How to Handle Anger, Part 4 -Freedom Through Forgiveness
Forgiveness is the only biblical solution for handling our unrighteous anger. Unless we release the people who have wronged us, bitterness and resentment will take root in our lives. Through the powerful practice of forgiveness, we can learn to let go of anger and find the freedom God desires for each of His children.
A. Biblical Examples
Joseph's older brothers had sold him into slavery when he was quite young (Gen. 37:28). But he eventually became second-in-command of all of Egypt.
- What did Joseph say was the reason God had sent him to Egypt (Gen. 45:4-7)?
- How did his brothers expect to be treated (Gen. 50:15)?
- Whose job was it to punish sin, according to Joseph (v. 19)?
- What perspective did he have about his brothers' action s (v. 20)?
King Saul hunted David out of jealousy and fear of losing the throne to the younger warrior. Read 1 Samuel 24:1-7.
- How did David respond when he had the chance to kill Saul?
- Although David knew he would be king after Saul, he didn't feel the need to defeat Saul in order to promote himself. Why (v. 6)?
- What was Saul's response to David's mercy (vv. 17-21)?
- How do we know Saul did not truly repent of hunting David (1 Sam. 26:1-2)?
- How does David react when he has a second opportunity to take Saul's life (1 Sam. 26:7-11)?
- How do you think David avoided becoming bitter against Saul (1 Sam. 24:12-13; 1 Sam. 26:23-24)?
Our heavenly Father provided the ultimate example of forgiveness when He allowed Christ to be crucified for the sins of humanity.
- According to Romans 5:6-8, what was remarkable about how the Lord demonstrated His love for us?
- Before we were saved, what were we in relation to God (Rom. 8:10)?
- What does God's example model for us about forgiving others?
B. How to Forgive
1. Recognize that you have been totally forgiven. God saved you by grace––not because you deserved it (Eph. 2:1-10). He has freely offered His forgiveness to you.
Read Matthew 18:23-34.
- Why did the master expect the first slave to show compassion on the man who owed him money?
- What parallel can you draw between this story and your need to forgive others for what they have done to hurt you?
2. Forgive the debt.
Release the other person from what you believe he or she owes you for the offense. Take any hostile feelings you may have and willingly surrender them to Christ
- Whose job is it to get revenge (Rom. 12:19)?
- What should our attitude and actions be regarding those who oppose us (Rom. 12:17-21)?
- According to Hebrews 12:15, if a root of bitterness is allowed to grow, it will "defile many." What do you think this means?
3. Confess your anger and unforgiveness to the Lord.
- What types of attitudes does Paul instruct believers to "put away" (Eph. 4:30-32)?
- Describe the frame of mind believers should "put on" (Col. 3:12).
The Bible clearly teaches that we have an obligation to forgive others. If you are harboring resentment towards anyone, take a few moments right now to confess your hostility and ask for God's forgiveness.
4. Accept others.
Jesus promised that the Father would provide for our needs as we seek His kingdom first (Matt. 6:33). When you look to the Lord in this way, you can accept others as they are—even those who never change.
- Think about a situation in which those who have hurt you continue to let you down. What specific needs do you have that are not being met?
As you keep your focus on God, He will supply what you lack according to His will, purpose, and timing. (See Psalm 37.) Be careful not to have preconceived ideas about how the Father must act to meet your needs or whom He will use in doing so.
- How did Paul maintain his contentment, even when he was "going hungry" or "suffering need"
5. View others as tools of growth.
The Lord uses the difficult situations we experience to refine our character and sharpen us spiritually
(Rom. 8:28-29). Many times we, like Joseph, can see how God used adversity to arrange the circumstances of our lives for His purposes (Gen. 50:20).
- How has God used painful or disappointing circumstances to teach you spiritual lessons or place you in the center of His perfect will?
6. Seek to reconcile with the other person.
Once the barrier of unforgiveness is removed, reuniting with a friend or loved one may come easily.
- Read Romans 12:18. What does this imply about situations in which we do our best to reconnect but the other person is unwilling?
Closing: Only through forgiveness can we find genuine freedom from bitterness, resentment, and anger. Release your hostile feelings to the Lord, and allow His presence to heal and restore you.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, my natural tendency is to hold onto hurt and anger. Please grant me the grace to extend forgiveness to others because of the amazing mercy You have shown me. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
Adapted from "The Gift of Forgiveness" (1991).