When my children were small, pre-school age, I remember one of them holding onto something I said to put back while we were shopping. In a spurt of determination, that cute little face with pudgy cheeks,lips pursed, suddenly blurted out, "NO!" Those bright blue eyes narrowed. It was hard to keep from chuckling because little ones at that age are so cute. However, I tried to gently peel those determined little fingers loose. It was tough to do without causing pain, so I talked my child out of keeping it until tears welled up, then the fingers let go. There is an amazing strength to such a tiny tot! I imagine we are a lot like that to God when we hang onto past pains and refuse to forgive someone.
Unforgiveness takes a toll on us emotionally. When someone hurts us, we are angry and sad at the same time. Angry because what they did was wrong. Sad because the relationship was damaged. Anger itself isn't bad until it is unresolved. Anger is a natural response to something wrong or an injustice that needs corrected. It becomes bitterness and rage later when we hang onto it for too long. (Ephesians 6:26-27)Like a cute tiny creature at first, it grows into an ugly, voracious beast the longer it is allowed to grow. We struggle to keep it chained and want to let it loose on the person who hurt us. That ferocious beast won't fix the damaged relationship. Bitterness and rage spews out when we least expect it.
Unforgiveness take a toll on us physically.
Our bodies aren't designed to keep the neurochemicals for these emotional responses for the long-haul. It causes the same effects as long term stress, anxiety, and depression. Our furrowed brows form permanent lines, aging our faces prematurely. We eat comfort foods to hide our pain, causing a low-level, cancer-inducing inflammation in our bodies. Our blood pressure rises every time the pain comes to mind, which is often. We literally wear our bitterness like an ugly dress.
Unforgiveness takes a toll on us socially. When we spend time with other people, our anger spills into conversations like vomit from the nasty dragon within our souls. We burn our relationships and repulse those who are close to us. It doesn't take long before our friends and family avoid us.
Unforgiveness takes a toll on us spiritually. In our resentment, we find it difficult to pray because the offender and the offense have taken up residence in our hearts. Their memory gets between us and God. As a result, our prayer life deteriorates, one important link to our Heavenly Father. Sometimes we get angry with God because He doesn't take care of that mean person like we want. We go to church less, and read our Bibles occasionally. We wonder why our few prayers go nowhere. Joy has disappeared. It's happens because we have distanced ourselves from God. However, He never left us.
Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus tells a parable about a servant who refuses to forgive the small debts people owe him, even though he was forgiven a debt he could never pay back. We are like that servant when we refuse to forgive other people. Since He forgave us we also must forgive others.
When we forgive others, it is like a huge burden is lifted from us. I'm not kidding; it really does feel like that. The monster within is let go, so it leaves. It's power to hold us captive is gone. A sense of peace comes over us. I like to think of the Year of Jubilee from Deuteronomy 15:1-6 and the joyful relief felt by those who were forgiven debts. The one who loaned to others is blessed by God for doing so. I can imagine scenes of celebration for everyone! Once again can you feel true happiness.
The best way to let go is to give the pain to the Lord. "Lord, I am so angry. I can't forgive yet, but would you help me with this?" As you slowly release the issue to God, He lovingly peels your fingers loose of the anger. We finally let go. At some point, you can say, "I forgive ____ "and mean it. This could take weeks, months, even years. It doesn't mean what happened was okay. It also doesn't mean you will be buddies with the person who hurt you. You may not be able to restore the relationship as it was. New boundaries might need set. When you do, you will have your life back. We must do so to live well. Just as God forgave us, we also must forgive others. Would you begin today?
Many blessings to you!
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