by Shannon McCoy
“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)
Relationships are difficult. Interaction with others is essential—which means that someone will offend you. You may have experienced at least one of these statements in your lifetime:
You took advantage of me. You stole from me. You lied to me. You cheated on me. You fired me. You abandoned me. You abused me. You ruined my reputation. You killed my loved one. You took everything from me.
When someone sins against you, it hurts deeply and causes emotional pain. Just as a car accident causes physical injury, someone sinning against you causes emotional injury (Ps 41:9).
The Healing Process
Emotional hurt is trauma to the heart. Like physical injuries, emotional injuries must go through a three-phase healing process.
The body reacts to trauma with an inflammatory process to destroy harmful substances entering the body. This is when you feel the most intense pain. The heart is the target of emotional hurt, reacting in self-defense (shock, denial, confusion, withdrawal) to prevent further hurt. This is when you feel the most intense emotional pain such as sadness, grief and rejection (Ps 25:16-17).
Just as the body forms a scab (a protective layer) to prevent infection, the heart—by thinking biblically about God, yourself, and the offender—builds and cultivates a shield of protection against a sinful response to an offense (Phil 4:8-9; 2 Cor 10:5).
The body replaces damaged tissue with healthy tissue. Similarly, the emotionally damaged heart is renewed by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. God heals your broken heart and binds up your wounds (Ps 147:3), enabling you to respond to the offender with a heart that produces the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).
Unforgiveness Hinders Healing
A wounded heart can lead to unforgiveness—the sin of being judge and executioner of the offender. Resentment takes root in the heart cultivating anger, hate and bitterness (Heb 12:15; Eph 4:31).
Offenses will come into your life and cause pain. You can either hold on to the hurt until it wrecks you, your family and your life—or you can minimize the damage by responding rightly to those offenses (Eph 4:32).
Freedom in Forgiveness
Forgiveness is essential to emotional healing. It is a command that requires you to accept the reality of the wrongs committed against you and to release yourself as the offender’s judge and executioner (Eph 4:32).
Forgiveness is a critical spiritual principle much like the law of gravity (Matt 6:12). You can no more alter the law of gravity than the spiritual principle of forgiveness. If you withhold forgiving others, God withholds forgiveness of your daily sins. (Matt 18:21-35)—not forgiveness leading to salvation, but the forgiveness you seek when your sin grieves your Heavenly Father (1 Jn 1:9).
An unforgiving heart forfeits God’s blessing and ushers in His chastening. Forgiveness is a gift you can give because it was given to you in Jesus Christ (Col 3:13). Forgiveness frees you to have unfettered fellowship with your Heavenly Father.