Have you ever said or done something you regretted? Words spoken in haste and anger, acts done in a moment of weakness, that hurt yourself and people you loved? Things you knew you shouldn’t have done – at work, at school, or in private?
Or have you perhaps been the recipient of such acts or words? Hurts and wounds that cut deeper than you can imagine, that you never saw coming and that broke the precious bonds of trust.
If you’re reading this and you start to feel sorry or begin to recall an incident you’d rather forget, don’t feel alone, because every one of us have had experiences in one or both categories. Usually both.
That’s simply because as humans we are prone to failure and weaknesses. And because we live in a world where we interact with other humans who are also so predisposed, we will invariably come into contact with others’ failures and weaknesses. It’s a reality of life.
But so often we carry one or more of these events with us through life, and hang on to the hurts we’ve suffered or the guilt of the pain we’ve caused long after the event. We can’t forget what happened and we are unable to forgive ourselves and others for it. And this inability to let go and forgive invariably breeds further repercussions and hurts upon ourselves: broken spirit, fractured relationships, bitterness and resentment, absence of joy and peace, and even sickness and disease.
Yes, that’s right. It’s been widely studied and proven that holding on to unforgiveness can have serious negative impact on our health. Medical experts such as psychologists and psychiatrists will readily tell you that storing unforgiveness and related negative feelings of anger, fear, guilt, bitterness, resentment and the like keeps your body consistently in a tense and negative state and retains toxins. This leads to problems like high blood pressure, aneurysms, insomnia, mental depression and anxiety, and suppressed immunity which can manifest in repeatedly falling sick and a whole host of immune-related disorders and diseases. In severe cases, it can even predispose someone to cancer. It’s like the body just attacks itself.
I was watching a video the other day on “the physiology of forgiveness”, which talks about the healing benefits of forgiving not just others who have done you harm, but also forgiving yourself. When you forgive yourself and others, the brain sends signals that affects all those aforementioned areas positively and sets the body into healing. It’s definitely something we should pay serious attention to.
The medical experts list steps and ways for people to replace negative emotions with positive emotions, and to let go of the past and move on for your own benefit. But really, trying to apply these steps in our lives can only but have limited effect that is unlikely to last when we do them out of our own will and effort.
But of course God already knew all this. After all, He made us. The Bible didn’t need all the incoming research and studies before it put the link between forgiveness and healing clearly throughout the Scriptures. Science and medicine is simply catching up to prove and confirm what God already set out clearly and unequivocally in the Bible.
In 3 gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke we read of Jesus healing a man who was brought to him paralysed on a mat. The first thing Jesus said to the paralysed man was, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” This angered the religious leaders of the law standing by watching, who didn’t see or recognise Jesus as God. Then Jesus said to the man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” And the man who had been lying paralysed got up immediately, healed, and walked out from amongst them. Clearly, knowing that his sins were forgiven was prerequisite for this man to receive his healing.*
The Bible also says:
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases.” (Psalm 103:2-3, emphasis mine)
“Surely He has borne our griefs (pains in original Hebrew) and carried our sorrows (sicknesses in original Hebrew); Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5, emphasis mine)
Forgiveness and healing go hand in hand. When forgiveness is received, healing will follow.
At the cross, Jesus paid the price for ALL your sins and mine, past, present, and future, and purchased for us eternal forgiveness and righteousness that we didn’t deserve. And this is what you need to know: the same stroke that He suffered for your forgiveness and redemption also bought your healing. Not just emotional and soul healing, but more importantly physical healing, as clearly seen from the original Hebrew text.
It’s true. And He did it simply because He loves you.
Perhaps some of you might say, Sure, I know about God forgiving me of my sins through Jesus. How does this help me to forgive myself and others?
Think about this: When you know that God Almighty – the greatest and holiest Judge of all – has forgiven you of ALL your sins through His Son’s perfect sacrifice, who are you to hold your own sins against yourself? And if God has forgiven you a billion-dollar debt (of all your sins), what then is a ten-dollar debt of someone’s offence against you?
Even if the offence is something heinous like abuse or something grievously hurtful or shameful, will God not restore to you much more, and give you beauty for ashes and double honour for your shame, knowing how much He loves you? We find the strength and tender-heartedness to forgive ourselves and others, in the light of His perfect forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32).
And as we celebrate and remember the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ in this season, can I just encourage you: don’t put off receiving your forgiveness any longer. Receive His forgiveness and the blessedness it brings, and let your healing begin.
Because when you encounter Jesus, you encounter grace.
*The account of Jesus healing the paralysed man is recorded in Matthew 9:2-8, Mark 2:3-12, Luke 5:17-26.