Relapse. Slipping. Falling. An unexpected phone call had thrown me for a loop. I suddenly felt myself falling back down into the dark abyss of depression that had so long held me captive. Those bad thoughts that I had let control my life during the dark days wanted to take over my life again. When the phone call came, I was in my car, six hours away from home. I had six hours in the car by myself to mull this thing over.
I cried, yelled a little, and began questioning my ability to forgive. But God, in His infinite mercy, with His impeccable timing, began to speak to me in a number of ways during the long drive home. First, I found a Christian radio station and started singing along, and began to calm down. Then the music was interrupted by a short devotion about bitterness and forgiveness. Miles later, on a different Christian music station, another short devotion came on the air and—guess what—it, too, was about bitterness and forgiveness.
Okay, God, I am listening. You have my undivided attention. I know that I need to really forgive and to let the past rest in itself.
Today is the day to move on and, if need be, to forgive again. Feelings are so false and deceiving at times. I could hear my counselor asking, “What is the Truth?” The Truth is what I am to live by, not those misleading emotions. We must believe the Truth and choose to forgive, and eventually the right feelings will take residence in our hearts.
Then a song by Casting Crowns called “East to West” came on the radio. The lyrics spoke to me in a deep and meaningful way. In my relapse, I was drowning because I had fallen and had forgotten the Truth of what I had done, the forgiveness I had bestowed in the past. I had allowed the chains of yesterday to surround me again and to close my heart to forgiveness. I needed peace and rest, because I was not at peace. I felt only dread and hurt and pain. But I did not want to end up where I had been a year ago, at the beginning of my deep depression journey.
Those false thoughts swirled in my mind, keeping me anxious, and I knew that sleep would not come easily that night if I did not give them back over to God. The Truth is that I had already confessed my unforgiveness and that God had cast my sin far, far away. I knew I must cling to that Truth, but I felt myself standing on the edge. My choice would make all the difference.
My choice—either to relapse and fall back into the pit, or to forgive and remember the freedom in which I had been living for the last few months. As I pondered my decision, the lyrics of the song came back into my mind, and I remembered Philippians 4:4-7:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (NIV).
The peace of God—that is what I wanted! I wanted my heart and my mind to be guarded, but I could not do it on my own. I could only do it with God’s help and with His Word. I had to give this situation over to God and believe that He is near, no matter what may happen in the future.
Another thing that I heard from the song was that God had taken my sins as far as the east is from the west. I realized that I had to extend that same grace and mercy to this situation in my life. I had to forgive, because the price for my own sins had been paid by the scars on His hands. How could I do less?
Are you standing on the edge of some decision, in danger of relapsing and falling back into the sea of forgetfulness? Are you going to let those chains of yesterday surround you again and take away your peace and rest? Do not take that step! Stop! Turn around now and run to the Truth of God’s Word. Forgive, and let Him guard your heart and mind. It may be difficult, but I believe in you. More importantly, God believes in you, too. Let us choose to live in freedom today. Come with me now. I need your help.
So true that forgiveness is a conscious choice. We are called to do it even when we don’t FEEL like doing it. Forgiveness is so basic to our faith that it is included in the Lord’s Prayer–“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
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I want to be forgiven! So I better forgive. That FEEL thing sure is powerful……