Grudges are not nice! They are usually caused when someone feels they have been wronged, and want to pay back the hurt – often with interest. The phraseology we use is interesting – we say ‘holding’ or ‘carrying’ a grudge. That means deliberate effort. They are burdensome. They grind at us, reminding us of their presence. Yet how hard it is to let go!
Esau held a grudge in Genesis 27 v 41. He had good reason. His mother and his brother had conspired together to cheat him out of what was rightfully his. Even God had had it in for him, by choosing his younger brother to take forward the family promise, even before they were born. Why wouldn’t he want to get his own back? So he promised himself to murder Jacob once their father had passed away.
However bitter we feel, time is a healer, and Esau’s mother Rebekah knew that given time, his fury would abate. So her answer was to put distance between the two boys, to prevent escalation of the problems. It was a solution of sorts, and did the job.
But it was no return to happy families. Rebekah was fearful of losing both her sons, but the plan she came up with did not prevent that. She probably died before Jacob was able to return, and Esau’s relationship with her would be irrevocably damaged.
Jesus taught us to forgive when people hurt us. And in reality, there is no other effective solution. However hard it might be to forgive, the alternative is worse! When we nurse anger, we feel bad – grudges are burdensome, and two wrongs never make a right. Relationships cannot be restored without true forgiveness – Jacob and Esau did get back on speaking terms many years later, but there was no trust between them.
So when you struggle to forgive someone, however justifiable it might be, it’s yourself you are doing a favour for when you succeed in handing the hurts over to God. It’s even the logical thing to do – why continue hurting yourself, re-enacting the painful scenes, carrying around that heavy load of grudge? But still forgiveness is not easy. Thank God for the amazing example Jesus set us, and thank God that his Spirit lives in us to give us the strength we need.