Forgiveness is not easy, and it is a lot more complicated than most people let on. I often find myself coaching people who would easily shrug a person off and says without a second thought, “Oh ya, I forgave my ____ a LONG time ago.” But it doesn’t take a genius to see the signs of bitterness building and the tone change when the name of the offender is brought up. People become visibly uncomfortable when the person enters the room, or they recollect the details of a story.

A study conducted by John Hopkins Medicine showed that unresolved issues can go even deeper than the outer appearance or mental health. It can affect one’s physical health as well. The act of forgiveness, on the other hand, can reap huge rewards for your overall well-being including lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age.

I was at the gym today asking the Lord what He would want me to talk about and He said, “Forgiveness is a LOT like weightlifting. You see, I just started back at the gym 6 weeks ago. I remember that first week, it was tough to start. I would struggle to finish my set with 7.5 lb. dumbbells. Then one day, a couple of weeks in, the exercise got easier. I had to increase my weight and number of reps to continue training my muscles. 2 months later, this morning I had to increase it again. God said to me, “If it’s too easy, you either aren’t doing it right, or you aren’t pushing enough weight.

The Heavy Burden of Bitterness

Burdens are heavy. With our past, the pain, rejection, trauma, and loss, it’s impossible to carry all of the weight in our strength. The baggage of the past is more than we alone can shoulder. I believe that forgiveness comes in phases as we are prepared to lift and handle the weight. But I will say this, we should always want to forgive. We should always be seeking to forgive.

Even as a counselor, who teaches the concept of forgiveness to others, I still regularly (at least 2 times a year) sit down and do this exercise myself and God ALWAYS reveals new things. If you are seeking to forgive and looking to release offense you are sure to find it. From the grocery store clearly, that forgot to say, “Thank you, have a nice day.” to the rude guy that cut me off of the highway. The real test of Christianity is our ability to forgive the Judas in our life. The ones that came to persecute us, abuse us, take us for granted, and cause us or our loved ones to suffer trauma.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14

We must forgive others, just as we want God to forgive us.

If forgiveness feels easy you may not be doing it right, or you may not be moving the weight that you can tolerate. It may be uncomfortable adding weight to the load, but the difference between weight lifting in a gym and lifting the burdens to the Lord is that you get to hand it over to God. You have done enough reps and sets. He will take it from HERE!

The question I want you to ask yourself is whether you have taken the time to truly forgive the people in your life. Or have you attempted to take a shortcut and simply thrown a blanket over an entire person and said, “I forgive them.”? But somehow the bitterness and pain still linger as if it’s a fresh wound. Well, today I’d like you to challenge yourself to reveal the deeper issues. Take a look under the blanket and ask God what exactly needs to be forgiven.

There is more to forgiveness than forgiving a person.

It’s forgiving an offense. It’s recalling how and why it hurt you. Forgiveness is giving the pain over to God to handle and heal. So, how do you do that?

#1 Acknowledge the Pain

Working through pain can only happen when we admit that we have been hurt. Acknowledging this can bring intense feelings. We have to press through the tears, feelings of resentment, and ruminating thoughts which are significant indicators that something is wrong. You have likely allowed yourself to feel numb by masking it with other things (drugs, alcohol, food, removing yourself from hurt before you get hurt) or simply stuffing away the emotions and acting like everything is ok, or it didn’t hurt.

 #2 Think Through Things

This is more than forgiving a person, it is about what they did to hurt you whether intentional or unintentional. It caused you to harm and likely has residual effects that you may or may not be aware of. But it is a part of who you are. One person such as a parent or ex may have done several hurtful things. Other times it could be a guy that cut you off in the Walmart parking lot. But if it comes to mind, you have to allow yourself to think through the specifics and be honest without excusing it away. “They did the best they could.” “It could have been worse.”

#3 Your Battle Isn’t Against Flesh – But Darkness

Ephesians 6:12, For our struggle, is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Demons are real and they are at work within people. Hurt people, hurt people. The enemy uses any willing person to hurt others, and he knows that the closer the person is to you, the deeper they can cut. But let us not remain on the hurt side too, hurting other people because we refuse to heal. Seek the root. Ask the Lord to show you His heart for the person, so that even those that committed the worse offenses would be free from the offenders (demons) that keeping them in bondage to darkness. 

#4 Remember God’s Forgiveness and His Command

Remember Jesus died for them too. The one’s that you refuse to forgive, the ones that you have no hope of ever coming to Jesus. The one that you don’t even want God to forgive if some of us were honest. The ones we think deserve the lake of fire! The gospel is great unless it saves those that perpetrated against us. That’s not the way God would want us to think. We need to be healed, through understanding that  God so loved the world (even the ones that hurt you) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Although we were underserving, God forgave our debt through Christ. If we have been forgiven this way, how can we hold onto grievances committed against us? Jesus stressed the importance of forgiving others on many occasions and even told us that our forgiveness is dependent on our forgiveness toward others. 

#5 Pray

Release it. Don’t hold on to it any longer. The burdens, the pain, the weight and heaviness of unforgiveness and unresolved bitterness, will create a root. The longer you allow it to grow, the tougher it can be to pull out. Be quick to forgive. Don’t let the person who blew their horn at you at the traffic light ruin your entire day. Let it go. Don’t hold the grudge against your spouse for the emotional affair he had 10 years ago. Don’t hold on to the dad that left you, your mom, and your siblings when you were a kid. It’s time to let it go. I’ve enclosed a prayer to help you below.

Finally, if your heart is just too hard to do the forgiving today. Begin to pray (even if it starts begrudgingly) praying for the person that hurt you. Pray they wouldn’t do it to anyone else. Pray that they would be free so they are not still the same person that harms others. Just another reason Matthew 5:4 says, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.

Forgiveness Starts Here

Take some time this week. Focus on allowing the Lord to bring to your attention, some people that you need to forgive or even forgive on a new level. Write down the name of people that come to mind. Don’t overthink this. If you think you need to forgive your mom again (for the 1,382,734 times, write her name down and ask yourself, what else you need to let go of. 


Lord, I want to confess that I have not loved others as you have commanded me to. You even said to love and forgive my enemies, but I have resented certain people and held grudges and unforgiveness towards them. I understand that forgiveness is a decision and not based on my emotions, I choose to forgive and release all judgments against the following people. I forgive (name of person) for (offense they committed). (And do this with every person on the list before continuing). God, I know this extension of forgiveness does not excuse them for what they’ve done. God, I understand forgiveness and reconciliation are 2 different things, so I need you to lead my next steps. I also choose to forgive myself now. I welcome you to enter the wounds and bitterroots and clean me up. Heal me from my judgments against myself and others as I choose to move forward today without any resentment in my heart. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Now, imagine standing at the doorway of every judgment and slamming the door on all bitterness and evicting every ounce of heaviness you held by carrying those burdens.