Freedom Through Forgiving

Duane Vander Klok

One of the best things you can do to have a good and happy life is to take a few minutes each night to forgive everybody of everything they did that affected you adversely during the day. When you do this, you keep yourself free from all the emotional and spiritual stress that comes from holding on to unforgiveness.

Unfortunately, when someone has offended you, forgiveness is often the furthest thing from your mind – and the hardest thing to do. Because you feel angry, hurt and betrayed, your flesh would rather find a way to make them pay for what they have done.

While forgiveness may be far from your mind, it is never far from God’s. How could He forget that He has given you forgiveness of all your sins – past, present and future – through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ? According to Romans 6:6, Jesus broke the power of sin so we wouldn’t have to live as slaves to sin. He also forgave us so we can forgive others.

Why Should I Forgive?
If for no other reason, you should forgive because Jesus said to. You’ve probably recited the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6 many times, but if you are like most people, you like the “forgive us our trespasses” part a lot better than the “as we forgive those who trespass against us” part. Like it or not, though, the Biblical pattern is, “Forgive and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).

You and I should also forgive because a lack of forgiveness spoils lives. Hebrews 12:14-15 tells us we should pursue peace with all people “lest a root of bitterness spring up causing trouble, and by this many become defiled.” When you don’t forgive, an ugly root begins to form inside you. As you carry the grudge, that root begins to grow, causing trouble for you and affecting others around you.

You might think that by not forgiving someone, you are getting even or causing them some of the same pain you’ve felt. Actually, the person you hurt the most is you. By refusing to forgive, you open the door for Satan to have access into your life. Depression, fear, sickness, problems with your family, and financial problems are some of the many common results of unforgiveness.

I once knew a man who had become extremely angry and refused to forgive someone who had offended him. Since the incident, a tumor had developed in his body, and he faced a serious surgery. When confronted with what God’s Word says about forgiving others, he realized that he needed to make the choice to forgive. Within an hour of praying to forgive the man who had hurt him, the tumor left his body, and he was completely healed!

The effect of forgiving someone isn’t always seen that quickly, but freedom always comes when you choose to forgive.

Who Should I Forgive?
In Mark 11:25, Jesus said, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” This scripture covers it all. There are no other options. Anytime anyone hurts you, no matter how deep the hurt, you are to forgive.

Think about what happened to Joseph. In Genesis 37 and the chapters that follow, you can see many reasons why Joseph could have become a very bitter man. His brothers hated him and sold him as a slave. Then his master’s wife falsely accused him of a serious crime, and he ended up in prison. Next, a government official promised to help him but instead left him to rot in prison. Regardless of all these things, Joseph didn’t allow unforgiveness and bitterness to take root in his life. He forgave everyone who did anything against him and went on to fulfill the destiny God had for him.

Understanding Forgiveness
Forgiveness is not a feeling. Like Joseph, you must make a decision to forgive by faith. If you wait until you feel like forgiving, you may never forgive anybody for anything. Also, forgiveness is not merely pushing a memory to the back of your mind; that’s denial. Offenses and hurts must be dealt with so you can be free from them and the trouble they cause.

Forgiving someone does not negate their wrongdoing, but it places the responsibility of judgment for their actions into God’s hands. That’s what Jesus did. Despite everything that had been done to Him, 1 Peter 2:23 tells us that “…when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but He committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

Forgiveness is a choice. The Bible says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13 NIV). When you think about how much God has forgiven you, forgiving others becomes a lot easier!

Don’t be alarmed if your feelings don’t immediately line up with your choice to forgive. The same devil who tells you you’re no good because you haven’t forgiven someone will try to keep harassing you once you’ve chosen to forgive. Feelings are fickle, but they will stabilize as you follow through by speaking and acting out your choice to forgive.

Forgive Now
Choosing not to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. The longer you carry a grudge, the more damage it does to you. Why risk a physical or emotional breakdown when you can choose to forgive now?

No matter how long ago you were hurt, whether the ones who offended you are living or dead, choose to forgive them. Don’t let unforgiveness and bitterness remain locked up inside your soul. As you line your will up with God’s, you’ll experience the freedom that comes through forgiving.

It doesn’t have to take days or weeks or years to forgive. You can do it right now, right where you are by praying this simple prayer out loud:

Father, I choose to forgive _____________ for everything they did that hurt me. I release them to you because you are the One who judges righteously. I trust you to work in their life and to draw them to you. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Then What?
People often say, “All this sounds good, but what do I do once I’ve chosen to forgive?” Here are some helpful tips from God’s Word:

– Surrender the right to get even. “‘Do not avenge yourselves…vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

– Surrender your thoughts about the person. “…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 10:5).

– Surrender your words regarding the person. “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers…Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:29,31).

– Surrender your own resentment, anger, bitterness, self-pity, etc. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Every human being has a deep, sometimes hidden, desire to be forgiven. Ernest Hemingway’s short story about the broken relationship between a Spanish father and his teenage son, Paco, highlights this desire.

Paco ran away from his home to Madrid, and his grieving father looked everywhere for him. In desperation, the father placed an ad in the Madrid newspaper that read, “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office tomorrow at noon. All is forgiven. I love you.” The next morning, 800 hopeful men named Paco were standing in front of the newspaper office!

Someone needs your forgiveness right now, but even more, as you choose to forgive and surrender yourself to your loving heavenly Father, you’ll begin to experience the freedom that comes through forgiving.

(Scriptures are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless noted otherwise.)