“The door is always open,” I told Anthony. “If you ever feel led to share something on my blog, you’re welcome to.” Recently, he took me up on that offer. But it’s not the first time. Anthony wrote two other posts for me a while back (I Forgive You and A Word From Within the Prison). If you missed either one, be sure to check them out. Today, however, we have the privilege of hearing from Anthony again about the physical benefits he has experienced as a result of the forgiveness he received both from God and myself.
I was forgiven. Now, what was I doing to do with it?
The daughter of the man I had shot and killed 12 years previously had forgiven me. We had spent two years writing back and forth, working up to this. So many sleepless nights, days spent staring at letters I didn’t want to answer, knowing I had to. This was a path God had placed me on, and I could not––nor would I want to––turn off of it.
Very soon, I would discover that there are not only spiritual benefits, but physical benefits to forgiveness.
In Psalm 103:2-3 David says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases.” We had a little study on this psalm, and I believe that while God can heal all of our diseases, He does not always. But if you open your heart to Him, He will heal your outlook toward your afflictions.
I remember, since childhood, I had trouble falling asleep. My mind would not shut off. I called it spinning. I would spin for hours on something that happened during my day. But when I came to Christ in 1996, I was able to fall asleep so much easier. I trusted God with my day and my tomorrow. Spinning slowed down so much I hardly noticed it.
Then came the affair, the shooting, prison, and no sleep. But then I had the added bonus of nightmares.
I believe that when we hurt someone so deeply with our sin that, often, it will manifest itself physically in us. But if we humble ourselves and go to God, and go especially to those we’ve wronged, confessing our sin and seeking forgiveness, God is faithful, even if those we’ve hurt can’t be.
Through Laurie’s forgiveness, and God’s too, sleep returned. Spinning ceased, totally. And in its place was prayer. Almost every night, I would fall asleep in prayer. I still do a year later, and the nightmares have never returned.
We tend to think of forgiveness as an intellectual endeavor, but there are physical benefits too. My body felt better, and with sleep, I was more alert. Now, I still felt the little aches and pains of age, but they didn’t seem to bother me as much.
I’ve had bad shoulders since high school and have had several operations. I’ve always felt defective and hated the scars. But forgiveness caused a new outlook. Now I was thanking God that I was healthy. I could run. I could lift weights. I didn’t feel scarred, I just had scars.
Then there’s stress!
Prison has to be the most stressful place on earth. The Bible tells us we cannot prolong our life one day by worrying over something. In prison there are days we worry if we’ll even see tomorrow. Jesus said He gives us His peace, and He does. Being forgiven allows you to walk in freedom.
I may be in prison, but I bet I am more free than millions of people outside these fences. [Tweet that]
Stress can still pop up––after all this is prison and a very violent place––but being a Christian in prison, with a life sentence, sharpens your perspective. You see the endgame more clearly. This is not my home. Why sweat what I have no control over. You see, stress and forgiveness aren’t compatible, they can’t coexist.
We who are followers of Jesus should be enjoying these benefits. God tells us in Hebrews to enter into His rest. Forgiveness gives birth to rest! Isaiah 53:5 states, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” We are healed!
God never intended for us to live in pains and sickness. And one day we won’t. Every tear will be wiped away. But that’s then; this is now. Today seek forgiveness, find rest, be healed.
In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul––a prisoner himself––says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” It seems that Anthony is learning this same lesson. And I thank God I’ve been here to witness this amazing work. Nothing draws you nearer to the heart of God than to see Him work.
Do you have a comment for Anthony? Share in the comments, and I’ll be sure to pass it along. (Disclaimer: I believe everyone should be treated with love and respect regardless of who they are or what they’ve done. Therefore, please ensure your comment reflects this belief. Thank you!)