Forgiveness is a key to healing the broken spirit. Forgiving ourselves and others has a profound effect on our body. Research continues to show there is a link between the mind and the body and that depression and stress can cause fatigue where as a positive attitude towards life can give us more energy. In 2015 an article entitled How Forgiveness Benefits Your Health: Forgiving Wrongdoers Can Expand Physical Fitness by Lecia Bushak, a study done by Erasmus University and the National University of Singapore concludes that holding a grudge not only weighs us down mentally but also physically. Those participants that had forgiven their wrongdoers actually jumped higher on the average. This reminds me of Matthew 11:28-30:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Wow! Our burdens literally weigh us down. I have experienced this and I am sure you have as well. When we are emotionally troubled, our body feels heavy making it hard to even walk. We may even feel like we can’t get out of bed. Even the Mayo clinic has found that forgiving others has great health benefits. Forgiving others reduces blood pressure, lessens depression and anxiety, strengthens our immune system and helps our heart stay healthy. Interestingly, a study done by Kavita Vedhara, a researcher from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, concluded that the flu vaccine works better if the person is in a good mood when the vaccine is received. Being in a good mood helps lower cortisol which suppresses the immune system. Medical science seems to confirm that Proverbs 17:22 is true and that a “happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing but a broken spirit dries up the bones“. Forgiveness opens us up to not only give love but to receive love. When we understand that by receiving Christ into our hearts we have been forgiven completely, we then are able to show mercy to ourselves and others. Our greatest example of forgiveness is Jesus. On the cross, he looked at those who had put nails in his hands and feet and said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.
Christmas should be a wonderful time of the year but for many it is a very hard time. Much of the sadness or depression revolves around broken or lost relationships with family and friends. Many feel alone or isolated. Christmas, historically, has been a time to reach out to others in need but in many ways it has transgressed to the “What about me” attitude and not an attitude of showing love and mercy to each other. Forgiveness is a powerful key to emotional healing. Feelings of hurt and resentment produce emotions like anger, anxiety and depression. Robert Enright says in his article Eight Keys to Forgiveness, that “studies have shown that forgiving others produces strong psychological benefits for the one who forgives. It has been shown to decrease depression, anxiety, unhealthy anger, and the symptoms of PTSD. ” I will go even a step further and say that forgiving others and yourself will even produce physical healing. Anger, hate, sadness, and rejection are powerful emotions and, if left unresolved, can make us sick. We have all experienced the physical symptoms of being hurt emotionally. We experience these emotional symptoms at different levels of intensity depending on our emotional maturity. Diarrhea, stomach ache, tingling hands, chest pain, headache, heart racing, and sweating are just a few of the symptoms one can experience. Forgiveness is powerful medicine for the mind, body and soul with the end results of peace and a sense of well-being.
Jesus knew the power of forgiveness. On the cross, before He gave up His Spirit, He said to the Father, “Forgive them for they know not what they do”. This is the greatest example of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a choice not a feeling. We can choose to forgive but may still have feelings of hurt and even anger. Forgiveness is a process that takes time and we may need help from others to completely heal. Forgiveness is something we have to practice and it is not easy but very rewarding. It is just as important to forgive ourselves as it is to forgive others. I heard this once: holding onto unforgiveness actually makes us slaves to that person. In other words, if I continued to have resentment and anger towards my sexual abuser, I remain emotionally bound or enslaved to that person. I don’t know about you but I want to be free. As I worked through forgiving my attacker, something unexpected happened. I began to have empathy for him. Though his action were horrible, he still was a person created by God and loved by Him. I thought about how much God had shown mercy to me and that if Jesus could forgive His attackers so could I. Not in my own strength but by the power of the Holy Spirit. My attacker died in an accident. I felt so sorry for him. I hope that he had ask Jesus into his heart before he died because I would not wish an eternity in hell on my worse enemy.
Robert Enright stated in his article that:
“Scientists have studied what happens in the brain when we think about forgiving and have discovered that, when people successfully imagine forgiving someone (in a hypothetical situation), they show increased activity in the neural circuits responsible for empathy. This tells us that empathy is connected to forgiveness and is an important step in the process.”
Let me state right here that forgiving someone is not condoning their actions or saying what they did was not wrong. The act of forgiving produces freedom in us allowing us to no longer be bound to that person or to the negative thoughts and emotions. As we have learned over the course of this blog, there is power in our thoughts and words. Thoughts and words can either bring death or life, healing or destructions. The bible is clear that it is the devil who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. One of his weapons is the spirit of offence. He wants us offended at others, ourselves and ultimately God. This spirit tells us lies like: “I am unworthy”, or “I am unloved”. This spirit will tell us lies about the other person. Many times the person who has offended us doesn’t even know it or has move on while we continue to wallow in our hurt and anger. Healing comes when we release the burden of unforgiveness and choose to love ourselves and the one who has hurt us. 1 John 1:5 tells us that God is Light and that there is no darkness in Him at all. Forgiveness frees us to walk in the Light as He is in the light. Let’s come into the Light and let Him heal our hearts, minds and bodies.
1 John 2:9-11(Amplified Bible) Whoever says he is in the Light and [yet] hates his brother [Christian, [a]born-again child of God his Father] is in darkness even until now. Whoever loves his brother [believer] abides (lives) in the Light, and in It or in him there is no occasion for stumbling or cause for error or sin. But he who hates (detests, despises) his brother [[b]in Christ] is in darkness and walking (living) in the dark; he is straying and does not perceive or know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
I will leave you with this: I believe fear and condemnation are at the root of illness physical or emotional. Fear makes us self focused or overly critical of ourselves and others. Fear causes us to judge others who don’t think, look or talk like us. Love looks at every person, including ourselves, as valuable and priceless. God thought we were so valuable that He gave us Jesus, the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Love came down in human form to restore us to the Father making us children of God. God is Love and he who loves is of God. Let’s love ourselves and others showing the true nature of our Heavenly Father. Let’s forgive those who have hurt us like Jesus did. He is our example.