Unforgiveness affects every part of your life. It’s like stubbing your toe, shock waves go through your whole body.
This blog post is part 38 of the series Seven Invisible Barriers to Spiritual Growth.
To see all the posts in the series click here. To listen to the audio version click here.
Unforgiveness Affects How you See Others
In one sense you may see unforgiveness as something positive. It’s your way to make sure that the person pays for what they have done. If you don’t keep track of the wrong done to you, who will?
If you continue to hold every wrong against a person, soon you will have every person you know owing you something. Every new person you meet will be someone who will hurt you or let you down somehow.
In order to protect yourself from the hurt you know is coming your way, you put up protective walls to keep people at a distance. The only problem with closing people out is that you close yourself in. You start cutting yourself off from people.
Unforgiveness seems to grow in time to more serious things. Let’s see the process that takes place over time:
- A wound in your heart
- Vengeful thoughts
When you become bitter it affects every portion of your life. The Bible warns against bitterness. It says in Hebrews 4:15:
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.
When you carry unforgiveness it not only affects you but it will affect others.
Unforgiveness Hinders Your Relationship with God
Unforgiveness is a big deal to God. He is so gracious in sending Jesus to bear our sin and forgive us of our sins when we come to Him. He expects us to be merciful and forgive others of their sins.
If that seems unfair to you, then you do not understand the full impact of the death of Jesus nor the depth of your own sin. Every single person who has ever walked the earth is guilty before God and worthy of His judgment.
If you were left alone to fend for yourself you would die in your trespasses and sins. There is nothing you could do that would make you right with God. You would be helpless and destined to hell.
But God in His mercy and grace sent Jesus to die on the cross and rise again from the dead so that we might be cleansed by His blood and resurrected through His resurrection. He forgives you even when you do nothing worthy of forgiveness. Jesus did it all. He paid the price so you could believe in Him and be forgiven.
Since He was so merciful to you, He expects you to be merciful to others in return. Since He is not holding your sins against you, He does not want you holding other people’s sins against them.
Unforgiveness erects a barrier between us and God.
Unforgiveness Blocks Forgiveness from God
Let’s look at a couple of verses that show what God thinks about unforgiveness:
“Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors . . . For if you forgive others 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 6:11, 12, 14,15)
Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive your transgressions. (Mark 11:25)
It is very clear that God wants you to seek forgiveness on a daily basis. Jesus spoke of how you are to ask for forgiveness for yourself just like the forgiveness you give others. He also lets you know that if you do not forgive others, then He will not forgive you.
If you refuse to forgive someone of their sin it blocks God’s ability to help you in that area. His hands are tied and you will continue to suffer until you choose to forgive. The moment you choose to forgive from the heart, God will be there to help you. If you refuse to forgive, you are left on your own to handle the situation.
Unforgiveness Gives an Opportunity to the Devil
Anytime we disregard what God desires in our lives, we open ourselves to the enemy and give him opportunity to work his havoc in our lives. Some people teach that the devil can’t do anything to a believer, but the Bible doesn’t say that.
Listen to the warning Paul gives to the church at Ephesus. He 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. (Ephesians 4:26-27)
Anger is not wrong. It is a valid emotion given by God. God Himself gets angry. The problem with anger is that many times it precedes sin.
Let’s get something straight. Anger does not make you sin. you can blame your sin on our anger, but anger in itself is not sinful. It is what you choose to do when you are angry that can cross over into sin.
Paul wants us to deal with the anger we experience immediately. He tells us not to let the sun go down on our anger. He wants us to keep a short leash on anger and not allow it to continue any longer than a day.
The word translated “opportunity” is the word topos in Greek. It is the word used as the basis for our word topography. It means a place. When you continue harboring anger in your heart you are giving a place for the devil to work in your life. It is like a beachhead of an invading army seeking to destroy you.
The only way to shut off the access you have given to the enemy is to repent and forgive. Forgiveness takes away the enemy’s beachhead and denies him any further access in your life from this area.
I encourage you to set aside some time to do this exercise. Get a piece of paper and ask the Lord everyone you need to forgive.
- Write every name the Lord brings to your mind. Don’t stop writing until the names stop coming to your mind.
- Wait a moment and then ask the Lord if there is anyone else. It does not matter how small or big the offense against you.
- Choose to forgive each person for what they have done to you, one by one. Ask the Lord to help you be a forgiving person.
- Do the following for each person on your list.
- Choose to forgive them by name.
- Say the specific things for which you are forgiving them. Don’t say a generic prayer. They did specific things to hurt you, forgive them specifically. For example, “I forgive my mom for knowing about but not stopping the sexual abuse of my father.”
- Release them to the Lord
- Thank the Lord for forgiving you and helping you to be a forgiving person
Here is a sample prayer to help guide you if you need help:
I choose to forgive __(name)__ for ____(specific thing)_____ (as many times as necessary). I no longer hold anything against ___(name)___ I choose to release ___(him/her)___ into Your hands as a righteous judge.
Going through this list may bring up some painful memories. Invite the Lord into the situation. Give Him each and every painful emotion you are experiencing. Don’t ask Him to take them away, give them to Him. Once you have given Him every hurt ask Him to heal your heart.
Next week, we’ll look at four more destructive aspects of unforgiveness.
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