Many people ruin their health and their lives by taking the poison of bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness. Matthew 18:23-35 tells us that if we do not forgive people, we get turned over to the torturers. If you have a problem in this area or have ever had one, I'm sure you bear witness with what I'm saying. It's torture to have hateful thoughts toward another person rolling around inside your head.
Helping Yourself and Others
Who are you helping most when you forgive the person who hurt you? Actually, you're helping yourself more than the other person. I always looked at forgiving people who hurt me as being really hard. I thought it seemed so unfair for them to receive forgiveness when I had gotten hurt. I got pain, and they got freedom without having to pay for the pain they caused. Now I realize that I'm helping myself when I choose to forgive.
I'm also helping the other person by releasing them so God can do what only He can do. If I'm in the way—trying to get revenge or take care of the situation myself instead of trusting and obeying God—He has no obligation to deal with that person. However, God will deal with those who hurt us if we'll put them in His hands through forgiveness. The act of forgiving is our seed of obedience to His Word. Once we've sown our seed, He is faithful to bring a harvest of blessing to us one way or another.
Another way that forgiveness helps me is that it releases God to do His work in me. I'm happier and feel better physically when I'm not filled with the poison of unforgiveness. Serious diseases can develop as a result of the stress and pressure that bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness put on a person. Mark 11:22-26 clearly teaches us that unforgiveness hinders our faith from working. The Father can't forgive our sins if we don't forgive other people. We reap what we sow. Sow mercy, and you'll reap mercy; sow judgment, and you'll reap judgment. So do yourself a favor—and forgive.
There are still more benefits of forgiveness. Your fellowship with God flows freely when you're willing to forgive, but it gets blocked by unforgiveness. Forgiveness also keeps Satan from getting an advantage over us (see 2 Corinthians 2:10-11). Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us not to let the sun go down on our anger or give the devil any such foothold or opportunity. Remember that the devil must have a foothold before he can get a stronghold. Do not help Satan torture you. Be quick to forgive.
I also think it's hard to hate one person but love another. It's hard to treat anybody right when our heart isn't right. Even people you want to love may be suffering from your bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness.
How to ForgiveWould you like to become more successful at forgiving others? There are practical steps that must be taken. One time I asked the Lord why so many people want to forgive but aren't successful doing it. And He said, "Because they aren't obeying what I tell them to do in My Word." As I searched the Word, I found the following instructions:
1. Decide – You will never forgive if you wait until you feel like it. Choose to obey God and steadfastly resist the devil in his attempts to poison you with bitter thoughts. Make a quality decision to forgive, and God will heal your wounded emotions in due time (see Matthew 6:12-14).
2. Depend – You cannot forgive without the power of the Holy Spirit. It's too hard to do on your own. If you are truly willing, God will enable you, but you must humble yourself and cry out to Him for help. In John 20:22-23 Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit!" His next instruction was about forgiving people. Ask God to breathe the Holy Spirit on you so you can forgive those who've hurt you.
3. Obey – The Word tells us several things we're to do concerning forgiving our enemies:
a. Pray for your enemies and those who abuse and misuse you. Pray for their happiness and welfare (see Luke 6:27-28). As you pray, God can give them revelation that will bring them out of deception. They may not even be aware they hurt you, or maybe they're aware but are so self-centered that they don't care. Either way, they need revelation.
b. …Bless and do not curse them (Romans 12:14). In the Greek to bless means "to speak well of" and to curse means "to speak evil of." You can't walk in forgiveness and be a gossip. You must stop repeating the offense. You can't get over it if you continue to talk about it. Proverbs 17:9 says that he who covers an offense seeks love.
Who Should Forgive?
Forgive the person who badly hurt you long ago and also the stranger who stepped on your toe in the grocery store. Take those two extremes and forgive them in addition to everyone in between. Forgive quickly. The quicker you do it, the easier it is. Forgive freely. Matthew 10:8 says, …Freely you have received, freely give. Forgive means "to excuse a fault, absolve from payment, pardon, send away, cancel, and bestow favor unconditionally."
When you forgive, you must cancel the debt. Do not spend your life paying and collecting debts. Hebrews 10:30 says that vengeance belongs to the Lord; He'll repay and settle the cases of His people. Let God pay you for past injustices. Do not try to collect from the people who hurt you, because the people who hurt you can't pay you.
Also, forgive yourself for past sins and hurts you have caused others. You can't pay people back, so ask God to.
Forgive God if you are angry with Him because your life didn't turn out the way you thought it should. God is always just. There may be things you don't understand, but God loves you, and people make a serious mistake when they don't receive help from the only One who can truly help them.
You may even need to forgive a situation or an object—the post office, bank, a certain store that may have cheated you, a car that always gave you trouble, etc. Get rid of all poison that comes from bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness. And remember Proverbs 4:23: Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance...for out of it flow the springs of life.
Unforgiveness is spiritual filthiness, so get washed in the water of God's Word to forgive and stay clean.