By Angeline Williams
Most people have at least one person in their life that they harbor anger against for some reason or another. It may be anger due to harsh words, assault or abuse, whatever the case when our feelings are hurt, resentment begins to build on the inside and if left unchecked leads to bitterness and unforgiveness which has a terrible impact on your life if they are not uprooted and dealt with. Offense and unforgiveness is very unhealthy. It stunts our spiritual growth and keeps us from moving forward. It endangers our salvation, creates hindrances and destroys relationships. It is one of Satan’s most powerful weapon he uses to steal, kill, and destroy.
Hebrews 12:14-15 tells us to “work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise, you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears. (Hebrews 12:14-15 -The Message)
When Jesus explained forgiveness in Matthew 18:23-28 He used an illustration of monetary obligation and eliminating debt. Forgiving a monetary debt can be easy for most but what about when some one – say a spouse betrays us in an affair, what about the person who rapes you or your child? That is a little tougher isn’t it? As my best friend Pat would say, “That’s a hard pill to swallow”. And to make matter worse what if the offender does not regret what they did? What if they blame you the offended saying “well if you would have done this then I would not have done that” justifying their actions. They might even ask to be forgiven but there is no remorse attached to it. In order to forgive in this type of situation we need to look at the person as if the offense never took place, just like God does with us. As humans that is extremely difficult to do but not impossible.
Years ago, Father brought to my attention that I was using offense and unforgiveness as a shield of protection. I did not know that I had developed this defense mechanism. When our feelings are hurt, when we have been violated or betrayed we as humans tend to immediately throw up guards to protect ourselves. We make mental notes and say in the back of our minds, “that will never happen to me again”, no one will ever be able to do that to me again.
This was a motto that I lived by. Did I set out to be so unforgiving? No. My mind was set on being a good Christian. I constantly prayed and thanked God for loving me unconditionally and forgiving all my sins and would even say “Lord I forgive all who ever hurt me” because I knew my prayers would be hindered if I didn’t. However, I was picking and choosing whom I would forgive. In the back of my mind I had a list of mental notes of unpleasant situations and circumstances and attached to those notes were the faces and names of the people involved that I said would never hurt me again.
I read a story once of a man who was walking with his best friend, someone he had known for a very long time. As they walked, they began to argue about some trivial issue. As they argued, they began to be very angry at one another. The more they argued, the angrier they became. They got so angry at each other that the man lost his temper and shoved his friend away from him. His friend stumbled and fell upon a board, which had a loose, rusty nail sticking up from it. The nail pierced the man’s friend in the back.
The man, immediately sorry for what he had done, picked his friend up and took him home to wash his wound and remove the rusty nail. “I’m so sorry,” he kept saying. “I don’t know what came over me. Please forgive me!”
“That’s your problem,” his friend said. “You’ve always had a bad temper. I’m going to teach you a lesson. I’m going to leave this rusty nail in my back so that every time you see it you will remember what your bad temper did you me.” Even when the rust nail eventually began to infect the wound in the friend’s back, the friend refused to remove it and continued to remind the man of what he had done and how wrong he was, right up until the day that the infection from the nail finally killed him.
Was the man foolish to keep that rusty nail inside of him until it killed him? Of course! But many people, even Christians are doing just that. For years even after I became a Christian, I was carrying that rusty nail inside of me and subconsciously using it as a shield of protection and did not even realize it. The rusty nail I am talking about is unforgiveness.
Some might think it’s natural to walk in a little unforgiveness because it helps us protect ourselves from being used and hurt. This is so untrue! The Bible warns us in Song of Solomon 2:15 that the little foxes spoil the vines; for our vines have tender grapes” The “little foxes” of unforgiveness will always spoil the tender fruit of our relationships! Remember how devious our enemy is who walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He deceives us into hurting ourselves and others in a hundred little ways! Many relationships, friendships and marriages have crumbled and fallen because of unforgiveness?
Many have carried grudges and hard feelings as I did from their childhood and some may have even suppressed them as I did and wonder why there is no peace in their lives. Wives are bitter against absent or abusive husbands; sons and daughters are bitter against absent fathers or negligent mothers; fathers are bitter against their own abusive fathers; women are bitter against men, and children are bitter against their parents. Society is filled with people holding unforgiveness against those who have hurt them and the bitterness of heart is eating them up inside causing diseases and killing people before their time.
It is sad to see but Satan is having a field day even in the lives of Christians! Why? Because whenever unforgiveness and bitterness enter our hearts, Satan has a legal right to build a stronghold there!
Growing up I endured a lot of physical and mental abuse. In the midst of it all of that seeds of anger and rejection were planted in me from a very young age and blossomed throughout my adult life until I allowed God to heal me.
When I was 28, my kids and I moved to Atlanta joined a church and God began the long process of healing all the traumas of the past. I had been there a few years and felt the call of God strong on my life. Because I consciously tried to walk in forgiveness and unconditional love I realized I had not achieved that with my parents and grandmother and couldn’t go forward with God without forgiving them. I prayed and asked God to help me finally forgive them and He did.
God is so amazing to me who can know his ways. My grandmother passed in 1975 and I had no idea how to forgive her since she was dead. She came to me in a dream one night, apologized for all the abuse, and asked me to forgive her. When I woke up, I felt such a peace that I was freely able to actually release all the hurt, pray and forgive her.
My dad took ill and I went home to Miami to see him. He was saved by this time which was a miracle because as far back as I can remember He blamed God for his problems and wanted nothing to do with Him. I spent much time in prayer for God to save my parents and He did. He saved them both.
My dad and I talked and he asked me to forgive Him for not being there for me. I was so happy to see that he was saved that all the bitterness and anger just melted away. I forgave him that day.
Then God worked it out so that I could go home to Miami for Thanksgiving and my mom and I got a chance to talk about all the things I had been holding in my heart. My mother was saved at this time and in talking, I realized half the things I was angry about she did not even remember and did not know took place. I realized that my anger was not hurting her at all, it was only destroying me. I chose that day, that moment to forgive her and God delivered me the moment I did. Our relationship got much closer and I thought I was okay.
Everyone and anyone, every trauma and circumstance when it came up I would instantly forgive. And genuinely thought I had dealt with all the unforgiveness in me until a few days ago when the Lord told me I was harboring anger and unforgiveness towards my brother. When He told me this, I was shocked. Now you know that if God tells you something it is pointless to argue with Him right? Yeah me too so I just listened. He continued to point out and remind me of the times my mother had talked to me about my brother who is in prison and will probably be there throughout the rest of our lifetime. I talked to my brother for the first time in years on the phone back in February at my mom’s funeral. Because he is a high risk the authorities would not allow him to come to the funeral.
My mom used to talk to me about my feelings concerning my brother often but I never budged. I had this attitude of – he is there because he wants to be. We all grew up in the same house and I did not go out killing, robbing, selling drugs, etc. He is a horrible person he does not need to be out on the streets to hurt anyone else.
God reminded me of those words I had spoken and I had to agree with him I had not forgiven my brother. I said to myself “wow in all the people I have forgiven I cannot ever remember a time when I even tried to forgive my brother”. I thought about it and realized I felt safe since he was in prison and as the old saying goes “out of sight out mind”. I was still using unforgiveness as a weapon. In my mind and heart, I was still disillusioned into thinking I was protecting myself from being hurt again. I truly thank God for His mercy.
I went ahead and tried to pray for forgiveness towards him. Suddenly anger came over me. I began to recount all the things over the years that was done at his hands and said out of his mouth and I could not get the words out. I did not understand this. I cried out to the Lord, gave it all to Him, and was finally able to forgive my brother. I wrote him a letter and told him that I had been angry all these years. I told him I forgive him, asked him to forgive me and promised to keep in touch more. I cannot begin to explain the weight that lifted off me. I did not even know it was there.
Now is it all gone this time, I don’t know but I have made up in my mind that I not allow offense to set up camp in my heart anymore. And if God brings anyone else to mind I will do what I have always done – give it to Him and forgive.
Why did God wait all this time to point this out to me about my brother? I do not know, but I know He had his reasons and I know that I am grateful He did. I know His goal is that I be whole. My mom was saved when she passed and knowing my mother, I would not be surprised if she went straight to God and asked Him to do something about my brother and me. She was never one to hold her peace especially when she knew she was right.
Emotional wounds are similar to physical wounds; they require time to heal. If someone stabs you with a knife, and later apologizes, forgiving them does not mean that the knife wound will immediately close up and go away, healing still has to take its course. With the Word, prayer and giving it to God we can speed up the process. When going to the Lord to request deliverance from unforgiveness, we should humble ourselves, do not go with excuses for why you feel the way you do, for there are none really.
In forgiving there is the act of forgiving and the act of forgetting, which brings us to another misconception. I know you have probably heard and may have even said you can forgive but you will never forget. Well that is another lie from Satan. Micah 7:19 says that God puts our sins into the sea of forgetfulness and through Him we can also do that for others
We need to (1) Forgive others who trespass against us; (2) Receive forgiveness from others who have trespassed against us and (3) Forgive ourselves. Forgiving ourselves is the most important aspect of all three. Many fall short convince themselves they are only failures and cannot succeed in God and continue in this attitude for the rest of their life.
Forgiving may not always seem easy. The Word however gives us the key point to forgiveness in Ephesians 6:12 where it says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”. Once we begin to see who is really behind the offense we can look at the offender differently. We can look at them with compassion.
Paul gives us a great reference to forgiveness in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 it opened my eyes and softened my heart maybe it will help you.
2 Corinthians 2:5-11 New Living Translation:
“I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise, he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him. I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions. When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.”
In closing, I want to point out that we never know how God is using us in any situation He puts us in such as with Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused by Potipher’s wife, and forgotten by Pharaoh’s butler, yet when he became second ruler in Egypt, he got even with none of these. He told his brothers that God did all this to preserve life. Joseph not only forgave with his mouth, he forgave from the heart.
If in reading you recognize that you have been using offense and unforgiveness as a weapon let God heal you today. If you know there is someone you need to forgive I implore you to do it. A good test of whether or not you have genuinely forgiven a person from the heart is when you think of them, there are no negative thoughts or reactions. If we still have negative thoughts against a person, then our heart has not changed toward that person and we still suffer from unforgiveness. Until we forgive and truly forget our whole nature becomes one of getting even with our mouth or with our actions, even as far as wishing for that person’s death.
If you are ready to swallow the pride, deal with the hurts, and be set free to live the abundant life God has promised I have included a sample prayer you can pray. BE SET FREE IN THE NAME OF JESUS.
Let us pray:
Father God, I come to you in the name of the Lord Jesus. I believe He is your son. I believe he has risen from the grave and sits at your right hand ever interceding for me. Heavenly Father I repent of not forgiving, of holding bitterness in my heart and being upset with people, You, situations and even myself. Father as you so willingly forgive I too choose to forgive.
Lord God I know you love me and I love You and I desire to be free. I ask you to shine a light on my heart and show me any hurtful or traumatic experience that is holding me in bondage and any unforgiveness in my heart because of it. Show me everyone I need to forgive Father. Let the Spirit of Truth rise up and speak in the Name of Jesus.
(now wait and let God reveal the persons and/or situations, and say them out loud)
Heavenly Father I repent of not forgiving, of holding bitterness in my heart and being upset with them, You, the situation and even myself. Father as you so willingly forgive, I too choose to forgive (name the people involved) completely. I ask you to forgive me for releasing any hurt or anger toward them. Forgive me for judgmental and condemning thoughts and words I have spoken to them, into them and over them. In the name of Jesus I speak death to those destructive seeds that I have planted and death to the harvest released. I ask you to forgive them and release them and let them not be guilty any longer of doing me any harm. I place them in your hands Lord Jesus that you may heal them, deliver them and set them free and use them for your glory.
Father God I know that you do not make mistakes and that You are perfect in all your ways. I ask you to forgive me for holding bitterness and anger in my heart towards You because of this situation. I forgive myself for letting this hurt control me and for hurting others out of my hurt. I repent of this behavior and my attitude.
Now Father God Your word says in Hebrews 9:14 that the Blood of Jesus Christ would purge my conscious, which is my heart. I cover this area with the Blood of Jesus Christ that it may purge me from all unforgiveness.
In the name of Jesus Christ I renounce the spirits of anger, bitterness, resentment, murder, hatred, violence, rejection, retaliation and memory recall. I command these unclean spirits to leave me now in the mighty name of Jesus Christ.
In the name of Jesus I command rejection, anger, bitterness, resentment, murder, hatred, violence and memory recall to get out of me now. Father God I ask that you fill those voided spaces with more of Your Love. Whatever I owe to anyone in your strength and provision help me to restore. Whatever is owed to me by any human I forgive and I release it in the name of Jesus Christ.
Father in the name of Jesus Christ I receive healing in my physical body. I command every spirit of infirmity and every disease to leave me now. You unclean spirits have no ground to stay here. Get out now in the name of Jesus Christ. Now Lord Jesus I ask you to pour the balm of healing into my wounded spirit. I receive now in the name of Jesus Christ healing for a broken heart that has come because of hurt, disappointment and abuse.
Thank you for giving me beauty for ashes of failure, replacing mourning and grief with the oil of joy and giving me a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair in Jesus name. Thank You for forgiving me and setting me free. I bind Forgiveness in my heart so that when offence comes I can forgive quickly. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.