If there is one thing that causes the most problem in our walk with God causing distance in our relationship with Him it is when we habour unforgiveness in our heart. We may not even realize that we have unforgiveness there as it hides until the next time someone,s behaviour or a situation triggers in us a strong reaction. On reflection later, in a more rational calm space we realize that the strength of our reaction was over the top when we consider the situation that sparked that flood of feeling. However, that strong response indicates that we are not free from unforgiveness and that our reaction has a deeper root.
Unforgiveness can become very deep rooted. It leads to resentment, bitterness and judgmental attitudes towards certain people or situations. The more unforgiveness internally festers in our heart, it has been proven that it can impact our health in a detrimental way.
None of us are immune from injustice, hurt and pain in life. The saying that hurt people, hurt people is so true. Life can be unfair, people can deeply hurt us unjustifiable through no fault of our own. However, it is our response to perceived injustice that can lead us down a path of bitterness and resentment. As this compounds and takes root we can become chained into negative thinking and reap unwanted negative repeating patterns of similar circumstances and hurt in life.
Why is this? After all I was a victim of this injustice or pain in the first place? As the innocent party why do I seem to experience the same things happening to me over and over in my life?
My understanding from Scripture is that the important thing is how we respond to the hurt or injustice. The Bible makes it clear that it is ok to be angry. By the way, let’s be real – underneath anger hurt and pain are lurking!! It’s ok to have anger as your initial response, but the problem occurs when we hang onto that anger and feed it so that it grows into its own identity. In Ephesians 4:26-27 Paul warns us not let that anger move into sin, and to not let the sun go down while you are still angry. He makes it clear that this is an open door for satan to create a foothold in our life. By hanging on and feeding that hurt we move into unforgiveness which the Bible stresses is sin.
What does the sin of unforgiveness look like?
Unforgiveness feeds on the situation and gives a sense of self justified control to retaliate and get ‘our own back on the person’ The devil comes in and consumes our thoughts with ways to respond in negative ways to the person. He feeds us with ways to punish, demise, and respond negatively. Resentment, bitterness , gossip, and hatred grow and become like chains that we cannot break free from.
We dwell on these thoughts like juicy morsels and the devil makes these feel justified and satisfying. All these emotions and thoughts are sin in God’s eyes as we judge and take protective control and vengeance in our own hands. As similar situations occur, our reactive cycle becomes more rooted. This is so despicable in God’s eyes that He does not want to receive anything from us while we have this unforgiveness in our heart Jesus said (Matthew 5:21-24) just as murder will be judged so will unforgiveness in the heart.
In Isaiah 59:2 we learn that our sin separates us from God ; it is a barrier that God cannot cross and we become distanced from Him.
What can break this cycle that separates us from God?
To break the sin of unforgiveness from our life with all its accompanying sins we need to as, with any other sin, confess it and receive the forgiveness from God and be cleansed through the blood shed on the cross by His Son Jesus Christ.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Does this make the other person, or the injustice right? Absolutely not!
However by harbouring unforgiveness you have made yourself the judge and jury and taken God s place. In fact you prevent God from on releasing judgement and dealing with that person when you take on nurturing unforgiveness in your heart and take that role from Him. You have to let go of desires to punish the person and that frees God to deal with their heart and judge them accordingly.
By forgiveness and letting God take over, you close the door in your own life for the devil to have a stronghold. By letting go of the anger, bitterness and resentment by putting it at the foot of the cross of Jesus, you open up your heart to receive God’s love, peace and forgiveness. There will be no more barriers between you and God, and you can begin to see the situation through God’s eyes and not your own wounded perspective. Jesus is the greatest example of this. While hanging on the cross in agony , being innocent of the crimes and accusations that placed Him in that situation Jesus said ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do’
Is it easy ? No! But it is so worth the freedom and peace that comes as we forgive and leave the rest to God.
If you are feeling distant from God, ask the Holy Spirit to show you if there is any unforgiveness in your heart. Ask Jesus for the grace and strength to confess that sin of unforgiveness and choose to forgive that person, letting go any rights you may feel to punish or hold any more resentment in your heart. Release the person to Jesus, and ask Him to take over. Choose to bless and not curse that person and ask God to come and heal the pain in your heart.