We’re learning that a key part in practicing forgiveness is keeping our hearts swept clean — staying humble enough to admit and confess where we need God’s forgiveness, and then daily forgiving whatever may have made us feel wronged. Keeping our hearts swept clean protects us from the enemy and from slipping into the bitterness that can take over our thoughts and actions.
After I began thinking about this more, I started to see God’s call to this task repeatedly in Scripture:
Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold… 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. — Ephesians 4:26-27, Ephesians 4:31-32
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you… Purify your hearts. — James 4:7-8
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith. — 1 Peter 5:6-9
I became aware that I must get intentional when I go to bed every night. Isn’t God gracious that He allows this teaching to be tied to something we see every night? As the sun is going down, I remember it’s time for God to clean me out. I do not want to go to bed with anger or other difficult emotions sitting heavy in my heart.
What exactly are we supposed to do instead?
Psalm 4:4-5 (ESV) says,
Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent… put your trust in the Lord.
When I lay on my bed and search my heart, I find all kinds of unsettled hurt. If I fixate on it, it could lead me to sin. Instead, if I turn my thoughts to God, He will work in my heart every time.
Psalm 36 lays out the specifics here. It warns us against overlooking our own sin, embracing what is wrong, plotting evil, and failing to act wisely or do good (Psalm 36:2-4). This is where harbored resentment and unresolved anger takes us.
The psalmist guides us to think instead about God’s love, faithfulness, righteousness, justice, abundance, delight, life, and light (Psalm 36:5-9). When we think on these things, God will take our mess of emotions and turn it into peace. He’ll shift our thoughts from our perspective to His.
I’ve been trying this each night. It’s making me more patient during the next day because I do not want the reactions of the day to become my regrets of the night. I’m having less anxiety and feelings of angst because I’m no longer stirring up my hurt and letting it consume me.
Make a peaceful nightly ritual of being silent before God.
Let Him search out your heart and ask Him to turn your thoughts to Him. Ask for His forgiveness and His presence. Ask Him to help you forgive others. Learn to savor the silence and welcome His renewal and rest.
I’m still not able to do it perfectly, but I’m getting better, and it’s making a difference.
Excerpted with permission from The Forgiveness Journal, copyright Haven Place Ministries.
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What do you need to give to the Lord tonight? What hurt remains unsettled? Turn your mind to the Lord and fix your thoughts on His love, faithfulness, righteousness, justice, abundance, delight, life, and light (Psalm 36:5-9) instead. Ask for His help. Ask Him in to the hurt places and let Him do the work that only He can do. Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you. ~ Devotionals Daily