Freedom through Forgiving
Overcoming the Stronghold of Bitterness
This teaching on finding freedom through forgiving is just one lesson of our free eCourse for personal transformation, "Matters of the Heart." All 24 lessons will be helpful to the person seeking restoration and freedom. They are also available in our Store as an ebook, a 176 page workbook and as CD and DVD sets of 24, 1/2 hour teachings.
Champion Grace Givers
In the previous lesson we exposed the “hidden” work of the enemy to divide us from God, others and even from ourselves—by accusations that turn us from God’s way of mercy-giving love. Accusations seek to create division and separation over issues of hurt and offense and then hold it all in place by means of un-forgiveness.
So what is God’s answer? Forgive! How much, how often, how thoroughly? As much as needed, as often as needed, as thoroughly as needed—to fully release your heart. The truth is a childlike heart of joy is waiting for all of us on the other side of fully forgiving the very ones who the enemy used to rob us of our joy. God really wants to turn the tables on the enemy, but He needs us to work with Him, not against Him.
Un-forgiveness in all of its forms is an agreement with Satan, not God. It not only hardens our hearts (separating us from peace and joy), but it also damages our bodies (through the stress response). These strongholds have to be torn down if we ever want to live a grace-filled life and become champion grace givers like our glorious Lord! You, too, can find freedom through forgiving.
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The Hidden Cost of Being Bitter
Bitterness holds in place a host of deadly emotions. Many people have testified that being bitter is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die. Thanks to modern medical science we now know that grudges really do terrible things to our bodies, as well as to our relationships. Choose to get well rather than to get even. The writer of Hebrews warns that if we have a root of bitterness it will trouble us and defile many others through their contact with us.
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. Hebrews 12:14-15
Bitterness is a very damaging stressor to the body, directly leading to illness. However, unforgiveness also keeps trauma from being healed and that adversely affects our health as well. Un-mended trauma of the past always increases the levels of anxiety and fear we carry which, like bitterness, are very harmful to health. The pain of an unforgiven offense is “warning” us that God and others can’t be trusted, keeping us “on guard” and fear-filled.
Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father, who is in heaven, may also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your transgressions. Mark 11:25-26 WEB
Bitterness is not your friend. Learn to carry it captive before it carries you captive. The high thought of bitterness is saying to God, “My law of not forgiving is better than Your law of mercy.” Fall completely out of agreement with its thoughts and feelings, before what begins as a seed of hurt or offense grows into a stronghold of nightmarish proportions. Bitterness never stays where you put it, rather it seeks to grow and spread. It wants to take over your life.
There are at least seven stages of bitterness, an ascending order of descent into darkness: un-forgiveness (not letting go of hurt), resentment (“re-feeling” old offenses; keeping a record of wrongs), retaliation (getting even by criticism, passive aggressive behavior), anger and wrath (sudden upsurge toward the other person or down upon oneself), hatred (detesting, despising, strong disliking, hardness, apathy), violence (wanting to see harm come to another), and murder (with the tongue, or in the heart, or by criminal act; wishing them dead).
As This Stronghold Goes Down, Grace Goes Forth
There is massive power released when forgiveness is combined with actively believing God’s promises of redemption. Forgiving others truly releases the pain and weight of wrong off of us, but we may still feel saddened by the loss we experienced. To help us recover a rightful sense of fullness, God has given magnificent promises of the restoration He intends.
Notice, however, that the promise of all things being made to work for our good is restricted to “those who love God,” which by Jesus’ definition means those who obey Him. To fully reap the benefits of restoration we have to choose to obey God’s command of full forgiveness. This is a great and gracious incentive for releasing the past into His Hands:
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 WEB
Recognize and resist the temptation to judgment. God separates us from our sins (see Separation from Sin), but judgment binds our spirit with bitterness and blinds us to our own prideful and unloving hearts. The Holy Spirit gives discernment about sin so that we won’t walk in the dark, not knowing good from evil or right from wrong.
With proper discernment we can pray for people who are sinning and help them regain their freedom by speaking the truth in love. The enemy, however, desires to turn discernment into judgment. Such bitter judgments are the nature of Satan’s kingdom, not God’s.
Forgiveness is necessary for our own hearts. The truth is no one is ever trapped in their pain by the sins of others. We are entrapped by our own sin of bitter judgments. We actually imprison our own hearts. That's why we feel such freedom through forgiving! It is a major key to the Kingdom of God (see The Keys to the Kingdom).
We are to loose sinners from their sins and bind the enemy. Sadly, when believers bind sinners to their sins, we unwittingly loose the real enemy and advance his kingdom—first in us, then into the world around us as we spread the poison. Turn the key that sets captive hearts free!
Clear These Misunderstandings Out of Your Way!
Compare these six common misconceptions to your own beliefs.
1) It is not a feeling: Forgiveness is a choice, an act of the will, not a feeling. We cannot control our feelings, but we can control how we choose to respond despite our feelings.
2) It is not glossing over: Forgiveness does not pretend the offense was not as bad as it really was. It does not turn a blind eye to real faults. It sees sin as sin and then forgives the person.
3) It is not nursing the fond memory: Real forgiveness does not keep score, hold grudges, or build walls. It is necessary to watch our boundaries, but not to build walls on them!
4) It is not a reward: Christian forgiveness is not something earned by being sorry or by efforts to change. The less deserved it is, the more it is Christlike, mercy-based forgiveness.
5) It is not a divine pardon: Forgiveness is not letting the other person “off the hook”; it is taking them off our hook and putting them in God's Hands for redemption. Trust Him!
6) It is not blindly trusting: Forgiveness creates no obligation to trust the offender. Jesus trusted Himself to no one, but He lived in forgiveness and love with everyone. He still does. Aren’t you glad He forgives you, even though He can’t trust you never to betray his love? Let’s learn to do likewise.
So what exactly does forgiveness involve? Forgiveness means being open to loving and even liking the other person, accepting them just as they are—just as we would desire to be accepted and loved if we were them. It means releasing them, setting them free, letting them go, letting them be themselves and setting our own hearts free in the process. Forgiveness is giving your pain and the injustice to God and trusting Him with it. It will always liberate you...
Experience the peace and release of finally letting go. Say Yes! to life.
Lord, help me want what You want (forgiveness) and hate what You hate (un-forgiveness). I would rather be free on the inside, than bitter. I will set free anyone I have to in order to get free. What was done to me is nothing compared to what bitterness is doing to me now. I am not bound by the past, only by my bitterness about it. Whatever the reasons are for being bitter, they are not as good as freedom feels. I will turn the key of forgiveness and walk away. I therefore choose to forgive ______ and release him/her from all my bitter judgments. I am giving _____ to You along with all the pain and injustice for You to redeem. I am trusting You with it all. Thank You for forgiving me for being so unforgiving!
Next Healing Lesson
Lesson 16: Mending the Broken Heart
Overcoming strongholds caused by trauma and abuse
Interested in Going Deeper?
Don't just give these truths a "head bob"—take our free eCourse for Healing. For further study and for help working these truths into your heart and life, see Freedom through Forgiving Part 2 (Head to Heart Guide 1). In all there are 24 Main Healing Lessons and 24 Head to Heart Guides to help you bring your heart to God and receive His Great Heart for you in return!