurt and betrayal and I’ve tried to let God heal it all.

Yesterday in staff devotions I mentioned a beautiful thing that happened recently. Years ago, someone had said terrible things about me and been unkind. I had forgiven it, mainly because that was better for me than holding on and letting bitterness have a root. God eventually restored the relationship. I shared the sweetness of restoration.

“I know she hurt me, but the odd thing is that I can’t remember what she did.”

That’s healing. Not only has the hurt lost its power over me, it’s lost its hold in my head. I took those thoughts captive and asked God to remove them, and He did.

Is it possible to forgive and forget?

“I can forgive but I can’t forget” is a common adage, but it’s not Scriptural wisdom. Let’s agree to stop quoting this bit of trickiness from the evil one. If God can help you forgive, He can handle forgetting, too.

You may not believe this right now, but, if you’ll take your thoughts captive and give them to our Heavenly Father, He’ll deal with them. You can’t keep pulling them out of the capture-bag and massaging them to see if they still hurt, though.

Do we want a free heart and free head or not?

Here’s how we do it. Start at the beginning of the hurt. Examine it, look for all its roots in our lives, dig it up, forgive it, and offer it to God in a metaphorical capture-bag. Continue, one by one, through the hurts in our lives until the thought-capture-bag is full, then hand it over to the Only One who can remove it.

That sounds simplistic, I know, but the theory is right. Only God can help us process the biggest of hurts, but He’s more than able. He stands ready and willing.

He’s waiting for us to choose freedom. We may need help from a pastor or Christian counselor, and it may take time, but we can be released from all our hurts if we want it.

Today, let’s choose freedom. When we do, we’ll find we’ve made more room for God.

“…and to know that love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:19

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