We have come to the end of our series ‘Starting Over’ where we have been looking at how we can learn from our past experiences and mistakes so we can make next time better that last time, and not carry our past into our future. So far in this series we’ve gone on a journey from Owning It to Rethinking It, and now we are looking at Releasing It.
If anyone knows about this, its Kim. Kim survived a napalm attack on her town in Southern Vietnam in 1972, when she was just 9 years old. A photo captured of this even became world famous. In the middle of the photo was young Kim running for her life. It touched hearts all over the world, but for Kim it was a reminder of the worst day of her life. How could Kim ever deal with what happened to her? How could she ever forgive those who had a part to play in her suffering?
When bad things happen to us, it’s so easy to feel hurt and angry and our anger can lead to immense bitterness and the desire for revenge. This was true for Kim. In the Bible we read of verses that speak about this issue. In the New Testament, Paul writes to the Church in Ephesus about the dangers of anger and where it can lead. Let’s look at Ephesians chapter 4, verses 26 to 27: ‘In your anger do not sin’: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold’. What Paul is saying is that it’s ok to be angry. He is also warning us of where anger can lead. Paul is saying that we must deal with our anger immediately and we mustn’t let it fester. That’s because anger isn’t passive. It eats away at us, and if left, it grows. The Message Version of the Bible puts it very aptly: ‘Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry’. Paul goes on to say: ‘Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you’. (verses 31 to 32)
Could you imagine someone like Kim reading these words? I wonder if perhaps you’ve read passages like this and thought that’s its easier said than done! But Paul is saying here is that we must get rid of our anger and bitterness. We must extinguish our anger before it takes hold of us and before the devil gets a foothold. It’s not easy to overcome hurt and anger, but Paul tells us that the only solution is forgiveness. Forgiveness requires us to make a choice. If you are Christian, Paul is reminding and encouraging you to remember the reason you are able to forgive; because you have been forgiven. Because Jesus paid the price for our sins and wrongdoings and because God chose to take action in this broken world and accomplished for us what we could not accomplish ourselves.
Is there hurt in your heart? Do you want to release the past, so that the past can release you? Do you need to hear the message of forgiveness so you can forgive others? Do you want to learn from past mistakes and hurt, so that your past doesn’t get dragged into your future and steal the freedom that God intends for you to have? Take time to pray about these things, seek God and ask Him to help you forgive and release the past. If you need professional help, please don’t struggle on alone, reach out to those around you.
If you want to read more about Kim Phuc’s story, her book ‘Fire Road’ tells an incredible story of how her pain and anger were transformed by forgiveness and love. It also describes her journey of faith and freedom she found in Christ.
Small Group Questions:
- What does your society/culture teach you about forgiveness?
- What does the Bible say about forgiveness?
- Do you think that Paul’s advice is wise?
- Is there anger and hurt in your life that you can’t move forward from?
- Do you think forgiveness is the remedy?