By Julie Cole
The healing power of God’s forgiveness is a mighty force that penetrates us as deeply as we will allow it to.
While salvation happens the moment we acknowledge the lordship of Jesus, the Holy Spirit continues to invite us into deeper healing and freedom for the rest of our earthly lives. This deeper work can happen only with our cooperation.
That isn’t always a comfortable process. It can require letting go of things to which we hold tightly. Oftentimes these are places of unforgiveness.
There’s usually deep and very real hurt that lies behind our areas of unforgiveness. We can feel guilty for struggling with the process of forgiveness because some teachings can sound like you just need to let go and “get over it.” While a person may be able to shake off a small wrongdoing, a quick fix for a large offense usually doesn’t work.
God’s message of forgiveness is much different.
Salvation involves personally encountering the incredible love of God (John 3:16-17). The Greek word for salvation in this passage is sozo. It means not only forgiveness of sin but also healing and deliverance from the enemy. This kind of salvation is illustrated in Isaiah 53:5, a verse which prophesies of Christ: “But He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
While iniquity can be a willful sin that we commit, it can also be a gross injustice we have experienced. Jesus’ body was crushed not only for the sins we have committed but also for the sins committed against us.
He understands every bend in the road of our pain. He doesn’t shame us for our reluctance to forgive or rush us through a shallow process of letting go. Instead He walks beside us and says, “Will you let me carry that for you? That’s a weight you weren’t meant to bear.”
Each time we say yes to Jesus and allow Him to carry more of our burden, our load becomes lighter. This doesn’t just strengthen our spiritual lives but is also healing for our physical bodies.
Scientists are recognizing the positive impact forgiveness has on physical health. A 2011 article in HuffPost cited several studies which showed the effects forgiveness can have on lowering blood pressure. One study involving married couples showed that when the victim who was wronged in a situation, such as in infidelity, forgave the other person, both experienced a decrease in blood pressure.
Further research cited in the article said that the “health benefits of forgiveness seem to come largely from its ability to reduce negative affect” such as feelings of tension, anger, depression and fatigue.1
Another study conducted on 1,500 Americans found that people over 45 years of age who had forgiven others reported “greater satisfaction with their lives and were less likely to report symptoms of psychological distress such as nervousness, restlessness, or sadness.”2
The benefits of true forgiveness are spiritual, relational, mental, and physical.
My friend has a sticker on her desk at work that says, “Free people free people.” This is true in the area of forgiveness. As we receive God’s forgiveness and walk in relationship with Him, we are then able to live out the words of Matthew 10:8: “Freely you have received; freely give.”