The “People You May Know” box on Facebook popped up with her sister’s picture inside. The same smile that five years ago brought great joy ushered in a sadness that she was not aware that she was carrying with her all this time. Her breath sped up as she pondered what had happened to keep her and her sister apart for so long. The words that were spoken in anger, the silence at the Thanksgiving table and finally her sister’s stomping out of the house without a word of goodbye. Until the Facebook picture had arrived on her laptop, she had a difficult time remembering what the argument was about, but her bitterness was thick. Her finger itched to tap “Add Friend,” but she had left the ball of emotion in her sister’s court and there had been no communication ever since. “How did I let it get this far?” kept running through her mind as tears ran down her face. Then a Bible verse that she and her sister had learned together in Sunday School all those years ago came flooding back.
“Then Peter came to him and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’” Matthew 18:21-22 (NLT)
Then memory after memory of laughing, tenderness, and care that her sister had provided for their elderly mother at the most difficult time in both of their lives came shining through. A warmth of gratefulness that she had not had to walk through her mother’s illness and death alone followed as her hand hovered over the mouse. Crying together, arm in arm while their mother took her last breath, she realized that she loved her sister so much and did not want to live a day without her. Then Thanksgiving, pain, anger, and silence.
A still, small voice quietly whispered to her heart, “What if the next five Thanksgivings were the most grateful Thanksgivings ever?” Her mind jumped straight back to the hurt, but her heart began to soften as she pictured her family sitting around the table with her sister’s family right beside them. She could almost smell the turkey and cranberry sauce and hear the conversation about the new grandchild to be born later this year and how Christmas would never be the same if he was born on that date. Her husband’s voice broke the reverie when he asked why she was holding her hand over the computer as if she was waiting for an answer to come from on High.
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:13 (NLT)
She smiled up at her husband and said, “I think it already has,” as she clicked the “Add Friend” button next to her sister’s beautiful face. The response was instantaneous as the message popped up that stated “Carol accepted your friend request” and words of gratefulness were all that her mind would create. Perhaps the next five Thanksgivings would be the most grateful Thanksgivings of all.
‘…(Love) keeps no record of when it has been wronged.’ 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT)
My story is not that different from that above except I don’t have a sister. The feelings are the same and a conglomerate of my conversations with my friends about what they have faced during the holidays. So, my question is “who do you need to forgive this Thanksgiving season?” Research has shown that it is nearly impossible to hold a grudge when you are focused on being grateful for what God has provided for you. Is there a part of your heart that stays cold while the rest enjoys the warmth of gratefulness? I can hear you just as I hear many of my counseling clients, “Oh, Stacey! You have no idea what they have done!” And you are right, I don’t. But, I know what it means to be completely grateful and that doesn’t include the bitterness of unforgiveness.
“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs.” Proverbs 12:10 (NLT)
Your Thanksgiving will be a different celebration when you respond in love. I’m not asking you to put yourself at risk or jeopardize your safety. There are some people that you cannot have in your life for various reasons. What I am saying is that the person who holds onto the bitterness is working very hard to keep it and struggling to find what grateful looks and feels like. Open the eyes of your heart today and pray that a picture on social media is all that it would take to reach out to that loved one in gratefulness and love.
You know what you see when you open your heart to those you love. How would your scenario look different from the one above?
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Discuss: As you were reading this devotion, did God bring someone to mind that you need to do more than “Add Friend” for today?
Who is hurt the most when forgiveness is forbidden?
Job 18:4 says “You who tear yourself to pieces in your anger, is the earth to be abandoned for your sake? Or must the rocks be moved from their place?” What does that verse tell your heart?
“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11 is very clear about overlooking an offense but does it also speak to the wisdom of gratefulness?
Pray: Lord God, we come to You today in our humanness and ask that you lead our hearts to gratefulness and forgiveness. This Thanksgiving, we will give thanks for what You have forgiven us for and we ask that you allow all bitterness to disappear as we forgive others as You have forgiven us. With all of the grateful feelings that we hold for You, allow those to push the pain of the past out and the bright Light that is your Son in.