St. Pierre: The Pearl of the Caribbean, the "Little Paris", the commercial and cultural capital of the island of Martinique. The city, built on the Caribbean coast at the foot of Mt. Pelee, boasted 26,000 inhabitants, the busiest harbour in Martinique, and the first theatre in the Caribbean.

Despite the fact that Mt. Pelee was an active volcano, the city felt safe. After all, they were seven kilometers from the peak, and between them lie several river valleys. The only dangers identified with volcanic eruptions in those days came from the lava flows and mud slides, and it was logical to believe that any lava or mud would simply flow down one of the numerous valleys to the sea and completely bypassing St. Pierre. As a result, when the mountain "woke up" in 1902, hundreds of people from outlying areas flocked to the city for safety.

Unfortunately, the phenomenon of pyroclastic flow -- a dense, destructive mass of very hot ash, lava fragments and gases -- was not yet understood. As a result, on May 8, 1902, when Mt. Pelee sent a pyroclastic flow directly onto St. Pierre, over 28,000 people died in a matter of 69 seconds.

If those people who flocked to St. Pierre for safety had just stayed home, they would have more than likely survived the eruption...

This reminds me of forgiveness. When someone hurts us, we get angry. We stay angry. We don't forgive. It's the logical thing, right? After all, we didn't do anything wrong. We don't deserve to be treated that way!

Unfortunately, this "logical" thing can be deadly. Unforgiveness doesn't actually hurt the one you are angry at; rather, it hurts you, yourself, along with anyone around you.

We've all experienced how someone who is angry strikes out for no reason. We've seen how unforgiveness kills relationships. John Hopkins medicine reports that unforgiveness actually causes serious health problems. Being angry all the time puts your body in a constant fight-or-flight mode, which can result in changes to blood pressure and heart rate, and even to our immune systems. This then will increase our risk of depression, heart disease, and even diabetes. So when someone hurts us and we do the logical thing by breaking up the relationship and not forgiving, it's as deadly to us as running to St. Pierre was to those poor people on May 8, 1902...

But that's not the end of the story. You see, there were some who didn't feel St. Pierre was as safe as they were told it would be; and these left town on ferries and chartered boats.

We can praise God for not leaving us in the clutches of unforgiveness. When we desire to escape, He makes a way: "But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." (1 Cor. 10:13b NIV)

A few people in St. Pierre tried to persuade the government to order a complete evacuation of the city, but government officials declared them mad. After all, evacuation was insane. Without the network of roads in modern Martinique, how could evacuation even be done? Where would people go? And just think of the interruption to commerce!

We must understand that the moment we begin to contemplate the need to forgive, the devil will send in all of his strongest forces to keep us bound up in our inability to forgive. He will make us believe we are mad, that we have the right to be angry. He will remind us of the grave injustice we have suffered. He will convince us that if we forgive, the person will just hurt someone else, etc. But just like the many who were discourage from leaving St. Pierre would soon die in the volcanic eruption, we, too, will not survive if we listen to the devil and his "logic".

But why would the devil care?

We can understand this better by looking at just one more page from the history of St. Pierre...

It was election time in Martinique. The residing officials were afraid that if all their supporters left the city, they would lose the election. It is said that actual road blocks were set up to discourage people from fleeing. The governor of Martinique even made a trip to St. Pierre to console the people and convince them to stay in their "safe haven". It is reported that he brought his wife with him in order to "show" the people that they were perfectly safe in the city. Unfortunately, both the governor and his wife were numbered among the dead that fateful morning...

In the same way, the devil has ulterior motives to keep us from forgiving. He hates God and he desires to hurt what God loves -- You and me! He know that if he can get and keep us entrapped in unforgiveness, the door is open for depression, anxiety, fear and other physical and mental health problems. He knows that our unforgiveness will kill our earthly relationships and divide our families. He knows that not forgiving will only make us sick. It is to his advantage that we do not forgive!

Let's stop listening to the "logic" of this world. Let's recognize that the "facts" that keep us from forgiveness are simply there to keep us enchained. Let's remember that the devil has strong hidden motives for keeping us enslaved. Let's remember that it's better to flee unforgiveness immediately and completely by forgiving those who have hurt us. Otherwise, when the "volcano" erupts, we may still be in danger of...death!

Is it for naught that Jesus taught, "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matt. 6:14-15 NIV)?

In His love
Lyn

Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author -- "Aboard God's Train -- A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer", Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.