Anxiety can sometimes be a medical condition caused by physical or chemical conditions. But sometimes it’s caused by spiritual forces of darkness who want to torment us. Regardless of the cause, seeking spiritual help from God can bring relief and freedom.

You may be surprised to know that unforgiveness is connected to anxiety. Even medical professionals acknowledge this connection. Here are some interesting facts:

  1. Unforgiveness is classified as a disease in medical books.
  2. Refusing to forgive makes people sick and keeps them sick. (Cancer Treatment Centers of America)
  3. Of all cancer patients, more than 61% have forgiveness issues (and more than half of these are severe).
  4. Harboring negative emotions, anger and hatred causes a chronic state of anxiety.

The truth is, deep unforgiveness, bitterness and anger can make us physically sick! When we feel that we have the right to be angry and hold on to unforgiveness, we can actually bring physical death upon ourselves.

However, in Matthew 18, Jesus uses a story to show us how to handle these situations: There was a wicked servant who owed his master a large amount of money. The master demanded that the servant pay him, but the servant begged for more time to repay it. The master had mercy on him and forgave the huge debt. Unfortunately, this wicked servant went away and found a man who owed him a small amount of money; he choked the man and insisted that he pay him immediately.

When the master’s other servants saw how this wicked servant treated the man who owed him so little, they reported it to their master. The “master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. ‘So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses’” (Matthew 18:34-35). Jesus was teaching people that if we don’t forgive others, then we’ll be in torment. Because of unforgiveness, we will experience turmoil and suffering.

When we act out in anger or hold on to bitterness or unforgiveness, we open the door to the enemy to torture us with anxiousness and resentment. If you lie down to try to rest but cannot find peace, examine your heart to be sure that you don’t have unforgiveness toward someone. God wants to set us free from torment, but we have a part to play: we must release everyone from wrongs they have done to us or to those we love.

Again in Luke 6:28, Jesus tells us to “bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” We’ve all experienced someone using or betraying us. Jesus commands us to bless and pray for those people – not for their good – but for our good – so that we will be free from bitterness, resentment and bondage.

When we want revenge and hold onto unforgiveness and anger, we are actually putting ourselves in the position as judge. But the truth is, unforgiveness is like a poison that we ingest, hoping that the other person will die. Yet unforgiveness doesn’t hurt the other person as much as it hurts us; we are the ones who suffer the most when we harbor unforgiveness. But when we choose to forgive, we are break out of the prison of bitterness and resentment – forgiveness sets US free!

Jesus also said, “Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:37). One way we can understand this is if we give forgiveness, then others will be more likely to forgive us. Everyone makes mistakes and falls short sometimes – each of us needs forgiveness. And we need to be quick to forgive so that others will do the same for us.

What is forgiveness exactly? First – let’s discuss what forgiveness is not:

  1. Forgiveness does not equal trust. You can choose to forgive someone, but you don’t have to trust them. Trust is earned, so if someone has stolen from you or abused you, you don’t have to trust them in order to show forgiveness. Trusting someone who’s robbed or abused you isn’t wise! You can choose to let go of the hurt and anger, but trust must be rebuilt over time.
  2. Forgiveness is not a feeling. Forgiveness doesn’t come on us in an overwhelming wave of emotion. Forgiveness is a choice. It doesn’t matter what anyone has done to us – we can choose to forgive just like Jesus forgave the people who nailed Him to the cross. “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do’” (Luke 23:34). The truth is, sometimes people don’t even realize they are hurting us!
  3. Forgiveness is not condoning someone’s actions. Someone may have done something horrible to you or somebody you love; forgiveness isn’t saying that what they did is okay. It’s just releasing them.
  4. Forgiveness isn’t forgetting. If you’ve been deeply hurt or abused, you don’t suddenly have a memory lapse when you forgive. You will still remember what happened to you, but God can heal you of the pain attached to those memories. Forgiveness frees you from the burden of carrying the hurt.

The bottom line is this: when we choose to forgive, even in the middle of our pain and hurt, Jesus will bring healing and freedom to our souls and emotions. Jesus would never tell us to forgive others if it were impossible for us to do. In fact, Jesus gives us the power and strength to forgive so that we can be free from the bondage forgiveness puts us in.

So what is forgiveness?

  1. Forgiveness is taking control over your own life by releasing another person and taking responsibility for your choices. When we acknowledge that the anxiety inside us isn’t caused by a spouse, a friend or a situation, we take ownership of it, and then we can do something about it. We cannot change others or make choices for them; we can only make decisions for ourselves. And when we make the decision to forgive, we sever the hold unforgiveness has on us, and we open the way for freedom to come flooding in.
  2. Forgiveness is letting go of revenge. We stop looking for a way to get even with someone for what they did or what we think they did. We need to ask ourselves: are we more concerned with getting free or with getting even?
  3. Forgiveness is letting go of shame. Especially if you have been sexually abused or misused, you need to seek God for healing from shame and understand that what happened to you was not your fault. You’ll find that God’s peace is available to you when you let go of anger and bitterness toward those who have hurt you.
  4. Forgiveness is trusting that God will make everything right for you. God loves justice; trust that He will work on your behalf as you wait for Him. “For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 30:18).
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