The Secret to Forgiveness

God always knows what’s really going on inside my heart. For example, I was feeling pretty good about my life after dealing with a particularly hard-to-forgive person. With God’s help, I had let go of my bitterness toward him, completely forgiving him the wrongs he had done to my family and me. I thought I had this forgiveness business under control. After all, I had just done some heavy-duty forgiving, hadn’t I? I was following what I understood the Bible to say about forgiving, and I felt pretty good about what I had accomplished.

However, there was still another person, another relationship, that I was having issues with. I was having issues with her because, instead of dealing with my feelings, I had been stuffing my emotions away and deadening my heart concerning her. Now, let me assure you, that is definitely not the correct way to deal with issues of anger. After some time stuffing away the pain of the relationship and trying not even to think about it, I realized that God had determined that the time had finally come to address my anger. Let me tell you, when at last my anger toward this loved one came, it came with a vengeance.

I had lost hope and depression gripped my life. I needed to give up my anger, but it had such a horrible stronghold on me. I started waking up every day obsessing about this particular situation. It was controlling me. I began to understand that I could not move on with my healing of my past until I had faced and resolved this specific pain. This was so hard. Hadn’t I just had the victory of forgiving another who had caused deep pain in my life? Why was this new situation different? Then it hit me. The person I had forgiven was dead and gone, and I no longer had to face him on this earth. But the situation that God wanted me to deal with now was ever-present and not one that would go away any time soon.

One day, as I sat on my couch at home, I asked God to help me with this pain. Why God? Oh, God, I cannot do this on my own. I knew what I needed to do to resolve this problem, but I didn’t seem to have the strength to do it. On this particular morning, as I reached out for God’s help, there were roofers hammering away above my head, and it was then that God spoke to me. He whispered to me in the midst of all that noise that I needed to strip away all the old, damaged, broken shingles of hurt that covered my life concerning this situation. I needed to strip those hurts away and replace them with new feelings and with the Truth so that I could be free. It was my choice. Only I could make that decision. Only I could choose whether or not to forgive. Even though I would face the situation daily, I had to believe that I could release the anger and forgive.

So, I made the choice to do that very thing. I had to forgive, I had to be free, and I had to release the situation to God. I wept and cried as if a dam had burst open. I released the anger and gave my unforgiveness to God. Then, what peace God gave me. Oh, the joy of forgiveness! Once I had made that decision, I was able to trust God to help me. That is the secret to forgiveness. I must make the choice to forgive, and then God moves in to strengthen and to heal.

Is there some situation in your life that you need to forgive? Are you walking along, confident and proud of all the “good” things you have done, but secretly hiding anger and an unforgiving spirit in the deepest corner of your heart? Do not stuff it away. Do not let it lie there dormant. Do not delay to deal with it. I beg you, do not become dead inside concerning that situation. Give it to God, and He will give you peace. He will help you with your unforgiveness.

Psalm 130: 1-4 says, “Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O LORD. LORD, hear my voice! Let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If Thou, LORD, shouldst mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared” (NAS). Make the choice to forgive, and God will be there in an instant. Cry out to Him, for His ears are attentive to your voice. He is waiting for your supplication. Oh, Friend, cry out to Him now for He has forgiven you. Remember, we must forgive not only those whom we seldom or never see but also those whom we must face daily. Daily forgiving, daily crying out to God for strength, daily resting in His forgiveness—let’s choose to believe that we can strip away those old feelings and that new ones will one day reign in our hearts. Oh, I believe! How about you?

Blessings – Lisa

What Kind of Legacy Will You Have?

As I was cleaning out some of my cabinets one day in anticipation of a possible move, I came across a box that contained cards and newspaper clippings from the year that my children’s grandfathers had both died. Those two deaths, so close together, represent two separate legacies for my family and me. In life, one of the men was harsh and angry, and the other was pleasant and well-respected in the community. In death, however, the unexpected truth about these two men lives on.

My father, the man who had been so callous and angry for most of my life, changed dramatically before his death. I came to realize that he loved me very much, and I came to love him very deeply. At the end of his life, with God’s help, he and I made peace, and I was able to understand how much he meant to me. I was at his bedside when he took his final breath. I was there when he was ushered into the presence of God. Now, I have good thoughts about this man and my heart is at peace. Looking at the mementos of my father, stowed away for years in a cardboard box, I realized how much love he had for me. He had shown it in so many little ways, and I choose to reflect on those cherished memories.

To me, the box represented a chance for change, and a chance to make a difference. I rediscovered this box of mementos at the same time that I was trying to write a letter of forgiveness to another member of my family. This one letter is still the most difficult one that I have ever had to write. God, why did I have to find this box now? It had been three years since my father’s death, and the pain still felt as if he had died only the week before. How is this box going to help me write my letter?

It all came back to a word I had written in my journal: legacy. Legacy is defined as something that is handed down or remains from a previous generation or time. What was my legacy going to be concerning forgiveness? Were my children or grandchildren going to write that I had caused them grief and pain? I was so afraid that this was what would happen if I were to continue along the path of anger, unforgiveness, and bitterness on which I had found myself. No, I did not want to leave that legacy to my family. Instead, I wanted to follow what the Bible says in Ephesians 4:1-3, “I entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (NAS).

I wanted to walk in a manner worthy and to walk in such a way that my life would end without regrets. God’s timing was providential, because the week following my rediscovery of the box proved to be one of great pain and distress as I labored to write my letter and forgive and move on. I had to keep remembering that I wanted to leave a legacy of love and peace, and not unforgiveness and bitterness.

Though death is supposed to be final, a person’s legacy—whether good or bad—lives on. Sadly, my children’s other grandfather did not have the same healing effect on me. On the contrary, he left a legacy of hurt and pain to my family. To the outside world, he was an upstanding, respectable man but, to my family, he brought only hidden grief and severe pain. As I looked at his cards and clippings on that day that I found the box, I wept and wept for all the secret pain and sadness and grief that they represented.

What about you? Are you finding it difficult to forgive? Is your anger out of control? Then just as the apostle Paul did, I am entreating you to walk in a manner worthy and to choose to forgive. There are some memories that we just have to let go of, and then there are some for which God grants us peace and reconciliation. No matter what happens in your life, you can still be diligent and do whatever it takes to walk in a manner worthy. Come with me. Let’s walk this path together, handing down forgiveness, love, and peace as our legacy to those who will come after us.

Blessings – Lisa

He Is Sufficient, I Need to Forgive

My personal battle with bitterness was not won in a day. Even as I relied on 2 Corinthians 12:9, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (NAS), I felt so weak in this area. Those black places in my heart that God wanted to clean up were still so very black. And God knew what was deep inside of me, beyond the victories I had had in my life. I had forgiven two people who had wronged me, and another situation was turning around, but God knew that there was one more person I needed to forgive.

God knew about my horrible feelings toward this man who had caused so much hidden pain in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. So for a couple of weeks, God constantly reminded me of this person, and my feelings on every occasion were far from Christian. When his name came up in conversation, I felt angry. When his name appeared on a memorial, I felt betrayed. When I saw “his pew” in the church sanctuary, I was filled with bitterness. This person was gone–deceased–and I would never have to see him again, and yet his presence was thrown into my face again and again. Isn’t that just like God?

I told my counselor the same thing I had told myself, that I could not forgive or forget the horrific things this person had done. As I struggled with this dilemma, I started having meltdowns and nightmares again. I was back in bondage. I had to keep reminding myself that His Grace is sufficient. I heard a sermon once that phrased that promise like this: “Sufficient for you is the Grace of Me.” I tried to claim that sufficiency in my life, but I couldn’t let go of my hostility toward this man. The harm and hurt and pain were so deep.

O God, I need Your help!

I had come to my weakest point. That Sunday, my husband and I attended church in another town, and God gave the preacher a sermon topic just for me. Can you guess? Bitterness. I knew I had better pay attention to that message! Interestingly, the Scripture lesson was Ecclesiastes 7:21-22. “Also, do not take seriously all words which are spoken, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For you also have realized that you likewise have many times cursed others” (NAS). That morning, the pastor preached a powerful sermon about forgiving and moving on. As those verses state, everyone hurts others at times. No one is without fault. The preacher urged me to extend grace to others.

The very next day, I read my online Bible study devotional blog, and the topic of the day was “Taking Steps Toward Forgiveness.” Oh, how my heart was challenged. I knew that God was my Sufficiency. I knew that He alone could help me extend grace in this situation. I knew that I had to forgive this person who had caused such horrible pain. I couldn’t confront him face to face, but I needed some way to express my feelings toward him. My counselor again suggested that I pour all of my hurts, bitterness, anger, and frustration–and forgiveness–into a letter. I resisted as long as I could, but finally one day I gave in and wrote that letter. Let me tell you, that was a heart-wrenching day for me. I wept all day long as I composed the lines, and remembering that day makes me want to cry even now. But I released the pain. I wrestled with those hurts, penned them on paper, and gave them to God. When I finished the letter, I dated it and stored it away so that Satan would have no ammunition to taunt me.

What release and freedom I felt. My counselor even remarked about the difference she saw in my life after I wrote that letter. I let go of the person who had caused so much grief and sorrow in my life, and I was so much happier for it. For you see, when I am weak, He is Sufficient.

Is there someone in your life, someone you will never see again, who hurt or molested you? Though the pain may be horrible when you think about your abuser, you can still extend forgiveness and grace to that person. You MUST extend forgiveness and grace to that person. I am here to tell you that you can do it. As much as you may want that person to show remorse and admit guilt, he or she is gone and will never repent or express sorrow for what happened. Dear One, for your own heart and soul and peace of mind, please put that desire aside. Instead, offer your forgiveness and mercy. Allow God to erase those black places in your heart and free you from this enemy who is in the grave.

God is Sufficient. He alone knows what the future holds, and He wants you to live victoriously today. Then one day you, too, can boast of His Sufficiency to another hurting, hopeless, defeated child of God, someone else who is weak and needs to know that “Sufficient for You is the Grace of Me.”

Blessings – Lisa

Get Rid of Bitterness

Last week I wrote about God’s taking away from a believer so that He can replace old things with new things. In counseling, I discovered that the idea of taking away old ways of thinking and responding is huge for anyone who is searching for freedom. On of the things in my life that I had to overcome and take away was the enormous number of negative thoughts that constantly filled my brain. My counselor encouraged me to write down those negative thoughts and then to deal with them one by one.

I found that my thoughts were bitter, angry, fearful, and condemning. Only through God’s grace was I able to start taking these thoughts away from my life. In particular, I had bitter feelings toward some people who were very close to me, and those bitter feelings began to hurt my life. At one time, I actually wanted those people to hurt, to feel pain, not to have good things in their lives, and for bad things to happen to them. I was so far from what God commands us to be toward others.

Hebrews 12:14-15 puts it this way: “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled” (NAS). As I read my journal, I realized how bitterness was beginning to dominate my life. I did not want the best for these individuals; instead, I wanted them to be in pain just as I was in pain. I knew that eventually, if I continued down this path, I would start acting out that bitterness and defile others, as Hebrews says.

So, as God began to take away my bitterness toward certain people, what did He give me instead? For one person, God gave me compassion and love. I had to believe that God loves this person more than I ever could and that He can take care of her. It was very hard, but I prayed daily for the strength to love that person as I should.

For another person, God gave forgiveness. I had to forgive the hurt that this person had inflicted upon my family. I wrote a letter of forgiveness and dated it so that Satan could no longer taunt me. The letter was not meant to be sent, but it was meant for me to release that person.

For another, God helped me set some boundaries. Because I had been abused as a child, I had often allowed people to run over me and dominate me. I had no power to make my own decisions, no real control over my own life. But, with God’s help, I began to set boundaries so that I could find freedom as a whole person.

Looking back, I can now see how God’s taking away changed my own inner life. I now have more love and compassion. I am able to forgive, and to set those boundaries that I need to function. If I had not gone through this horrible time in my life–the time of all God’s taking-aways–I would not have grown in these areas. I would have only continued in my bitterness and ruined my life as well as the lives of those around me.

My questions for you are these: Are you holding bitterness in your life? Are you bitter toward God for the life He has handed you? Are there people in your life who have harmed you, for whom you only want bad things? What about your abuser? Can you let go of your bitterness toward that person? Please allow God to help you with your bitterness. Working on the issue of bitterness is hard, but here is a promise for you to hold on to. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness; (2 Corinthians 12:9a, NAS).

God’s grace is sufficient as you let go of the bitterness you are holding in your heart. It will not be an easy taking-away, but it is a matter of choice. I have been so weak but God promised that, if I cry out to Him in this weakness, He will honor my plea and help me. So, give it up! Give up your bitterness, for, instead, there are love and compassion, forgiveness and freedom. Do not delay. Do it now. Get on your knees, give it up, and do it today.

Blessings – Lisa