How did you respond the last time someone offended you? People let us down and say things that hurt our feelings. To go through a divorce or lose our career or be cheated by someone we trust hurts deeply. These offenses try to break in and take up residency in our heart; and if they do, they produce resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness. It’s inevitable that if we hold on to the hurt, the bitterness and poison become a part of who we are, and we get stuck in a place of festering pain. It’s no wonder that the writer of Proverbs says we have to guard our heart against offenses for as long as we live.
Offenses in our life are very much like the irritant that invades an oyster. Most of us know that a pearl is formed through a process in an oyster, but what fascinates me is that the oyster is not trying to make a pearl. The oyster is trying to protect itself from an intruder, such as a parasite or grain of sand, that slips in between one of its two shells and the protective layer that cover its organs. To seal off the irritant, the oyster quickly covers it with layer upon layer of nacre, the mineral substance that fashions its shell, until the iridescent pearl is formed.
When someone says or does something hurtful to us, we have to seal off the harm of those irritants from our hearts. Proverbs 17:9 says, “He who covers and forgives an offense seeks love.” You have to cover that offense. You have to forgive. It doesn’t belong to you. It didn’t originate with you. That offense came from that situation. It belongs to that person. It is not yours unless you take it in. It is only yours to forgive and to cover. Jesus says that as long as we live, “Offenses will surely come” (Luke 17:1), but He tells us how to deal with an offense—cover it and forgive. The choice is ours. Don’t let life’s hurts get into your heart.
When the next offense comes to you, what are you going to do with it? Are you going to draw it into your life? Are you going to think over and over again about what that person said or what they did or didn’t do? When you do that you’re saying, “Offense, come on in. Be a part of who I am. Go deep inside.” Don’t do that. Rather, take a stand and say this: “Listen, I know who I am in Christ Jesus. I will not allow the hurt to get down into my heart. God, in the name of Jesus, I am pushing this offense away. I forgive this person. I release the hurt. I release the pain, and I am free.”