Earlier this week I wrote a blog on forgiveness. If you have unforgiveness in your heart towards anyone for any reason, please read that blog. Before you can move forward with today’s topic – healing – you must first forgive.
Someone once said that “unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” In other words, your unforgiveness towards the other person doesn’t affect them – it affects you. Eventually, that lack of forgiveness on your part will cause you to become resentful, and the resentfulness will turn into bitterness. Bitterness will develop into hatred, and if this hatred within you is not resolved, it can lead to physical illness and spiritual death.
Scientists come closer every day to proving the spiritual principle that unforgiveness can cause illness:
Unforgiveness can even cause illness and/or disease in some people. That unforgiveness can cause illness makes sense scientifically when we consider that our thoughts and emotions trigger biochemical reactions in our bodies, which can cause illness. 1
It’s interesting to note that those who can forgive tend to be sick far less often than those who do not [forgive]. At Hope College in Michigan, Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet and her colleagues have shown that holding anger and resentment is damaging to physical health. Their study was on the physiological effects of forgiveness vs. holding a grudge. Their theory was that forgiveness…“may free the wounded person from a prison of hurt and vengeful emotion, yielding both emotional and physical benefits, including reduced stress, less negative emotion, fewer cardiovascular problems, and improved immune system performance. . . Unforgiving memories and mental imagery might produce negative facial expressions and increased cardiovascular and sympathetic reactivity, much as other negative and arousing emotions (e.g., fear, anger) do.”
Working with 70 undergraduates from Hope College, they requested the students remember a time when they were mistreated or harmed by someone. The participants were asked to practice forgiving or being unforgiving. They’re psycho-physiological, emotional and facial responses were recorded. Participants reported feeling sadness, anger, negativity and lacking control when being unforgiving. Physiologically, they showed greater tension in the brow area of the face also and higher blood pressure during unforgiveness periods. Overall Witvliet (and colleagues) surmised that “although it is unlikely that the brief unforgiving trials in this study would have a clinically significant effect on health, we believe that the effects obtained in this study provide a conservative measure of effects that naturally occur during unforgiving responses to real-life offenders.” 2
These big, fancy, hard-to-pronounce words are saying – unforgiveness can cause illness.
On the other hand, forgiveness opens the door to healing. Psalm 103:3 states “who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.” (Emphasis mine) It was no accident on the part of the Psalmist, David, that he wrote those two words in this order: first, forgiveness – then healing. If you have the sin of unforgiveness in your life, God cannot heal you. Obviously, the opposite is true. Once your sins are forgiven, God can heal you. There are other aspects that are a part of healing, but this week, I felt led of the Lord to write on forgiveness.
I can’t say that all illnesses are caused by sin, because there are other contributing factors that can cause one to be ill. However, if it seems like you’re always sick – you get well from one illness and before you know it, you are sick again and your doctor(s) can’t determine why this is happening — perhaps you should have a spiritual check-up:
What is your heart like? Hard? Soft? Cold? Uncaring?
Where is your spiritual walk? Miles away from God? Trailing
behind Him, rebellious and determined not to catch up?
When is the last time you soaked in the Word? Spent quality time
in prayer? Sat at Jesus’ feet soaking in His presence?
Do you have unforgiveness in your heart towards someone else? If you can’t say “No” with certainty, ask God to show you. Ask Him what He wants you to do – and be obedient to do what he tells you. Then sit back and watch as He “forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.”