When I tell abuse victims that full healing requires forgiving their abuser, many will argue. Their message is generally the same: “You don’t understand the hurt I’ve endured.” They’re right. But I do know that a bitter spirit penetrates every part of our life like a cancer. Anger and resentment are symptoms that cannot be pushed away and ignored. They spill out, harming relationships and leading to risky decisions.
Withholding mercy feels as if we are punishing someone who inflicted harm. But people cannot take revenge on one another without destroying themselves. That’s why the Lord calls us to follow His example of extending grace to all (Eph. 4:32). No one can justify holding back forgiveness when God has given His so generously. An abuser does not deserve pardon, but neither are we worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
The cross was a torture device. Death was slow and excruciating, but at least the physical pain was temporary. Jesus’ worst torment began when, because He’d taken our sin upon Himself, He was rejected by God and severed from perfect love and companionship. I may not know your pain, but I assure you that Jesus does. He’ll help you overcome hurt, anger, and bitterness if you’ll simply give up your unforgiving spirit.
Forgiveness is a choice—an act of service to the Lord and a witness to the person who inflicted our pain. No matter how terrible the acts committed against us were, God demands that we show mercy. For our good and His glory, He wants us to give up the “right” to punish an abuser.