From time to time I suffer with a physical malady called “gout” It comes all of a sudden, un-announced, often in the middle of the night. It affects my total being for a few days. It hurts so badly that it almost paralyzes me from doing anything useful. My mind becomes fully occupied with that hurt. I cannot concentrate on any thing else; it affects my family, my children, my relationships and my ministry. I could sit and blame and complain all that I want but that would not take away the pain, but the moment I begin to take some responsible actions and medication I know I am on the road to recovery and soon I will be healed. It may not be the case with all sicknesses but in most cases with proper responsible actions and medication we can experience relief and healing.
If that is the way we deal with physical hurt how do we deal with emotional hurt? We all have at some point experienced “Emotional Hurt” In life we are prone to get hurt again and again, sometimes by those we love the most. Is there a cure for emotional hurt? Can I be truly healed of my past hurts and experience wholeness? Where can I find healing? Many Christian counselors, psychiatrists and pastors agree that we can receive healing for our emotional hurts through forgiveness. Jesus stresses the importance of forgiveness, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your father in heaven may forgive your sins.”(Mk 11:25). Forgiveness is for our benefit, not so much for the sake of others.
I. The consequences of Unforgiveness: Neil. T Anderson explains in his book “The Bondage Breaker,” “Most of the ground that Satan gains in the lives of Christians is due to Unforgiveness. We are warned to forgive others so that Satan cannot take advantage of us.” Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians, why they should forgive those who sinned against them, “If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven- if there was anything to forgive- I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us.” 2 Corinthians 2:11 so that Satan will not outsmart us. For, we are familiar with his evil schemes.” In other words Paul is saying here that unforgiveness can give a foothold to Satan in our lives.
George O. Wood the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God suggests how unforgiveness can have an affect in our lives: The consequences for harboring grievances:
The fruit of the Spirit ebbs away (Gal 5:22)
Indifference or hatred displaces love
Bitterness or depression displaces Joy
Anxiety displaces peace
Short-temperedness displaces patience
Hard-heartedness or indifference displaces kindness
Meanness displaces goodness
Get even attitude displaces faithfulness
A demanding nature displaces gentleness
Resignation from responsibility displaces self-control
we cannot afford not to forgive, un-forgiveness results in bitterness which affects our whole personality and as it says in Hebrews 12: 15"A a bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."
A concentration camp survivor said, “My heart is so bitter that if you were to open me and lick my heart you would die of poison.” What does your heart look like? Some one said getting even with another person for the wrong he has done is like throwing a cactus. When the cactus hit him, he will hurt; but you will hurt your own hand in the process. When someone mistreats or wrongs us we have a tendency to get even with or pay that person back right? But the Bible teaches us differently, we should leave such matters to the Lord because he says, in Romans 12:17-19 do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible as far as it depends on you live at peace with everyone do not take revenge my friends but leave room for God's wrath for it is written: It is mine to avenge I will repay says the Lord.
II. What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is releasing the other person from the perceived debt they owed you by hurting you. In other words when you forgive you free the other person, we are saying to him or her: I am not holding anything against you anymore. You don't owe me anything. I am overlooking your offence. Forgiveness takes humility, it is realizing that apart from God's forgiveness I myself am hopelessly lost, I have no right to hold anybody hostage to my un-forgiveness.
III. How to forgive?
We have seen the devastating affects of unforgiveness. We also have seen the importance of forgiveness. How can we proceed in forgiveness? A few practical suggestions:
A. Forgiveness is a voluntary choice:
Like with everything else in life God never forces us to forgive others, but he showed us that we should forgive others by forgiving our sins. God took the first step, so we are to take the first step and forgive those who offend us. Jesus stressed in Mark 11:25 “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” In other words, if you want to be forgiven then you forgive. For Jesus forgiveness is more important than your offering, Matt5: 23-24 "So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” What good it is to bring offerings to God when we are not in right relationship with our brothers and sisters. In both these scriptures Jesus wants us to take the first step instead of waiting for the other person to come to us and say sorry.
B. How many times should I forgive?
When it comes to forgiveness we are faced with this dilemma. What if someone hurts you and says sorry but keeps on hurting you what are you supposed to do? Should you keep on forgiving them? Is there a time where you can say it is enough I wont’ forgive any more? Not only you have this dilemma but Peter also had this so he asked Jesus, in Matt18:21 “Then Peter came to him and asked, "Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times? Matthew 18:22 “Jesus replied No, not seven times," Jesus replied, "but seventy times seven! “Jesus’ seventy times seven was his way of describing unlimited forgiveness. As Christians we might need to repeatedly forgive someone. This does not mean we become a doormat and allow someone to abuse us. Forgiveness does not grant someone permission to keep hurting us. It would be wise to maintain some distance from that person who is hurting you while keeping our hearts tender and open toward that person.”
C. Forgiveness is a difficult Choice: When we are hurting it is not easy to forgive. On the other hand as long as we don’t forgive we keep hurting. There are times we may find forgiving others is easier than forgiving ourselves. In any case forgiveness is a difficult choice to make.
At times we find it impossible to forgive others, though we know that is the right thing to do. The hurt is too deep and the wound still festers and the pain is real as in the experience of holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom. She recalls the time she spoke at a Church in Munich after World War II. A German SS man who had guarded the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck concentration camp was in the service. When Corrie Ten Boom saw him she suddenly remembered the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, and her sister Betsy's pain filled face. He came to ten Boom as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing, “Fraulien” he said, “to think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away.” He thrust out his hand to shake hers; but ten Boom, who had spoken others to forgive, kept her hand at her side, as she fought with her anger, she prayed, Lord, forgive me and help me to forgive him. She tried to smile and struggled to raise her hand, but could not. Again she prayed, Jesus I cannot forgive him, Give me your forgiveness. She writes, “As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than our goodness that the world’s healing hinges but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the power.
Take a moment to reflect on this message. Let the Holy Spirit bring you to your mind different people perhaps you need to forgive. It may be your spouse, parents, children, siblings, close friend, pastor, church members, business partner, and employer or it may be you. With God's help we are indeed empowered to forgive others and ourselves. In releasing forgiveness we receive forgiveness and are on the way to receive God’s healing and wholeness.
 The Bondage Breaker, Neil T. Anderson
 George O Wood, Enrichment Magazine, “Steps to forgiveness”
 George O Wood, Enrichment Magazine, “Steps to forgiveness”