The mountains behind our home are inhabited by rattlesnakes. Every year many people hiking in the foothills are bitten. Most of the bites are on the hands, rather than the legs and feet. Why would that be? Rattlesnakes cannot bite hands unless the hand gets close to their fangs. Even in the Garden of Eden, God talked about the serpent biting the heel, not the hand. So often we get bitten in life because we put our hands where they should not be and do not use our feet to flee from danger.

There are several spiritual lessons we can learn from snake bites. When a snake bites, there are two sources of pain. One is the bite itself. It happens, it hurts you and you have the mark to prove it. The second source of pain is the venom now circulating through your body. This is the killer. So it is in life. Bad things happen. But the killer is the anger and bitterness that can circulate in our system like venom.

When someone wrongs us, it affects us like a snake bite. We cannot always avoid being bitten by others. It happens. Now what? The blow we received will heal, but we have a choice of whether to allow the feelings of anger and resentment to continue. Each of us alone has the power to drain the killer venom out of ourselves.

We may not be punished for our anger, but we will be punished by our anger. We can allow the venom of hate to circulate through our entire being until we are consumed by it.

What is the antidote to neutralise the negative feelings that others have inflicted upon us? It is prayer, and the Lord Jesus tells us how to do it. He not only tells us how, he did it himself on the cross. We are to forgive those who trespass against us. This forgiveness means they are wrong and we have been wronged, but we forgive them.

It is a command from our Lord. Please notice that it is not a suggestion, it is a command: “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you”.

Now we have all heard these words before. Hearing them is not enough. We have to actually do them. We have to pray to our Heavenly Father, asking Him to bless those who are mistreating us.

As plain as this simple command is, it is not being done by so many, and the venom circulating through their bodies is proof. Some who have been bitten, love to show you the scars of their wounds and recount in great detail the horrors of those who have attacked them. They relive the pain and intensify the poison flowing through them and then wonder why they are hurting.

The answer is clear. Get rid of it. Forgive it. Stop thinking about it. Cast it behind your back just like you want the Lord to cast your sins behind his back. He won’t if we don’t.

One of the important lessons we learn from the Lord’s prayer is that we will only be forgiven to the extent that we forgive others. We so often mouth the words but we have to do more than just say this principle, we have to live it. To live it, there is only one way to rid our body of the poison and that is to fervently pray for those who we need to forgive.

We may not always be able to avoid a snake bite, but we certainly can avoid being bitten on the hands. We need to give rattlesnakes and our enemies space. Flee away if we can. When we are bitten, we need to drain out of our system, by prayer, all the pent-up hostility and venom that will destroy us.

The Lord Jesus has told us how to survive the snake bites others have inflicted upon us: “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”