By Rev. René François
Over the past several years, the subject of unforgiveness is one that God has placed on my heart to address numerous times. It is a topic that I have felt deeply because I’ve personally witnessed the emotional, spiritual and physical damage that this negative emotion can do to individuals lives. Holding onto anger and unforgiveness only causes misery and can have serious consequences for our spiritual and physical wellbeing. It can be likened to ingesting a poison that strips the soul of its joy. If carried long enough, unforgiveness along with the anger that accompanies it can devolve into bitterness and hatred, which can even lead to the deterioration of a person’s physical health.
Anger and joy cannot peacefully coexist in the same heart. Ultimately, you must choose one or the other. Releasing these negative, and harmful, emotions from our lives will lead to:
right standing with God,
healthier and more satisfying relationships with our fellow man and woman,
restoration of our joy!
It is early March as I’m writing this. It is a time when many Christians observe Lent. The season of Lent is observed between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. It’s 40 days that Christians set aside to deepen our intimacy with the Lord. Lent is a time marked by repentance and fasting, and is a time during which Christians often spend more time in prayer and reading the Bible.
I like to think of Lent as being the season of letting go. It is the perfect time to remove from our lives things that draw us away from God rather than bring us closer to him. Refraining from eating certain foods is one aspect, but the season of Lent is so much more. It’s about spiritually going deeper and giving up things such as anger, hatred and unforgiveness. It is about flushing out the spiritual impurities that negatively impact our connection with God and deprive us of our ability to live our lives in God’s abundant peace and joy.
This reminds me of a hospital patient that I once visited as a chaplain. It was a middle-aged female who I recall was struggling with a lot of loneliness, unhappiness and sickness in her life. She talked about how she had years before entered into a serious relationship that was marred by her partner’s lies and infidelity. Some years after the break-up she met and fell in love with another man who eventually broke off his relationship with her because she wasn’t able to control the anger that she carried over from the old relationship into the new relationship. As we can see in the story, her inability or refusal to release the anger that she carried from her first relationship ultimately destroyed her second relationship. At the time of my meeting her she’d already been carrying her anger and unforgiveness for well over a decade and The result of that was beginning to show up in ways other than her unhappiness and loneliness. Over the last several years prior to my meeting her, she’d been in and out of the hospital with various physical ailments and described her life is being a never ending parade of visits to doctors appointments.
Her story is not an isolated situation. In my career, I have provided care to numerous people who have not been able to emotionally heal following the break-up of a difficult relationship. What I’ve noticed is that there is a common thread that runs through each of these cases. The common thread is the refusal to forgive their former partners and an unwillingness to release the anger, which over time can turn into bitterness, as with the woman in our story. This is detrimental to one’s ability to live a joyful life. In this case, I used a romantic relationship as an example, however, the price of carrying unforgiveness, anger or hatred due to any situation can and will manifest itself in your life in ways that will be destructive to your ability to live a joyful life.
You deserve to be happy and healthy. So why not use today as a golden opportunity to let go of any anger, hatred or unforgiveness that you may be holding onto from the past. Releasing them is freedom. It frees the soul to return to a state of blessed peacefulness. It allows you to shine in all of your God-given beauty. The releasing of these negative emotions equals JOY!
Prayer to reclaim your freedom from the bondage of unforgiveness, anger and/or hatred:
Gracious and loving God, Today I make the commitment to let go of all anger—to let go of any bitterness, hatred or unforgiveness that I’ve been holding onto. I release them to you, Father. Today, I reclaim my freedom from the bondage of these destructive emotions. In Jesus’ name I declare that today I choose joy! Amen.
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you may most certainly rebuke your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take revenge nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”
“Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him [drop the issue, let it go], so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions and wrongdoings. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your transgressions.”
This blog post is an excerpt from the podcast “LENT: The Season of Letting Go”