God has been so good to me. I’ve seen Him answer so many prayers that the only way I can describe it is as one great adventure. I’ve seen Him bring family members and friends to Christ in answer to prayer. I’ve watched God open doors into nations because of the prayers of His people. And I’ve witnessed the healing of a nation because of leaders seeking the face of God. There’s no greater joy in life than to go into the presence of God.
That’s why my heart was so heavy one afternoon when I attempted to spend time alone with God. It seemed as though the heavens were closed to my prayers, and it had been that way for over two weeks. I was miserable. I don’t think that there’s anything worse than having had intimacy with God and then to lose it.
As I cried out to God in frustration, the Holy Spirit began to gently speak to my heart, “You must forgive him. You can’t hold bitterness in your heart and have intimate fellowship with Me.”
I knew that it was true, but I felt so hurt – so violated. The man about whom God was speaking to my heart had done some things to me that had crushed me. I didn’t think I could forgive him. I thought he had been a dear friend until I discovered what he had done. I asked God, “How can I forgive this man? You know what he did to me!”
But God spoke again to my heart, “Do you understand what you did to Me? You murdered my Son. It wasn’t Jews or Romans who put Him on that cross. He could have called ten legions of angels to take Him off the cross. It was your sins that nailed Him to the cross. Your sins killed Him. And I forgave you. As I have forgiven you, you can forgive this man.”
I was stricken with conviction. I quietly prayed, “Father, I forgive this man.” Immediately there was a release of the presence of God in that lonely place. God met with me. I didn’t have the power to forgive the man, but God did. God had forgiven me, and all that I needed to do was to reach deep into my soul and by faith pull out the grace that He had placed there. When I dipped into the well of God’s grace and forgiveness, I discovered that “His grace is sufficient.” I was able to forgive the man.
Bitterness hurts no one but the person who hangs on to it. It’s the silent thief that robs us of our intimacy with God. We’ll never maintain close fellowship with God and hide bitterness in our hearts.
That’s why Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matt. 6:12 NIV). We can’t know the presence of God and become bitter at the same time. We can’t hold grudges and have power in prayer. We must choose which is most important to us – God’s power and presence or anger and bitterness. The result of that choice will determine the depth of our fellowship with God.