Bam! I made the choice to love.

I spent months of my life diligently working to clean out the black spots in my heart. I dealt with forgiving others, had a few relapses, and then strove to forgive them again. That’s when I began to enjoy the benefits of the freedom that forgiveness brings. My heart was so light. I even resumed some of the activities and obligations that I had had to give up, and other people started to notice the changes in my life. I knew I was getting closer and closer to the end of my journey toward wellness. My victories were preparing me to face a big hurdle yet to come, but the end was in sight. I felt great!

Of course, that’s when God decided to work on a black speck in my heart. It was just a tiny speck, but it had to be erased like all the other black spots if I were to finish my journey. I had to deal with it face-on before I could move on. Isn’t that just like God? He cares so much for me that He doesn’t want even a speck to come between me and the freedom that He has to offer.

At this point of my healing, I thought that I had already forgiven all the people in my life who had caused me pain and against whom I had harbored ill feelings. I thought I was past that point. Unfortunately, however, there was one more relationship in my life that needed attention, and God was calling me to do more than just forgive this woman. She needed my help. Before, when I had dealt with other damaged relationships, I had been able to release the offending person to God privately, without direct confrontation. But this time, God wanted me to handle the situation in a completely different manner. He wanted me to take care of this person in her hour of need.

Wait a minute, God.

I did not love this woman, so how was I supposed to minister to her physical and emotional needs? I did not love her? This realization sparked a heart-wrenching battle.

Oh, God, You alone can help me out of this dilemma.

The situation was very painful. I had come so far, but now this new battle was threatening to send me back into the pit of despair. In fact, I went into a deep depression, so bad that I couldn’t get out of bed or get dressed. I was barely functioning. God commanded me to care for this person physically and emotionally, but my heart just wouldn’t cooperate. I wanted to be a godly woman. I wanted to be obedient. My head knew the Truth, but it hadn’t moved to my soul yet.

How can I do this? How, God? Change me!

In the fourth chapter of I John, John uses the word love in almost every line. Verse 7: “[Let] us love one another…, love is from God…, everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” Verse 8: “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Verse 11: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Verse 12: “[I]f we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us” (NASB). On and on, John writes about love. Verse 17: “Love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence.”

Confidence: that is the word that makes the difference. I have come so far and been obedient to God for so long, and I can do it again because I have confidence that God is Faithful. By emotionally and physically ministering to this person, I can rid my heart of that troublesome black speck. Oh, what joy, what victory, what excitement!

Remarkably, this particular setback lasted only one day. That in itself was part of the victory. One day of struggling and weeping and depression, and then—bam!—I gained the confidence to love someone who, for me, was unlovable. I knew that I could follow God’s command and do it with real love. I could, and I did.

Is there some black speck in your life that God wants to work on? Give it to Him. Has He called you to do something that seems impossible? Do it. Remember your past victories and use the confidence from those victories to move forward today. Today! Don’t take another year, another month, even another week, but do it today. This is my testimony to you, Oh Friend. We can have the victory today. We may wake up defeated, but at the end of the day we can go to bed victorious. Believe it. With God’s help, we can live a victorious life.

Blessings – Lisa

Standing On The Edge Of A Decision

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.

Relapse – But Wait, I Can Overcome!

There is one topic that I had hoped never to have to write about: relapse. I have had such victories in my life, and I have been reminded of them as I write these posts. These personal revelations have been such a testimony of what God is doing in my life! I have come so far. Dumb, Stupid, and Ugly have been laid to rest, I have worked through many fears and phobias, and I have really dealt with issues of forgiveness and bitterness. But this week, I suffered a relapse along my path to healing and health. Life was cruising along, and then it happened: a relapse.

As I have mentioned in previous accounts, I have had to forgive some people for some hurtful situations in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. I have written letters to the offenders, dated the letters, and filed them in a place where I could be reminded that I had let go of that situation and, so, laid it to rest. At least, that is what I thought I had done. But God knows our hearts. He is always working on us so that we can be approved, tried, and tested, so that one day we can stand before Him and say that we have finished our course and finished it well.

Well, one particular situation—one particular person—that I thought I had given completely to God and that I would never have to face again suddenly reappeared in my life. (How easy it is to forgive someone, knowing that he is out of your life and out of your hands.) But one day, out of the blue and entirely unexpected, a person I had forgiven and put away slipped back into my life. Let’s just say my reaction to the news was horrible.

I relapsed into a former emotional state immediately. I started crying uncontrollably, feeling those old feelings of hurt and anger. Bad feelings overwhelmed me. But wait a minute. Hadn’t I already forgiven and moved on? What was happening? Had I really forgiven? I just kept beating myself up. A situation that I had written about only weeks earlier was now crashing mercilessly around me. What was happening?

I was so out of whack that I stopped and called my counselor for help. She reminded me about what I had written on this topic, and she reminded me that the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. I had fallen for the enemy’s tactic again. But this time I was not going to stay under his control. I would remember the Truth. I would go to the same Scriptures that I had leaned on before.

The Truth is this: Yes, I had forgiven, but now I needed to make the choice to forgive again. I had to give the situation to God again and continue to believe all the promises that He had been showing me. I must rest in Him again and always.

God spoke to me through the next Sunday’s sermon, a lesson about having victories in our lives and finishing the job God had given us to do. 1 John 5:4 says this: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (NAS). Our victory comes not from what we say but from what we do. It comes from finishing the race. According to Revelation 21:7, “He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son” (NAS). Every day God tests me and tries me so that I can be true, so that I can inherit all the things that He has promised. So I must walk one day at a time with my forgiveness and bitterness, and I must be diligent so that I can be an overcomer.

Have you had a relapse into a former state of mind and spirit? Have you fallen or slipped? Stop now! Confess it to God, recall the past victories, move forward daily, forgive, pray for your enemies, read the Scriptures, and pray for strength to be an overcomer. I messed up this week. It happens, but I want to be an overcomer. Do you? If so, then let’s cry, weep if we must, get over it, and move on. God is waiting to give you your inheritance and to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You finished the job well.”

Blessings – Lisa

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