I heard a long time ago that mental facilities were filled with people who are withholding forgiveness. Numerous studies point to a list of medical and mental health issues due to the fact that someone has not forgiven someone else for harming them. I am acutely aware that forgiveness can be difficult. It might not be too hard to say the words, “I forgive you,” but walking in that forgiveness or actually fully forgiving someone entails much more than just words. So, how do we truly live out the words of Jesus, to forgive someone seven times seventy? I absolutely believe it can only be done through of the power of forgiveness found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we stop and consider how much we have been forgiven of just because we ask to be forgiven, how in the world can we withhold forgiveness for anyone?
I thought I came to a place of complete forgiveness from a difficult experience in my past. However, I was listening to a message one Sunday and the speaker asked to test your level of forgiveness by imagining that person walking into the room right now. I immediately began to think about punching that person squarely in the face if they walked into the room. I was overwhelmed by my lack of forgiveness. I have continually given that person and that whole situation over to the Lord. I can genuinely say that if that person walked into the room, I would have pity on them instead of anger. I have not replaced one emotion with another, but I have been released of all of that by living out the Gospel in my life.
When we get down to it, unforgiveness is sin. Sin separates us from God. So, we are choosing to sin against God instead of forgiving someone. I am reminded of David as he laments his sin in Psalm 51. For the first nine verses, David speaks to the forgiveness he needs for his sin with Bathsheba, then he asks God to Create in me a clan heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy or your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit. These are the words of a man broken by sin, desiring to be forgiven. God in his infinite wisdom and love offers grace and forgiveness to David immediately. David than begins to rejoice in that forgiveness and says in verse 13f, Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinner will return to you. Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God…and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. When I read this, I am drawn to what happens after we seek forgiveness. Proclaiming, declaring, testifying, and praising the Lord for his forgiveness. This forgiveness of my sin compels me to not withhold forgiveness from anyone because I want the freedom from sin that is only found in Jesus Christ.
My prayer for you is that forgive, not just out of compulsion, but out of a thankfulness for being forgiven countless times for things we do not want anyone to know about. Forgive because your mental health with improve. Forgive because you want to be freed from the burden of unforgiveness. Forgive because you want to be fully used of the Lord to declare, testify, and praise to all the blessings His forgiveness affords us.