Have you ever felt wronged by someone and struggled to forgive them?
We’ve all been there. Holding onto unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
It eats away at you from the inside out. Some people even believe that unforgiveness can make you sick, really sick.
We’re talking life-threatening illnesses like cancer.
Could this really be possible? As believers, we know that forgiveness is a big deal to God.
But can unforgiveness actually cause disease in our mortal bodies?
You might be surprised by what science and Scripture have to say about the connection between unforgiveness and cancer.
This article will explore what researchers and theologians have found on how your spiritual and emotional health directly impacts your physical health.
You’ll discover the healing power of forgiveness and why you can’t afford to hold onto bitterness. Your life could depend on it!
Can Unforgiveness Really Cause Cancer?
The Link Between Unforgiveness and Disease in the Bible
The Bible clearly shows the connection between unforgiveness and sickness. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus says, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
What a sobering truth. When we harbor bitterness and resentment in our hearts toward others, it creates a rift in our relationship with God that affects us spiritually and physically.
In the book of Job, after Job’s friends wrongly accuse him of sin, God tells them, “Now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.” (Job 42:8). God wanted them to seek forgiveness because their sin could bring judgment.
King David also understood this principle. In Psalm 66:18, he wrote, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Sin, including unforgiveness, creates separation from God, blocking our prayers and inviting discipline.
Many Christian physicians and mental health experts believe unforgiveness causes stress and resentment, damaging health and immunity. Forgiving others releases us from anger and resentment, lowers blood pressure, and decreases anxiety, depression and risk of heart disease. Choosing to forgive may not change the past, but it can change your future. Release bitterness and cling to Christ – your health and life depend on it.
Scientific Research on the Effects of Unforgiveness on Health
Scientific studies are discovering what the Bible has said for centuries: unforgiveness can negatively impact your health.
Research shows that holding onto hurt and offense releases stress hormones like cortisol that suppress the immune system.### In contrast, forgiveness lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of stress hormones.
A Johns Hopkins study found that people with higher levels of forgiveness were less likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other health issues. Similarly, a Stanford study showed that those who practiced forgiveness meditation had improved blood pressure, less perceived stress, less negative emotion, and more optimism.
Unforgiveness also activates your “fight or flight” response, releasing adrenaline and noradrenaline. While this can be lifesaving in short bursts, chronic unforgiveness means frequent activation, which research links to disease. On the other hand, forgiveness relaxes your body and mind.
Holding grudges and resentment requires a lot of emotional energy and can easily lead to bitterness, anger, and depression —all damaging to health and relationships. But releasing offenses through forgiveness brings freedom and peace.
The evidence is clear: unforgiveness harms, while forgiveness heals. Choose to forgive for your health and wellbeing. Let go of past hurts and open your heart to receive God’s grace – you’ll be glad you did!
Real-Life Stories of Healing After Forgiveness
Real-life stories of people who have found healing from cancer and other diseases after choosing to forgive others are powerful testimonies to the life-changing power of forgiveness.
A pastor named Matthew had been estranged from his father for over 25 years due to childhood hurts and betrayal. Matthew developed lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer. His doctor told him he only had a few months to live. Matthew realized he needed to forgive his father before he died. He contacted his father, asked for forgiveness for holding onto unforgiveness for so long, and forgave him for the past. Shortly after, Matthew’s cancer went into remission and disappeared. His doctor called it a miracle.
- A woman named Eva harbored deep resentment toward her ex-husband who had abandoned her and their young children many years ago. Eva was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through surgery and chemotherapy, but the cancer returned. Her doctor recommended more aggressive treatment, but the prognosis was poor. Eva realized she needed to forgive her ex-husband. She prayed to God to help her forgive him as an act of obedience. Soon after, tests showed her cancer was gone. Her oncologist called her recovery medically inexplicable.
These stories show the power of forgiveness and how unforgiveness can negatively impact health and well-being. When we forgive others, we are set free from the spiritual and emotional prisons of bitterness, resentment and anger. This, in turn, removes hindrances to health and healing in our bodies. While forgiveness may not always lead to physical healing, it will always lead to spiritual and emotional healing and bring us closer to God’s will for our lives.
Quotes on Forgiveness From Christian Leaders
Many well-known Christian leaders have spoken on the importance of forgiveness. Their wisdom provides insight into how unforgiveness can negatively impact us.
“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” — Joyce Meyer
This powerful metaphor illustrates how unforgiveness harms us from within. Holding onto bitterness and resentment only hurts you, not the other person.
“Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner.” — Max Lucado
When we forgive, we release ourselves from the prison of anger and resentment. Forgiveness brings inner freedom and peace.
“Not forgiving is like continuing to pay rent on a vacant apartment in your soul.” — R.T. Kendall
Unforgiveness occupies space in our mind and spirit, blocking us from positive thoughts and relationships. Forgiving others allows us to evict bitterness and make room for joy.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” — Lewis B. Smedes
Again, we see the metaphor of imprisonment and freedom. Forgiveness releases us from the shackles of unforgiveness, setting our own spirit free.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Forgiving others requires spiritual and emotional strength. It is not for the faint of heart. But by forgiving, we can tap into strength and power greater than our own.
In summary, these leaders remind us that forgiving others brings freedom and strength, while unforgiveness only brings harm to ourselves. Forgiveness is an act of wisdom that liberates our spirit. Ultimately, the choice is ours: imprison ourselves with unforgiveness or set our own heart free through forgiveness. The prison door is unlocked—we need only open it.
Steps to Forgiveness According to the Bible
The Bible provides practical steps to help us forgive others. Following these guidelines can free you from the chains of unforgiveness and allow God to work in your life.
Recognize the hurt.
Face the pain that was caused by the other person’s actions. Acknowledge the anger, sadness or betrayal you feel. Bring these feelings before God and ask Him to help you work through them.
Release your rights.
Make the choice to forgive by relinquishing your perceived right to exact revenge or demand justice. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Ask God for the strength and grace to forgive, even if you don’t feel like it.
Replace resentment with compassion.
Try to see the other person through God’s eyes, with mercy and love. Remember that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Pray for the willingness to understand what made them act that way.
Speak words of forgiveness.
Say “I forgive you” either to the person directly or in prayer. Speaking the words has power and helps to soften your heart. Forgive as God has forgiven you. Let go of bitterness and wish them well.
Set boundaries if needed.
Forgiving someone does not necessarily mean trusting them or allowing further hurt. If the situation calls for it, set appropriate boundaries to protect yourself while still maintaining an attitude of forgiveness and goodwill.
Forgiving others is difficult, but with God’s help it is possible. Make the choice today to forgive and be free. As you walk in obedience, God will continue His healing work in you.
So there you have it, friend. Holding onto bitterness and resentment can have serious consequences on your health and wellbeing. While more research may still be needed, the evidence seems clear that forgiveness and letting go of past hurts is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Make the choice today to forgive others as Christ has forgiven you. Release those negative emotions and make room in your heart for love and joy again. Your mind, body and spirit will thank you for it. Why live another day chained to the past when freedom and healing await you? Forgive, let go and move on to embrace all the amazing new things God has in store for your life.
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