What if I told you that unforgiveness and bitterness are the number one, wide-open front door access the enemy gains access to attack you? Unforgiveness and bitterness are invisible chains that imprison us and hinder our relationship with God.
We live in a fallen world, which means we will face hurt and offense every single day. And often, it’s the people closest to us that hurt us the most. The words, actions, and inactions of others (and ourselves) can wound us to the core. Things like neglect, abuse, violence, betrayal, cruel words, and more can cause bitterness and resentment to take root in our hearts.
What Forgiveness Is, and What It’s Not
Choosing not to forgive is, without a doubt, the number one way that gives the enemy the right to attack Christians. Many believe they can’t forgive for many reasons. So let’s cover what it is and what it isn’t.
Forgiving is NOT Forgetting! That old adage, “forgive and forget” IS NOT in the Bible. The Lord never said you have to forget, but He did say we are to forgive. It’s not even a suggestion. It’s a command as His children.
Even when we are genuinely wronged, God says we are to forgive. You may say or feel like you can never forgive, but you can. What we really mean when we say that is, “I don’t want to forgive them.” If it were impossible, God wouldn’t have commanded us to forgive.
Forgiveness IS NOT saying that what they did or what happened was ok. It wasn’t. Whatever happened to you, whatever was said, or however, someone or something made you feel is NOT OK.
In fact, “stuffing” it down is harmful. I used to be a “stuffer.” Stuffing helps you temporarily hide from it, but it creates so many more issues in personal freedom, your relationship with God, and others.
Forgiving someone IS NOT devoid of emotion. You may feel any number of emotions, such as anger. Anger is a feeling; it’s an emotion. It’s OK to feel the emotion and acknowledge it exists, we aren’t robots. But it’s NOT OK to stay there! Holding onto anger creates a bitter root and gives the enemy a stronghold in your life.
Forgiveness IS NOT a feeling. It’s a decision, a choice of your will (mind).
We CAN uproot it…if we CHOOSE to!
What do I mean?
It may be difficult to forget, but forgiving is not the same as forgetting. Forgiveness is a choice. Here’s what scripture says:
“Be ANGRY, and yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” (Eph. 4:26-27)
At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus warns us, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
He who hates his brother is in darkness, and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:11)
Again, forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgetting may be a result, the fruit, of forgiving, but it’s not the means of forgiveness.
Why Do We Choose Not to Forgive?
Forgiving is difficult for us because it pulls on your concepts of justice. We want justice, or revenge, for the offenses we have suffered. We believe that if we forgive, then there was no justice. We protest, “Why should I let them off the hook?” But the truth is they aren’t off the hook. You take them off of yours, but they’re still on God’s. He will deal with them fairly, which is something we cannot do.
Why is Forgiveness so Important to God?
One simple answer is that He wants us to experience freedom, not the chains of anxiety and roots of bitterness that bind us when we don’t forgive. It’s FOR US, not for the person who offended us or did us wrong. His heart is for us to experience the authentic life that He created for us fully. If our heart is filled with anger or bitterness, there’s not much room for Holy Spirit.
But more importantly, it’s because Jesus forgave us!
Matthew 18:21-25 provides a clear picture of how God views unforgiveness and bitterness, and the consequences we will suffer if we choose not to forgive.
In verses 32-34, the master called in the unmerciful servant and said, ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger, his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed.
How Do You Forgive from the Heart?
First, you must acknowledge the hurt and/or hate you have toward the person(s). If your forgiveness doesn’t visit the emotional core of the offense, it will be incomplete. Let God bring it to the surface so He can deal with it. This is where healing takes place.
Break Free of the Chains of Unforgiveness and Bitterness
Use this prayer to be your guide to removing the chains of unforgiveness and bitterness. Remember, PRAY THIS OUT LOUD! The enemy cannot hear your thoughts, and there is power in the spoken word.
As you read through your list of names, be prepared for people to come to mind that you have blocked from your memory. Just say their name immediately before continuing with the rest of the list.
If the Lord brings a name or face to mind and you don’t know why. Write it down anyway. Holy Spirit knows things we don’t remember and event he things we would consider insignificant, but carry more weight than we understand. He will bring the reason as you move through the process. Trust Him!
Also, include yourself and God on the list. Most of us are harder on ourselves than anyone else could ever be. It’s time to forgive yourself and take back the ground the enemy stole!
Some people protest putting God on the list when I do ministry with them. While God is perfect, we can still hold anger toward Him for something that’s happened to us. You may not be angry NOW, but perhaps you were angry in the past. Let’s just close that door to the enemy in this prayer.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for the riches of Your kindness, mercy, and patience, knowing that Your kindness has led me to repentance (Romans 2:4). I confess that I have not extended that same patience and kindness toward others who have offended me. Instead, I have held anger, bitterness, and resentment in my heart. During this time of self-examination, I pray that you would bring to mind all the people that I need to forgive so that I may do so now (Matthew 18:35).
(Begin writing down the names that come to mind, then continue the prayer)
Father, in the Name of Jesus Christ, as an act of my will, I choose to forgive the following people:
- I choose to forgive & release (name) for (describe what he/she did)
- I choose to forgive & release (name) for (describe what he/she did)
(Continue down your list. Take a moment to pause and ask Holy Spirit if there’s anyone else. Then finish the prayer.)
Lord, Thank you for setting me free from the bondage of my bitterness. I also pray that if I have offended others, You will bring to mind only those people I need to seek forgiveness and the extent to which I need to seek it (Matthew 5:23,24). I ask this in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.
Note: I use the “I choose to forgive and release” phrase in everyday life so that I don’t leave a door cracked for the enemy to set up camp. I follow it up by thanking God for setting me free from the bondage of bitterness.
I may have to say it several times in one day, for weeks, or even months, but I do this until I no longer feel angry. If I think about the offense and it stirs a familiar emotion or response, I say it again. It really does work!
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