Several years ago I was ministering to a couple, and at first glance the two of them looked perfectly fine. But several “telling marks” had surfaced in their marriage and health, which is why they had come for counsel. As they sat in my office, the man dominated our conversation. He spent most of our time together bragging about how God was using him mightily in life. The woman just sat there dejectedly, saying nothing. She looked on the verge of tears.
As I sat there listening, God gave me an insight into the woman’s life. Inside her soul the woman had black eyes, bloodied lips, and broken bones. She was being ignored. Overlooked. Rebuked. Shamed. Chastised for “cutting into the man’s ministry time.” Inwardly she was covered in bruises.
I stopped the husband midsentence and said, “Can’t you see what’s happening to your wife?”
The man shook his head.
I said, “You cannot claim to serve God while ignoring your family like this. You cannot go forward with the Lord until you get this right with your wife. Right now you should be on your knees, begging your wife’s forgiveness for not cherishing her as Christ has called you to do. You need to stay by her side until she is healed.”
A physical bruise is caused by inward bleeding. A person’s skin is hit, and at first there is no outward sign. But the small capillaries under the skin have been injured, and soon a dark, discolored spot appears at the place of wounding.
Emotional bruising can follow the same course. A person suffers through rejection or loss or hurt, and at first there is no outward sign. But inwardly the person is bleeding, and soon the signs of that hurt will appear for anyone to see.
You may be in a relationship right now that’s similar to what that woman who came to counseling with her husband went through. If your earthly husband won’t sit at your feet until you’re healed, you need to know that your heavenly Father will. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. He will never leave you or forsake you.
Yet you have a responsibility in this too. You cannot let your inward bruising go untreated. It’s not wrong to grieve if we’ve been hurt. But we must go to Jesus with our hurt to allow Him to heal us. Second Corinthians 1:3-5 offers us this promise of comfort:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.
An emotional bruise, when left untreated, can become an entry point to demonic activity. Often the real problem is a lack of forgiveness. A person has been hurt and is angry, but then the sun goes down on the anger, and the devil is given a foothold (Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV).
In Matthew 18, Peter asked Jesus, “How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” (v.21). Jesus answered, “Seventy times seven” (v.22). Then Jesus told a story.
The servatnt owed a staggering amount of money — something like $52 million in today’s currency — to his master. Unable to pay the debt, he went to the master, fell at his feet, and begged for leniency. Fortunately for the servant, the master had pity and wiped the debt clean. But then the same servant, feeling smug, went and found someone who owed him a trifling amount of money — about forty-four bucks — and threw this poor guy into debtor’s prison until it could be repaid.
When the master found out about this, he grew extremely angry. Matthew 18:32-33 records his specific words. “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” And then, according to verse 34, the master “delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due him.”
Wow! That’s extreme. I wonder, Who exactly are those torturers? (Another version of the Bible calls them tormentors.) And then we read Jesus’ words in the verse that follows: “So My heavenly Father also will do if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (v.35).
Is Jesus really saying we will be tortured if we don’t forgive? Some commentators explain His statement by saying simply that trouble will come upon a person if he doesn’t forgive others. But I believe the verse holds forth a much stronger warning. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul rebuked the church at Corinth for harboring in their midst a person who habitually did evil. Paul ordered them to “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (v.5). In other words, Paul was telling the Corinthians to hand the person over to Satan.
Why would God’s Word ever issue such a statement? This pattern of discipline had been established in the Old Testament. Many times when the nation of Israel sinned and didn’t repent, God would turn His people over to their enemies. Why? God hoped they would repent. Discipline was always done in the hope that they would come back to God. This principle is straightforward — when people really know what bondage is like, they are apt to seek deliverance.
Back to the Matthew passage, I believe Jesus was essentially saying, “Look: if you’re not going to forgive someone when you’ve been forgiven much, then you’re going to go into bondage. You’re going to be miserable until you repent, forgive, and are delivered. I don’t want you to be miserable. I don’t want you to be enslaved either. I want you to come back to God. The only reason this is happening is that you need to understand you can’t be delivered until you repent.”
Notice another scripture that warns us how Satan can take advantage of us if we don’t forgive. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11, “Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
How can Satan take advantage of us when we don’t forgive? In 2 Corinthians 11:14, Paul notes that “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” Satan pretends to be a good angel, but he’s not. That means that withholding forgiveness can feel falsely comforting to the injured person. Not forgiving can actually feel good. But that’s always a counterfeit feeling. That’s Satan holding up a mask and pretending he’s a comforter. In the end, withholding forgiveness always ends up hurting us.
Watch Robert Morris this Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday on LIFE TODAY. Reprinted by permission. Truly Free by Robert Morris. Copyright ©2015 Robert Morris. Published by W Publishing Group, an imprint of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.