Straying blindly

I realized that it is easy to be straying from God without even being aware of it, which is why I have called this post "Straying blindly." This is what happened to me for a while. I think in a way, this is a lot more insidious that when we knowingly stray.

When we knowingly stray, we might not be going to church for awhile, and/or not be praying or reading the Bible daily - not making the time to have a relationship with God. Or perhaps we might be involved in unethical activities. Either way, when these situations happen, we often feel guilty and are aware this is happening. Sometimes we even feel trapped. In any case, in these situations, we know we're straying.

However, it can also happen that we are straying without really being aware of it. Like the sheep who thinks the flock is nearby, we might wander off a little further each time, never really realizing that we are away from the Shepherd. In a sense, that is more dangerous because we don't know we have strayed.

So, this is what happened to me for a while. The only way I realized this was a problem was after I came back (was rescued?)

In this situation, I think that I allowed myself to be bound by too many worldly things - and had bitterness about things that had happened in the past. I put too much concern and thought and effort in those directions, and I strayed away, blindly. I did pursue my relationship with God during that time, and continued to go to church and read the Bible daily and pray daily.

However, after I realized I was holding bitterness about a particular situation long ago in the past, a church sermon made me realize this bitterness was an issue between me and God. I really had thought I'd moved on, but I hadn't. I had wanted to move on, but had never really managed to.

So I decided I needed to pray to God and I needed to forgive the people involved in this past situation. (Note: forgiveness does not mean that I need to trust it won't happen again or that I need to put myself in the situation again, just that the specific past event is forgiven). Since Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for the much worse sins I have done against God and Heaven, then it should in theory be an easy matter for me to forgive another person for a much lesser sin against me.

I was definitely ready to forgive and to put the past behind me - not necessarily for anyone else's sake, but to ensure that no bitterness gets in the way of my relationship with God. Also as I have said, if I continue to hold on to bitterness and unforgiveness, I would be hypocritical in accepting Jesus's death on the cross for my sins if I'm not prepared to forgive the sins of others.

I asked a young woman staff member at church for help praying this and to listen to my prayer, and I felt comforted by the fact she was there, but I know the prayer would still have been just as effective without her there. It just helped me feel more comfortable to have her there.

Afterward, I felt really free, because I knew that the prayer of forgiveness had let me break free of the chains that I'd unwittingly bound myself up in. In the weeks that followed, I felt it much easier to not get angered by the actions of others. If someone cut me off in traffic, so what?! It was honestly no big deal anymore, because my chains were broken and I was free! Free! That was so much better than anything out there that it quite overshadowed anything not-so-nice that happened to me.

Based on my experience, I strongly recommend anyone who is holding onto past events to pray and in that prayer, to specifically forgive the person or people who caused you the past hurt that has been troubling you.

It is such a wonderful feeling to have broken free of these chains that I'd bound myself up in. Because if you are holding onto bitterness, that's what you're doing: binding yourself up in chains, just the same as if you were consumed by addiction or other things.

I found many more intellectual and emotional resources of my own became available to me after this experience. To this day I am not sure if that is because those bound-up thoughts and emotions have been freed, or via the grace of God through the forgiveness prayer. (What is Grace? - grace is a power outside of yourself that God sends down to you to help with something that you couldn't do on your own.)  Perhaps it is both: the grace of God gave me the power to forgive, and through that forgiveness my emotional resources became available that were previously tied up in upset and bitterness.

The other thing I noticed is that it continues to be much easier for me to forgive others immediately. Based on this personal experience, I suspect that the inability to easily forgive others for minor issues can stem from some bigger issue of unforgiveness toward someone for a more major issue.

I'm not saying that this issue excuses the unforgiveness. I'm saying that an unforgiveness toward others for a minor problem is a symptom of something bigger or more serious within us. It can indicate the possibility of being bound up in chains like I did to myself.

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