Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one
another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32
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Tears blurred my vision as I struggled to keep the car between the highway markings. "God, I'll never go back," I sobbed as I sped toward home. "I've tried and tried to get
along with Beulah. It's no use, she'll never change." I shivered in the crisp morning as the cool temperature seemed to penetrate my body.
This time my stepmother's tongue had cut too deeply---surely we had finally
come to the point of no return in our relationship.
I loved my father deeply, but I was going to have to stay away from both of them. Every visit ended in grief, and I could see no hope for a decent relationship---ever.
Beulah entered my life when I was three. At that age I should have adjusted easily to her as my mother, but even then she was possessive of my father's time and attention.
Ever since, I had toted a hug bag of resentment toward Beulah. Bitterness was my constant companion. As a Christian, I felt ashamed that I couldn't manage a good
relationship with Beulah. Knowing that it shouldn't be that way, I struggled with the problem constantly, but the situation seemed impossible.
I wallowed in self-pity for two weeks after my awful meeting with Beulah, and God listened to my tale of woe. "I've spent my whole life trying to please her," I wailed. "And those days I was miserable most of the time."
Then God brought to mind the parable from the Bible in which a wicked servant who was forgiven his debt in turn refused to forgive his fellow servant of his debt. The wicked
servant's master turned him over to jailers to be tortured until his debt was fully repaid.
God showed me that I was like that servant in that I had been in an emotional prison
for years. I was hurting, but I knew that I could never be free from the torture of bitterness and resentment until I forgave Beulah completely.
"What can I do, God?" I prayed. "She's the one who hurts me. I can't seem to do anything about the memories. Those things really happened, they hurt then, and now they're stuck in my mind."
I sensed that God was shining His light into a dirty corner of my heart. It seemed as if He were telling me, "You allow every painful thing that she has ever done to come
flooding back into your mind.
You have to go through the entire struggle of forgiving her again. You need to forgive her just as I have forgiven you. I have forgiven your wrongs against Me, and I will never bring them up again.
When haunting memories come, refuse them. I've told you what to do in
My Word. Read it."
Understanding began to rise in my mind, and I prayed, "Right now, with Your help, Lord God, I am going to forgive her just as You have forgiven me. I don't want to bring those things up ever again."
With trembling hands I opened my Bible and read, "Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."
(Philippians 4:8 NIV) "Oh, God," I cried, "is it really that simply?" I was already beginning to feel the first glow of peace in my heart as I began to understand that if I obeyed God's Word, He would help to change my thought patterns.
"From this moment," I promised God, "every time a bad memory enters my thoughts, I am
going to obey this Scripture." And I did. When bitter thoughts and resentment entered my mind, I countered with good thoughts. Sometimes with something as simple as, "She's the best cook I know." Gradually I formed a new habit in thinking. God didn't change my stepmother - He changed me! I could think now of her as "mother" instead of "stepmother," and I no longer dwelt on the hurtful things she said.
A few years passed. One day the phone rang much too early in the morning. When I answered the phone, I could hear the panic in my father's voice as he said, "Honey, something is wrong with your mother. I can't wake her up."
I said, "Daddy, try to be calm. We'll get there as fast as we can."
A mad race to their house revealed Mother lying in bed, unable to speak, unable to
The next several hours were a blur of ambulance, hospital, doctors, test and more tests. Finally, we learned that Beulah had had a massive stroke. One doctor explained, "The trauma to her body was as devastating as if she had been struck by a semi." For the next nine months she lay paralyzed, unable to communicate even her smallest needs.
Because the bitterness was gone, I was able to spend long hours by Beulah's
side caring for her. Friends and family who knew how difficult our relationship had been through the years asked, "How can you be so kind to this woman? She had made your life miserable since you were a child."
I could respond that my compassion for her was real, and I felt a genuine sorrow for what she was going through. I have often thought of how different my feelings would have been during that time if God had not done His special work in my heart and wiped away the
I praise Him. I adore Him. "He set me free, He broke the bonds of prison for me."
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalms 19:14)