Did you know that forgiveness can be one of the hardest things to do, but one of the most beautiful things to do at the same time? According to the Oxford Dictionary, to forgive means to stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offence, flaw, or mistake. Bitterness usually coincides with unforgiveness. Similarly, it is defined as anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly; or having resentment.
In this life, we will all experience hurt by someone and these hurts can be of different shapes and forms. The Bible says that it is inevitable that we go through life without offence (Luke 17:1). People may abuse you, disrespect you, reject you, use you or act out in some other harmful way, however God wants us to forgive them.
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”Colossians 3:12-13
My own battle with unforgiveness started with my parents. Sometimes in life the people closest to us will be the ones who actually hurt us the most, especially when you have an expectation and that expectation is not met. Before I got saved I was aware that this was an issue, not only with my parents but with other relationships too. One of my flaws is that I can become resentful when my expectations are not met or when my peace is disturbed. I also can become triggered when there are injustices not only towards myself but in particular vulnerable people and struggle to let these things go, almost to my detriment. I can honestly say though, this year was the year that I was able to forgive my parents from my heart. Did it take a lot of work? Yes. However when you choose to forgive, this is work that you need to be willing to put in.
Forgiveness does not stop there… it is a continual process because we will always come into contact with difficult people or people who offend us. This is why in the book of Matthew, when Peter came to Jesus to ask how often he should forgive his brother, Jesus replied up to seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22). I believe this was His response to show Peter that there is no limits to how often we should forgive.
So Why Does God Emphasise The Need For Us To Forgive?
Again, in the book of Matthew, Jesus tells a story of the unforgiving servant who refused to forgive his servant of a debt, despite his master forgiving him of an even bigger debt. This paints a picture of what we do, however, God does not work like that. In fact His Word says:
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”Matthew 6:14-15
The above scripture is saying that the same measure you use to forgive others, God will use to forgive you. Unforgiveness is the reason why many prayers are not answered. That door you’ve been asking God to open, that just doesn’t seem to be opening may very well be a result of unforgiveness in your heart. I’m ministering to myself here as well. Unforgiveness blocks God’s blessings and I can guarantee that you will not see the fullness of God in your life whilst it remains there.
God Is Merciful And Forgiving
“He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”Psalms 103:10-12
The Bible says that God is merciful and gracious. He is a slow to anger, and abounds in mercy (Psalms 103:8). This is the character of God. If God, Who is perfect can forgive, then how much more us?
We Can Experience Freedom When We Forgive
When we hold on to unforgiveness we can become bound by emotions such as anger, bitterness, resentment and in extreme cases hatred. These emotions don’t only effect us, but those around us also. The Bible warns us to be careful of this.
“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”Hebrews 12:15
Some of the emotions mentioned above can make us sick in our minds, physical bodies and in our spirits. God wants us to be free from bondage and sickness. He is a healer of our deepest hurts and will intervene if we allow Him to.
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”Isaiah 53:5
Here are some steps to overcome unforgiveness that I have learned along my journey:
1. Be Transparent With God
It is okay to be transparent with God by talking to Him about the things that have hurt us. God wants us to pour out our hearts to Him because He cares about our every need.
“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”1Peter 5:7
2. Praise God For What He Did On The Cross
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”John 3:16
God loves us so much that He gave His one and only Son so that we can be free. He paid a heavy price by forgiving us so that we could be reconciled back to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Despite how Jesus was treated, He asked God the Father to forgive those who reviled Him because He understood that they did not know what they were doing. In many cases, those that hurt you, do not know what they’re doing either. There is a saying, ‘forgiven people, forgive people.’ God wants us to extend the forgiveness that He shows to us to those around us.
3. Seek To Make Peace With Those Who Hurt You
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”Matthew 5:23-24
The Bible tells us to leave our gifts at the alter and seek peace with those who we are in conflict with. I understand that this may not always be possible and may be difficult, however our first priority should be to make peace, because without it no one will see God (Hebrews 12:14).
“Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.”Matthew 5:9
4. Overcome Unforgiveness With Love
In the Book of Mark, a scribe asked Jesus what the first commandment is, Jesus replied:
“‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’”Mark 12:30-31
If you are searching for your calling, know that it is to firstly love God and to love others as you love yourself. We can look to Jesus as our perfect example.
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us…”Ephesians 5:1-2
5. Pray For Those Who Have Hurt You
“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”Luke 6:27-28
Loving others includes praying for them. I heard a Pastor say in a sermon once, ‘it is very difficult to hate someone that you are praying for.’ Don’t stop praying for those who have hurt you because God moves when we do. In time, those negative feelings will soon melt away and you will then begin to notice the change when you don’t have negative thoughts or any unkind words to say about them.
6. Develop Compassion
I have been reading a book by Lysa Terkeurst called ‘Forgiving What You Can’t Forget’ and one of the things she highlights is that it is very difficult to forgive without compassion, especially when the people who hurt us have shown no compassion at all. Another statement she makes that has resonated with me is that we should try to have compassion for the pain our offenders had to experience in order to make make the choices they made. There is a saying, ‘hurting people, hurt people’ and I believe this to be very true. Compassion will drive you to pray for the healing and deliverance of those who have hurt you when you realise the hurt they are facing themselves.
7. Pull Down The Stronghold Of Unforgiveness And Bitterness
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”2 Corinthians 10:4-5
God gives us weapons to not only fight against the enemy but also to fight against the enemy in our minds.
“…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”Romans 12:2
You can renew your mind by filling it with Gods Word. What has helped me is meditating on scriptures relating to unforgiveness, as well as journaling my thoughts and challenging those thoughts that are contrary to what the Word of God says.
And lastly, you can overcome unforgiveness by living out Ephesians 4:31-32.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”Ephesians 4:31-32
By replacing those negative feelings with positive ones, you are teaching your flesh how to forgive. Gods Word says that it is not His will that any of us should perish. Sadly, unforgiveness can be a barrier between us and God. God wants us to live healthy lives, free from strife and discord so that we can do His will here on Earth effectively.
I pray this post encouraged you and that every root of unforgiveness/bitterness is uprooted from your life, in the name of Jesus.
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