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-Forgiveness Brings Relief

Forgiveness Brings Relief


Picture FrameI have never felt like I needed modern science to convince me that the Bible is true. I do, however, find it extremely satisfying when science reconfirms what the Bible already says is true. Such was the case when I read an article in the May, 2004 Reader’s Digest. The article entitled “The Power Of Forgiving” was written by Lisa Collier Cool. The subtitle for the article read: “Best way to heal a heart.” In the article, the author referred to the work of Dr. Fred Luskin, Director of Stanford University’s Forgiveness Project. Luskin found that letting go of a grudge can slash a person’s stress level by up to 50 percent. He states that volunteers in his study demonstrated improvement in energy, mood, sleep quality, and overall physical vitality. “Carrying around a load of bitterness and anger at how unfairly you were treated is very toxic,” says Luskin.

In a fascinating presentation, the author explains how the human body is prepared to treat tension-inducing events. Whether it is a fire alarm, or reliving a simmering feud, the body releases adrenaline and cortisol which are stress hormones. These hormones cause the heart to accelerate, the breath to quicken, and the mind to race. An accompanying sugar release revs up muscles, and clotting factors surge in the blood.

This is not a serious condition if it involves a brief scare like a near mishap on the highway. But the author explains that “anger and resentment are like accidents that don’t end, turning hormones meant to save us into toxins.” Cortisol’s effect, for example, can lead to serious disorders of the immune system, and may include wearing down the brain, cell atrophy, and memory loss. It also raises blood pressure and blood sugar, and it hardens the arteries and may lead to heart disease.

This is where forgiveness enters the scene. A group of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers recruited 36 male veterans who were suffering from coronary artery disease. Many had other painful issues, including war-related memories, marital problems, job conflicts, and childhood trauma. Those who were given forgiveness training showed greater blood flow to the heart.

In another research project, Dr. Charlotte Witvliet of Hope College in Michigan also studied the effect of forgiveness. Seventy-one students were monitored while remembering lies, insults, and betrayals by people close to them. When asked to imagine forgiving the offenders, heart rates and blood pressures dropped by as much as two and a half times. Witvliet wrote: “It appears that forgiveness could be a powerful antidote to anger, which is strongly associated with chronically elevated blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease.”

As a Bible believer, I simply say, “Amen!” Anger, bitterness, resentment, and even hatred are all tragic conditions that cannot only affect the heart, but can ruin the life. How thankful I am that God’s Word so clearly states God’s prescription for these agonizing conditions.

Forgiveness From God
The Bible first describes forgiveness from God. Psalm 86:5 says, “For Thou, LORD, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee.” Based on the readiness of God and the request of the sinner, God makes forgiveness available as a way of clearing wrongs against Him. Sin against God makes the blessing of God unavailable, even to a child of God. With humility, brokenness, and repentance, a guilty sinner (unsaved and saved alike) can go to God and find forgiveness. Confession is simply agreeing with God – pleading guilty as it were, before the judge of the universe. At that point, “He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). As the psalmist said, “There is forgiveness with Thee” (Ps. 130:4).

Forgiveness From A Person
Secondly, the Bible teaches about forgiveness from a person. The prodigal son provides a classic example of this principle. Having come to the end of himself, he determined to return to his father whom he had deeply offended. Even before he got home, he had determined his confession: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee … and in thy sight” (Lk. 15:18,21). He desired not only to be right with God, but also with his father who had been so wounded by his riotous and rebellious lifestyle. It is amazing what can be accomplished by this simple statement: “I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?” The wrongs of the past can be made right with a simple confession and request for forgiveness.

Forgiveness For A Person
Finally, the Bible teaches about forgiveness for a person. This attitude and action involves releasing an individual from a debt that we might otherwise assume he owes us because of how we were wronged. There is no longer a desire to get even or to see the other person pay for what he did. It is the attitude of Jesus who hung on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). The crowd did not even seek or desire forgiveness, but it was granted regardless. For this reason, Ephesians 4:32 speaks of “forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Whether forgiveness was asked for or not, this Christlike attitude provides a great release for those who have been wronged, because there is no longer a passion for revenge or retaliation.

There is no doubt that forgiveness is a blessing. Scientifically and biblically, the evidence is so clear: It is godlike to allow forgiveness to have a place in your heart and and life. It is healthy to forgive. When forgiveness is not applied, the offended one continues in anger and revenge, and the offender is left in a prison of guilt, shame and disgrace. There can be no more miserable conditions in which to exist.

Tom Palmer

With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org

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