When I tell people who have been ill-treated that full healing requires forgiving their abuser, many will argue, “You don’t understand the hurt I’ve endured.” They’re right. But a bitter spirit, like cancer, penetrates every part of our life. Anger and resentment are symptoms that cannot be pushed away and ignored. They spill out, harming relationships and leading to risky decisions.
Withholding forgiveness may feel as if we’re punishing the offender. But people cannot take revenge on one another without destroying themselves. That’s why the Lord calls us to follow His example of extending grace to all (Ephesians 4:32). Since God has pardoned us so generously, we shouldn’t withhold forgiveness from others. When someone hurts us, we may feel that person doesn’t deserve pardon, but neither are we deserving of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
Crucifixion was slow and agonizing, but Jesus’ worst torment occurred when the sin of the world was laid on Him and His Father turned away (Matthew 27:46). Still, as the crowd cast lots for His garments, Jesus gave us the best possible example of forgiveness by saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). I may not know your pain, but I assure you that Jesus does. With His infinite love and gentleness, He’ll help you overcome hurt, anger, and bitterness.
Forgiveness is a choice—an act of service to the Lord, a witness to the person who inflicted our pain, and a necessary step in our healing. No matter how terrible the acts committed against us were, God requires that we show mercy. For our good and His glory, He wants us to give up the “right” to punish those who hurt us.