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Posts tagged ‘unforgiveness’

Your Family Voyage: Discarding Resentment

SOURCE:  Adapted from Your Family Voyage by P. Roger Hillerstrom

Some of the heaviest weight to unload is that of resentment.

The object of animosity may be a parent, sibling, authority figure, or some other significant person from your past.  You attempt to “get them back” by withholding love or approval, withdrawing, being uncooperative, ruminating on your anger, or severing the relationship altogether.  You may have denied or buried your anger so long that you aren’t even aware of your bitterness, but the emotion is expressed in a variety of ways:

Unmerited explosions of anger.

Avoidance of certain individuals.

A strong desire for vengeance or retaliation.

A pessimistic or critical outlook on life.

Sarcasm, cynicism, or critical attitudes toward individuals or situations.

Over-reactions or under-reactions out of proportion to the current situation.

In harboring resentment you suffer more than anyone else – anxiety, tension, regret, and isolation as well as physical effects such as headaches, high blood pressure, and digestive problems.  The offending individual may not even be aware of or affected by your indignation.

The resolution of resentment is forgiveness.

When we choose to forgive another person, we receive the primary benefit – the freedom to choose our responses and commitments to others, to ourselves and to God.

Our model of forgiveness is God.

Each one of us has broken God’s laws and erected barriers in our relationship with him.  The offenses are ours, not Gods.  God’s forgiveness is not based on his denial of our sin; he is very aware of our offenses against him.  God’s forgiveness is not the result of his ability to pretend that we never committed any wrong.  The forgiveness our heavenly Father offers is based on his willingness to bear the cost of our sin.  Christ’s death on the cross was the payment for our sin.  Because of that payment, God is free to respond to us as a gracious loving Father rather than as a righteous judge.

When we decide to forgive someone who has offended us, we must choose to bear the cost of the wrong committed against us.  Once we forgive, we no longer require a payment for the offenses we experienced.  We cancel the debt by accepting the offense.  In essence, we pay the debt owed us.  We no longer punish the offending person through anger, silence, avoidance or criticism.  This process frees us from the burden of resentment and allows us to let go of troublesome patterns from the past.

If we are going to unload baggage from our past, it will be necessary to relinquish any bitterness we may harbor.  Forgiveness is necessary.  Without letting go of our desire for vengeance, we trap ourselves into the patterns of the past.

Does forgiveness mean I’ll forget the offense?  No.  Forgiveness isn’t a matter of blocking memories or denying the past.  You will probably always carry a memory of the offense, but your emotional response to that memory can change as you forgive.

How long does forgiveness take?  This varies a great deal.  Forgiveness is a process and seldom occurs instantly.  The process of forgiveness begins with a conscious decision.  Once you have decided to forgive, God can begin to work in you to heal your wounds and change your perspective.

How will I know when I’ve forgiven this person?  While the memory will remain, the experience of that memory will become a recalling of history rather than a current experience of anxiety, anger, or hurt.

How do I start forgiving?  Forgiveness begins with a decision.  Once you’ve decided to forgive, prayerfully ask God to soften your heart and broaden your understanding of this experience from your past.  As you sincerely look to him, he will be faithful to shape you into his image in this area.  Once you have confronted those painful memories, they lose their power.  When they “feel” real, you react emotionally.

Your painful memories may cause incredible and unpleasant discomfort the first few times you mentally walk through them.  But once you’ve confronted them, they lose their immediacy.  Conversely, as long as you expend effort trying to avoid a memory it will retain its vivid reality and negative power, even if in your dreams or in the far corner of the haunting attic you try to pretend doesn’t exist.

Don’t Let Bitterness Poison Your Marriage

SOURCE:  Family Life/Sabrina Beasley McDonald

Over time, repeated hurts can build up to destroy a relationship, but these suggestions can help you heal before the damage is done.

For nearly two centuries, Beethoven’s death was a mystery. The famous musician suffered from irritability, depression, and abdominal pain. His dying wish was that his illness would be discovered so that “the world may be reconciled to me after my death.”

In 1994, two Americans launched a study to determine the cause of Beethoven’s end. Chemical analysis of a strand of his hair showed his killer—lead poisoning1.

More than likely, it was a little poison in everyday activities that took his life. It could have come from drinking out of lead lined cups or having dinner on a lead lined plate—both common household items in that day. Or perhaps it came from eating contaminated fish or even the extensive consumption of wine. It didn’t come in one lump sum, but the lead killed him slowly and quietly—one little bit of poison at a time.

That’s also how bitterness destroys a marriage. It stores itself in the soul, and slowly poisons the one who carries it. It’s a blade meant for another that eventually severs the hand that tightly conceals it.

Recently, I have witnessed what a bitter wife does to a relationship. The problems with her husband are real, and her anger is justified. However, what keeps their marriage from healing is not only the problems that he has to overcome, but also the prideful bitterness she guards in her heart.

Little by little, day by day, she has allowed this bitterness to poison her. Her husband will do something disappointing, and instead of confronting the problem, she silently holds it against him. He continues to make the same mistakes, and she continues to harbor her resentment.

This pattern has gone on for years, and now the love she once felt has numbed and hardened her heart. Recently she walked out on their marriage wearing a list of her husband’s transgressions as her armor. Reflecting back on his behavior, she nurses her wounds with words that assure her that their marriage was a mistake—”I knew it all along,” she says.

What causes bitterness?

In every marriage, a husband or wife does something that hurts the other. It’s bound to happen because none of us is perfect. And in some cases, a spouse has a habit of doing the same thing over and over again, even after the behavior is confronted.

Bitterness comes when you hold onto hurt and refuse to forgive the person who hurt you. Most of the time, this comes as a result of ongoing actions of a small nature—lack of understanding, misuse of finances, harsh comments—that build up over time. Each offense takes residence in the heart, and at some point there is no more room left. That’s when bitterness is manifested and causes the most damage.

What’s wrong with bitterness?

A hardened heart can cause a lot of pain. Here are three reasons why bitterness should be removed from your heart as soon as possible:

1. Bitterness harbors unforgiveness. You may feel justified in your anger. You may think that your spouse doesn’t deserve your forgiveness until he or she straightens out. But have you forgotten the mercy that Jesus had for you?

Romans 5:8 tells us that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. By God’s grace, He didn’t wait for us to “get our acts together” before He provided a way for forgiveness. He gave it to us freely even when we didn’t deserve it. At Golgotha as the soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothing, the dying innocent Christ prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). If forgiveness is given freely to us, how much more should we give it to our spouses?

Not only should you desire forgiveness simply because it was given so freely to you, but also, the Bible tells us that there are consequences for unforgiveness. Jesus said, “If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15, NASB). Seek forgiveness not only for the sake of your spouse, but also for yourself.

The other day, I found that my disappointment in my friend was turning into its own form of bitterness. So I sought the Scriptures for guidance. As always, the Word of God shone brilliant light on my own darkness. I was so moved by the verse I read that I wrote it down over and over until there was no more room left on the page. “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

I wonder how many hurting marriages would be healed if Christian husbands and wives learned to love mercy as much as they love justice?

2. Bitterness doesn’t give your spouse a chance to repent. If you’ve been holding in your hurt, your spouse may not even know he or she has offended you. Bitterness often comes from hurt that has been suppressed without communication, like filling up a bottle with pressure—eventually that bottle will explode. In the same way, the outburst in your heart can result in a broken marriage, and your spouse never even saw it coming. In this case, go ahead and tell him or her what’s been bothering you. Sit down and try to work it out.

Perhaps your spouse does know of your unhappiness, but chooses to continue in the same patterns. This does not negate your responsibility to remove the bitterness from your heart. You still need to give your spouse the chance to repent, although stronger measures, such as marriage counseling, may need to take place.

You may ask, “How many times does my spouse have to do something before I’m justified in my bitterness?” Peter had a similar question in Matthew 18:21 (NASB). He asked, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus replied in verse 22, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

No matter how many times your spouse may do something, you are still responsible for forgiving him or her.

(Note: If your spouse is physically abusing you, get out of your house and do not stay there. A person who is physically abusive needs extensive counseling and rehabilitation. However, no matter how the situation ends, you can still work on forgiveness from the heart.)

3. Bitterness spreads. Have you ever seen a piece of moldy bread? It appears that there is only one ruined area, but if you were to look at the bread through a microscope, you would see long roots spreading throughout the slice. What appears on the surface doesn’t reflect what’s really happening below.

Bitterness grows the same way. One little bit of bitterness can start to spread throughout your heart and contaminate your whole body. It will start to manifest itself in your attitude, demeanor, and even your health.

In addition, the spreading can also affect your children and your family. Have you ever noticed how one person’s criticism makes everyone else critical, too? It’s the same with bitterness. Paul compares it to yeast when he writes, “A little leaven, leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:6). When you allow bitterness into your life, it extends to your family, your church body, and everyone else involved in your life.

Getting rid of bitterness

You may feel like there is little hope left for your marriage relationship. You may be so full of bitterness that you’ve convinced yourself that your marriage could never be healed, but let me assure you that the healing begins with yourself. With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

Here are four steps to take to begin healing from bitterness:

1.Confess your bitterness as a sin. It’s so easy to justify our attitude when we’ve been hurt, but the Bible teaches that bitterness is a sin. Hebrews 12:14-15 says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’  springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…” You must seek peace with your spouse and the grace to forgive.

2. Ask for God’s strength to forgive your spouse and diligently seek that forgiveness. In Ephesians 4:31-32, Paul exhorts us to “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

It’s hard to be tender-hearted to a spouse who has hurt you, but it is possible. We have the power to forgive because Christ forgave us, and He gives us strength through the Holy Spirit. For more information on how to forgive, read Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s article, “When It’s Hard to Forgive.”

3. Make a list of your hurts and find a time to talk to your spouse about it. After you’ve made your list, pray about which things you can let go and which need to be resolved. If you can let them go, then do so. You may want to physically scratch off each one that you can forgive as an act of faith. Then for those transgressions that are left, ask God to give you the strength to talk to your spouse about them.

Before talking to your spouse, let him or her know that you plan to set aside some undistracted time for you to talk about some issues. As you talk, keep the discussion productive. Start by confessing your own sins to your spouse. Then talk about your hurts. Don’t just dump all your irritations and criticisms on your spouse, but speak in love, rationally and gently.

If you feel like you can’t talk to your spouse alone, then ask a pastor or mentor couple to join you in the discussion. Make sure your spouse knows that someone else will be there. Once you begin, your spouse may deny the behavior or even become irritated. But the object of the discussion is to expose the wounds, not to accuse. Keep love the main motivator of your communication.

4. Worry about changing yourself, not your spouse. You cannot change your spouse—only God can. But what you can do is allow God to change your heart. If you have a log of bitterness in your own eye, how can you take the speck out of your spouse’s eye? (Matthew 7:3). You, too, have made choices in this relationship that have hurt your spouse and need to be mended. Even though your spouse’s sin goes unresolved for now, he or she will answer for it one day before God (Matthew 10:26). In the same way, God will hold you responsible for the bitterness in your heart.

Forgiveness, Grief, & Healing

SOURCE:  Living Free/Raymond T. Brock, Ed.D

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.

Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”Colossians 3:13 NIV

Forgiveness is one of the most difficult tasks to be accomplished in the process of working through grief.

If we are honest with God about our hurts and disappointments, he will lead us into the freedom of forgiveness.

Sometimes it will be another person you need to forgive: the deceased for dying and leaving you, the medical personnel for not saving your loved one’s life, or someone you think may have contributed to your loved one’s death. You might even be struggling with forgiving yourself for those last words you did; or didn’t; say.

Forgiveness is never easy, but we remain prisoners of those we fail to forgive. Forgiveness allows us to be released from the hold another person, living or dead, has on us.

Are you struggling with unforgiveness?

Consider taking these thoughts and feelings to God today. Be honest with him and allow him to help you. With the help of his strength and his love, you can overcome. Only then can you move on to complete healing and a future filled with hope.

Father, thank you for forgiving me for every failure, every sin. I’ve let you down so many times, and yet you continue to forgive; and to love. Help me be more like you. Help me to forgive those I’ve held things against. Help me to forgive myself. In Jesus’ name …

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Handling Loss and Grief: How to Face Losses in Life and Grieve Christianly by Raymond T. Brock, Ed.D.

Abandonment: Forgiveness

SOURCE:  Living Free/Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W.

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

(Colossians 3:13 NLT)

Children abandoned by one or both parents often harbor resentment and unforgiveness toward those parents. And they become victims of their own unforgiveness.

The Bible has much to say about forgiveness. We need to start by understanding the forgiveness God offers us. The Bible teaches that we have all sinned. Every one of us. And with sin in our life, we cannot spend eternity in heaven with our holy God. But God found a way . . . He sent His only Son, Jesus, to earth to die on the cross and pay the penalty for our sins.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5:8-11 NLT)

“While we were yet sinners” Christ suffered and died on the cross so we could be forgiven. His forgiveness is a gift. We could never earn it or deserve it. All we need to do is reach out and take it by trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Maybe a parent abandoned you. Maybe the parent lived under the same roof with you but neglected you. Whatever happened . . . God calls you to forgive. Not because they deserve it. But because Jesus is willing to forgive you even when you don’t deserve it. How can you do less?

In fact, Jesus calls us to love those who have wronged us . . . and to pray for them.

“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45 NLT)

Your life will never be whole . . . you will never be healed from the scars of abandonment . . . until you take this step. Are you ready?

Father, I’ve had such bad feelings toward my parent(s) so many years. I believe that because of Jesus you have forgiven me though I certainly don’t deserve your forgiveness. I receive your gift of forgiveness. Help me to extend that same kind of forgiveness to my parent(s). In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

  Restoring Families: Overcoming Abusive Relationships through Christ by Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W.

5 Ways to Tell If You’ve Forgiven Someone

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  Ron Edmondson

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25

bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

Whether in business, in church, or in family, relationships can cause pain and separation. It’s tempting to get even, but forgiveness is not an option for the believer, even for that person who has hurt us the most. Forgiveness is treated as an important attribute for followers of Christ in the Bible. Even still, I frequently hear people give excuses for not forgiving someone, such as:

“You can forgive but you can’t forget” … That’s most often true…only God (and sometimes time and old age) can erase a memory.

“I’ve tried to forgive them, but they haven’t changed” … That’s probably true. Forgiveness can be a catalyst for change, but it doesn’t guarantee change.

“I may have forgiven them, but I’ll always hold it against them” … Okay, that may sound logical, but it’s not forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a releasing of emotional guilt you place upon the other person. It’s a choice we make that happens in the heart. It’s not a release of responsibility or an absence of healthy boundaries, but it is a conscious choice to remove the right to get even from the person who injured you. It’s a release of anger and the right to hold a grudge.

Forgiveness is hard.

Recently I was talking with someone who wants to forgive the person who has hurt her the most. She wants to be free from the guilt of holding a grudge. She wants to follow the example of Christ in Biblical obedience. The problem? She’s not sure she has truly forgiven, because she still hurts from the injury.

I shared with her that while forgiveness is a decision…a choice…it is not an automatic healer of emotions. It helps, but emotions heal over time. Then I shared some ways she could determine if she’s truly forgiven the other person.

Here are 5 ways to tell if you’ve forgiven someone:

When the first thought you have about them is not the injury they caused in your life. You should be able to have normal thoughts about the person occasionally. Remember, you are dropping the right to get even; the grudge you held against them.

Ask yourself: Would you help them if you knew they were in trouble and you had the ability? Most likely this is someone you once cared about…perhaps even loved. You would have assisted them if they needed help. While I’m not suggesting you would subject yourself to abuse or further harm, that you are obligated to help them, or even that you should, but would you in your heart want to see them prosper or see them come to harm?

Can you think positive thoughts about this person? Again, you’ve likely been on positive terms with this person or in a close enough relationship for them to injure you to this extreme. Is there anything good you can come up with about them? If not, have your really forgiven them?

Do you still think of getting even with the person? There may be consequences that need to come for this person and you may have to see them through to protect others, but does your heart want to hurt them? If so, would you call this forgiveness?

When you have stopped looking for them to fail. If you have truly forgiven someone, then just like you would for anyone else, you would want them to succeed or at least do better in life. Forgiveness means you’ve stopped keeping a record of the person’s wrongs.

The Power of Forgiveness in Marriage

SOURCE:  Domeniek L. Harris/Today’s Christian Woman

Does your flesh seem to crawl when you come into contact with certain people?

When you hear the sound of their voice, does every fiber of your being cringe?

Does your chest tighten when you think of them?

Are you embarrassed to admit this is the way you feel about the person you share your life with? There is a possibility Satan has you in his grip through unforgiveness.

Identifying Our Real Enemies

Too often in marriage when there is offense and conflict, we identify our mates as the enemy. Our mates are never the enemy. If we learn who our enemies really are, we can effectively fight the battles in our marriages and rise to victory. Our real enemies are the powers of darkness and our own flesh. These enemies often go unnoticed in the heat of battle.

Our flesh seeks to please itself and cannot please God. The apostle Paul warns us about our flesh, in Romans 8:8, “Those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.”

The powers of darkness intend for all marriages to be destroyed. If you commit to God and your mate, you will wrestle with the forces of darkness. Ephesians 6:12 declares, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

When we recognize our enemies, we are more effective in loosening Satan’s grip of unforgiveness.

Forgiveness Is Not

We often equate forgiveness with something warm and fuzzy.

Truthfully, forgiveness is quite the opposite.

Forgiveness can be quite painful when it involves someone you are madly in love with. In marriage, forgiveness is not “Don’t worry about what you did, I’m fine with it and we all make mistakes.” It sounds spiritual and great coming out of our mouths, but inside we are struggling with hypocrisy. We are plagued by an abyss of pain, anger, bitterness, and resentment. Forgiveness is not lip service.

These unchecked feelings can potentially become emotionally, mentally, verbally, or physically murderous. Forgiveness is not being so numb to pain that we are oblivious to reality. In marriage, when we embrace numbness our hearts transform into ice. Forgiveness is not forgetting the offense. Forgiveness is not choosing to inflict the price for the offense.

I learned to honor God with my heart and not just my mouth. We are lying when we say we have forgiven but unforgiveness still rots our souls. Satan grips and weakens us through unforgiveness. He tightens his grip through a religious spirit that says the right thing while refusing to confront the offense and heal.

Struggling to Forgive

How do you forgive someone who was never supposed to hurt you in the first place?

Why forgive them?

What about all the damage to your marriage and family?

The best answer is you must; forgiveness was extended to you.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” If you refuse to forgive, you operate in sin and in covenant with Satan.

These questions and declarations are hard to swallow. I have battled with them in my marriage, but I came out victorious. I battled so much with unforgiveness because I could not see my own sin. I could not see that my unwillingness to forgive was just as ugly to God as the things I blamed my husband for.

The reason we battle unforgiveness is because we can only see the depravity in the souls of others, ignoring the beams in our own eyes. I won the battle of unforgiveness when I realized that I was in need of forgiveness from God and my sweet husband. I won the battle when I was willing to face the ugliness of my own heart and surrender my heart to God. I realized my enemies were my own flesh and Satan, who loves to work in my flesh. Unforgiveness is a work of the flesh, and it will remain until you crucify it on the altar of forgiveness.

We struggle to forgive because we justify our rights and inappropriately apply God’s Word. Many of us have declared inwardly or outwardly, “The Bible said, ‘Be ye angry.’ ” We forget the rest of the Scripture verse: ” … and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26, KJV). If we are honest, many of us are angry and sin for days, weeks, months, years. Many of us will carry the sin of unforgiveness to our grave.

Forgiveness becomes a struggle when we seek to please our flesh. We struggle because the Holy Spirit demands that we be like Christ. God is as displeased with unforgiveness as he is with sexual sins, deception, lying, and envy. We must remember that any sin either of us could commit, Jesus paid for at Calvary. Who gave us the right to make our spouses pay for sin when we did not?

Due to the gravity of their offenses, we believe we have the authority to execute judgment on our mates. But God would never entrust vengeance into our hands. Why? Our sin-stricken souls will never view our spouses purely through the eyes of God’s grace. We should be concerned for ourselves when we seek revenge on the people we promised to love, honor, and cherish. Unforgiveness unequivocally implicates the wickedness hidden in our hearts and the depravity of our own souls.

Real Forgiveness Is

Through many offenses, trials, betrayal, and calamity, I have learned real forgiveness. I have learned that the world’s standards for marriage are a slap in the face to God. When we decide not to forgive, we call it “irreconcilable differences.” God calls it unforgiveness. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the only biblical sin for which there is no forgiveness. In most divorce cases, blasphemy is never mentioned.

Real forgiveness is threefold.

Forgiveness means excusing the penalty for an offense, offering pardon. Forgiveness means renouncing anger and resentment.

Finally, forgiveness is a choice. God gave all of us the power to choose. These definitions are simplistic, but they pack enough power to loosen the stronghold of unforgiveness. As an immature Christian, I thought I had the right to be angry and my sin was justified. It never was.

Several years ago, I went through a very difficult time in my marriage. Having experienced betrayal, my heart had grown biting cold, filled with anger, bitterness, and resentment. In hindsight, the way I treated my husband is embarrassing and was disrespectful to God’s Word. There was no remorse—I believed I was the victim and my actions were justified. How much pride is that? I entered a covenant with Satan for several years, while my marriage burned to the ground. I tried everything to fix it, except forgiveness. I flirted hard with the idea of divorce.

God’s grace is sufficient; God’s Word eventually penetrated my heart. I experienced real forgiveness and it released me to forgive. I was on my knees in the bedroom, praying and crying to God about all the wrong that had been done. I knew it was unacceptable for me to be the victim; surely it was unacceptable to God. The next few moments humbled me into a heaping pile of humanity. God put a mirror to my face. He acknowledged my concern, rebuked me for my sins, and told me to repent to my husband. I was annihilated, but I responded in obedience.

Until then, I had hindered the move of God because I had too much pride to forgive. God has such infinite wisdom. My husband had been asking God how to bring restoration to our relationship, and God showed him that he needed to seek forgiveness from me. That day began a new chapter in our marriage as we both sought forgiveness from God and each other.

Over the years, after much struggle with the sin of unforgiveness, I learned that forgiveness is a choice. We make the decision to forgive, even if our emotions, feelings, and desires have not surrendered in obedience to God. As children of God, we are lead by faith, not feelings. When we make decisions based upon feelings, we give Satan the rope to hang us with. Real forgiveness is demonstrating what Christ did for us on the cross.

Honestly, most of us have repeated the cliché “What would Jesus do?” The answer: forgive.

Loosening Satan’s Grip

The devil understands the power of forgiveness. He had the opportunity to behold the glory of God and the kingdom of heaven. He has been doomed to hell and is mad and desires us to share his fate. Satan knows that forgiveness redeems and restores relationships.

Satan is employed to steal, kill, and destroy. Unforgiveness opens the door for him to hold us back. Each day we incite harsh words because of offense and inflict the silent treatment, we strengthen Satan’s rope of entanglement. As the sun sets and we nurse anger, bitterness, and resentment, the devil smiles. We have embraced the power of darkness.

Satan is selfish and prideful; when we are unforgiving we act like him. Unforgiveness is laced with pride—which cost the devil the kingdom of heaven.

Loosen Satan’s grip and forgive. God’s forgiveness propels us into salvation and restoration. Your marriage can be restored and bring glory to God.

FORGIVENESS: God’s Antidote for Bitterness

SOURCE:  Living Free

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. (Hebrews 12:15 NLT)

Prolonged unforgiveness can breed bitterness.

When facing major disappointments in life, most people make one of two choices: They turn to God to heal their distress and with his help forgive the one who wronged them. Or they turn away from God and become bitter.

Sometimes people become bitter toward God for not repairing or healing a situation. More often they pour anger out on the person who caused the hurt and pain. Widowed singles may deal with anger at God for allowing their spouse to die, but this temporary anger does not have to turn to bitterness. Only anger that is fed, nurtured, and encouraged will turn into the soul-killing and body-killing emotion of bitterness.

Divorced singles often have to deal with bitter feelings toward God for allowing their marriage to fail. However, they more often reserve their intense bitterness for their ex-spouse.

Single Christians who have never married yet deeply desire a mate may feel bitterness about their single status or even at God for not answering their prayer.

God’s antidote for the poison of bitterness is forgiveness. Forgiveness is never easy, and the worse the hurt involved, the more difficult it is. However, God tells us to forgive, so we would do well to begin to move from bitterness toward forgiveness, even if we stumble in the beginning.

Refusing to forgive the one who has hurt us causes us more difficulty than it does the person with whom we are angry. Medical science has identified several physical and many emotional illnesses that seem to have roots in our unwillingness to forgive. Bitterness can adversely affect relationships with friends and family. And most of all, it hinders our relationship with God.

We have a choice. We can choose forgiveness over bitterness. Each of us is responsible for our own attitude toward the ones who have hurt us. If we choose forgiveness, God will help us forgive . . . and move on.

Father, forgive me for the unforgiveness I’ve carried for so long. Help me forgive the one who hurt me and release the bitterness. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

The Single Christian: Living as One in a World of Twos by Dr. Elizabeth Holland.

Forgive? NO! Blame? YES! Heal? NO!

SOURCE:  Living Free

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14 NLT

We all experience setbacks and disappointments in life.

Sometimes small ones that we shrug off, learn from and move on. But sometimes disappointments have more impact. They stay with us, causing the past to haunt our present—and future.

The setback could be anything—bankruptcy … a failed marriage … termination from a job … a friendship gone sour. Or it might be losing a parent at a young age. Or the death of a spouse or someone else we cared for deeply.

A natural tendency when we have suffered a severe disappointment is to place blame. Perhaps we hold another person responsible. Sometimes we blame ourselves. We might even get angry with God.

God has promised us a future and a hope, but unforgiveness can block our ability to experience all the freedom he has planned for us. As long as we are unwilling to forgive, the disappointment of the past has control over our lives, and we cannot move forward.

It’s time to forgive those who have hurt us. It’s time to forgive ourselves. It’s time to open our hearts to the love and forgiveness of our heavenly Father. And then it will be time to move on to the wonderful plans he has for us.

Father, help me to truly put the past behind and look forward to what lies ahead. Forgive my sin. Help me to walk in forgiveness—of others and of myself. In Jesus’ name ….


These thoughts were drawn from …


Free to Grow: Overcoming Setbacks and Disappointments by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

To Forgive or Not To Forgive: My Choice!

 SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Forgiveness: The Reason and the Responsibility

We hear the following phrase a lot, but often in the wrong context or delivered from an impure heart:

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free – John 8:32. 

Forgiveness requires that we face the truth: the truth of Christ’s forgiveness; the truth of our own need for forgiveness; the truth that if we are ever to be free we must receive Christ’s forgiveness, and forgive those who have hurt us.

You see, in order to experience true freedom, we must forgive those who have caused us harm or disappointment … even when that means forgiving ourselves. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve … because of Christ Jesus. When we turn to Him, He freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.

How can we do less? Forgiven by the Lord, we have the power, the reason, and the responsibility to forgive others. Forgiveness is not a feeling we need to muster up, it is an actual choice we make. When you realize it is a choice, then you must consider, “what are my options?” So let’s take a look.

Door #1: You don’t forgive. You remain aloof and detached, or bitter, resentful, angry, and vengeful. A terrible side effect is that people still have power over you. That’s because you need to extract some payment or amends from them … an apology, their suffering or an experience of pain, a sacrifice, or penance. And they can withhold it as long as they want and play you like a puppet.

Door #2: You do forgive. It becomes easier to let go of the bitterness, revenge, and entitlement. You experience freedom from the past. You have an opportunity to grow something better with them. Or you can totally disconnect from them because now you don’t need anything to make the “transaction” complete. You have relieved them of their debt, so they can’t “withhold” anything from you to string you along. Now you are letting God be their judge. And He is much better at determining their consequences and doling it out to them.

Sometimes it is hard to let go. In fact, when we have been deeply hurt, it may not be possible to forgive … on our own, that is. But it is important to remember that we don’t have to do it alone. Through the power of Christ, God has forgiven us. When we truly and humbly accept that, we have the perspective and power to forgive anyone else for any transgression against us. That’s real freedom! Your decision, so choose well.

Today, examine your heart. Identify relationships where there is uneasiness, anger, bitterness, resentment, revenge, sarcasm, or irritation. You probably have to make a decision about forgiveness. If you are struggling to forgive, ask God to help you. He loves you. He cares and He is able. Look at your other option. It is more painful to withhold forgiveness than it is to forgive.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I’ve kept these feelings of resentment and unforgiveness buried much too long. Help me to face the truth … and then to forgive myself and others. I now realize that forgiveness isn’t about others feeling good. It is for me to feel better and be right with You! Thank you for your mercy and forgiveness. Help me to show the same to others, even those who have hurt me. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who paid for my forgiveness, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:23-24

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

FORGIVE

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by  John Eldredge

We must forgive those who hurt us.

The reason is simple: Bitterness and unforgiveness are claws that set their hooks deep in our hearts; they are chains that keep us held captive to the wounds and the messages of those wounds. Until you forgive, you remain their prisoner. Paul warns us that unforgiveness and bitterness can wreck our lives and the lives of others (Eph. 4:31; Heb. 12:15). We have to let them go.

Forgive as Christ has forgiven you. (Col 3:13)

Now – listen carefully.

Forgiveness is a choice. It is not a feeling – don’t try and feel forgiving. It is an act of the will. “Don’t wait to forgive until you feel like forgiving,” wrote Neil Anderson. “You will never get there. Feelings take time to heal after the choice to forgive is made . . .” We allow God to bring the hurt up from our past, for “if your forgiveness doesn’t visit the emotional core of your life, it will be incomplete.” We acknowledge that it hurt, that it mattered, and we choose to extend forgiveness to our father, our mother, those who hurt us. This is not saying, “It didn’t really matter”; it is not saying, “I probably deserved part of it anyway.” Forgiveness says, “It was wrong. Very wrong. It mattered, hurt me deeply. And I release you. I give you to God.”

It might help to remember that those who hurt you were also deeply wounded themselves. They were broken hearts, broken when they were young, and they fell captive to the Enemy. They were in fact pawns in his hands. This doesn’t absolve them of the choices they made, the things they did. It just helps us to let them go – to realize that they were shattered souls themselves, used by our true Enemy in his war against [us all].

The Field Guide to Forgiveness

SOURCE:  James Cain/In Touch Ministries

Betrayal. Rejection. Condemnation. No one requests such treatment, yet few escape life without a wound or two. The circumstances that call for forgiveness aren’t usually in our plans. But to follow Jesus faithfully, we must learn to say, “I forgive you.”

The following “field guide” isn’t exhaustive. But the tips, quotes, and stories collected here will provide guidance about fulfilling the Lord’s challenging command to forgive, regardless of the offense.

More Than Words

The Work of Forgiveness 

While I watched my boys play in a community park one morning, a curious drama unfolded nearby. Two women sat facing each other, their sons standing between them.

One woman held her son’s hand. The other woman, more agitated, grasped her son’s elbow. Both boys were frowning, chins out and hands deep in pockets.

“He said he was sorry,” the second mother said. “Now you say, ‘I forgive you,’ and you guys shake hands.” Neither boy would meet the other’s eye. During the silence, the frustrated mom began alternately cajoling and threatening until her son grunted a word or two. Relieved, she sent them back onto the playground and then commiserated with her friend about the difficulty of getting at their sons’ hearts. “I know he needs to do it,” she sighed, “but if his heart’s not in it, what’s the point?”

It was a fair question. After all, her boy’s grumbled “Forgive you” was about as heartfelt as the grunted “Sorry” it answered. The incident reminded me that knowing we should forgive isn’t the hard part; the actual forgiving is. The point, after all, is reconciliation—restored communion and healed brokenness—that results from practicing this discipline. In the end, forgiveness changes the one forgiving more than the one being pardoned.

This is true because forgiveness forces us to admit our powerlessness and trust God for justice. The boy who was reluctant to forgive knew instinctively that weakness is not generally considered a virtue. Pursuing vengeance makes us feel strong, empowered. Forgiving, on the other hand, acknowledges that we may not receive the “justice” we thought we deserved.

Change also happens because forgiveness creates space for restored fellowship. Giving up our claim against the offender moves us from weakness to strength, as we invite the peace of the Holy Spirit to restore our relationship with God and neighbor. Denying forgiveness, on the other hand, breaks fellowship not only with our adversary, but also with our Father (Mark 11:25).

A while later, as I walked with my own children to our car, I turned to see the boys back at play. They smiled and laughed as if nothing had happened. Though the process doesn’t always go that easily or well, forgiving—and receiving forgiveness—had made room for their friendship.

Most people will experience wounds far deeper than the playground mishap I witnessed. The obstacles to forgiving will be far greater, the cost of forgiving, far higher. But the point remains the same: When we forgive, we make renewed relationship possible, if not with the person we forgive, then with the Person who has forgiven us.


Word Power

Forgive
Merriam-Webster—1 a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for  b : to grant relief from payment of    2 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)
Synonyms: pardon, excuse 
Phrases: bury the hatchet, wipe the slate clean, let go


Tip #1: Forgive and Remember

We usually put the words “forgive” and “forget” together, but to forgive authentically, we have to remember. The apostle Paul suggests that our duty to forgive others depends on recalling the pardon we received from God. “As the Lord forgave you,” he writes, “you do also” (Col. 3:13). Not only should we remember that God forgives us; we should also imitate how He does it: graciously, freely, and completely.

We might be tempted to keep a “record of wrongs,” but love precludes that (1 Cor. 13:5). The unbelieving world tends to nurse grudges against whoever has wronged them, but as followers of Jesus, we forgive freely, without expecting anything in return.

Application

Forgive completely, wiping the slate clean for a fresh start. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting the offense. You are human, after all, and cannot truly forget. More importantly, pretending the wrong never happened prevents the work of healing from being done. When you remember the sin against you, see it as opportunity to remember God’s grace, toward yourself and through you to the offender.

Tip # 2: Don’t just say the words

From a Christian perspective, forgiveness requires far more from us than a few brief words. The Puritan writer Thomas Watson gave a surprising answer to the question,What is forgiveness? He wrote, “[We forgive] when we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them.” In other words, forgiveness requires gracious inward action before we can pursue gracious outward action (see Tip #4). Much of this internal work can be done without the offender’s knowledge.

Watson’s phrase “strive against” acknowledges how strenuous forgiveness can be, requiring us to actively and energetically oppose the natural inclination toward assaulting the other person, physically or verbally, or withdrawing from relationship with him. Either approach is a way of withholding forgiveness and will impede the healing process for both people.

Application

Avoid assaulting or withdrawing from others by looking for opportunities to celebrate your offender’s successes. Do not rejoice when he suffers, but grieve along with him. Prayerfully seek to “relieve” the person, and seek the right moment for reconciliation. All this heart work will enable you, when the time comes, to offer authentic forgiveness.


The Lost Discipline

In the Lord’s Prayer, as Matthew 6:9-13 is popularly known, Jesus presents forgiveness as a “hinge” for Christian life: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (v. 12) reveals that God’s pardon of us is contingent on our own forgiving behavior (see also Mark 11:25).

That verse makes us uncomfortable, as it should. After all, our pardon depends on the finished work of Christ, not our own works. Author Richard Foster explains the paradox as a condition of the created order: to receive, I must give, and I cannot receive what I am unable to give.


Tip #3: Start small

Application

Practice secretly forgiving others for small offenses, such as being cut off in traffic or receiving an unintended insult, throughout each day. Doing so will slowly transform your heart over time, making it possible to forgive others when bigger, more serious conflicts occur.

Tip #4: Head off resentment

We might be tempted to dismiss sin against us it by taking full or partial responsibility. Phrases like “I probably deserved it,” or “It takes two to tango,” can mask real feelings.  This false path seems like wisdom, but burying pain plants seeds that grow into bitterness.

Application

When you are wronged, look for opportunities to work for the wrongdoer’s good. Prayer for the perpetrator is a good place to start. Doing the work of love and mercy before it comes easily can uproot resentment.

“I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.”
—William Blake

Tip #5: See (and seek) mercy more than justice

In our culture, which celebrates vengeance rather than mercy, the idea of biblical justice escapes many, including Christians. Some use phrases like “the punishment should fit the crime” and falsely conclude that justice and mercy cannot coexist. Such people ignore the intended close connection between the two, as Scripture illustrates through expressions of profound forgiveness when “justice” could have been meted out with violence.

Just consider Joseph (see Gen. 37, 39–47). Imagine his story retold in today’s cultural standards. Instead of forgiving his brothers, Joseph would exact his long-awaited revenge through vicious reprisal or a long legal battle. This might sound laughable to our ears, but movies and books (the “bibles” of today’s world) tell similar tales all the time. How much greater and more poignant is the story of the real Joseph. He chose to offer mercy when no one would have denied him revenge.

Application

Doesn’t your life offer similar chances to forgive? A coworker pads his accomplishments, gaining a promotion that should have been yours. An acquaintance betrays your trust, costing you a friend. A spouse lies, jeopardizing marriage and family. However impossible any case may seem, choose to let God reveal the manner in which mercy and justice should meet.

Tip #6: Forgive your enemies

On the morning of October 2, 2006, Charles Roberts entered an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. Just over a half-hour later, five girls were dead, five more were injured, and the community’s peace was shattered forever.

Except it wasn’t. The same day, while bodies remained unburied, an Amish grandfather was heard telling his young relatives, “We must not think evil of this man.” Roberts had taken his own life during the crisis, and in the days that followed, the community reached out in mercy and forgiveness to his family, astonishing the world with their graciousness.

The Amish response of mercy and forgiveness was remarkable because of its uniqueness in a world fascinated by justice. One of the authors of Amish Grace, Donald Kraybill, found the response not surprising but natural. He says forgiveness is woven into Amish culture. Their communal life requires a forgiving spirit, so they practice it as a way of life, working at it, as Scripture seems to require.

Not everyone has an enemy—that is, someone who has wronged you repeatedly, maliciously, without regard for your well-being. If you have one, the work of forgiveness begins with a prayer to remember God’s grace toward you. One of the Holy Spirit’s tasks is to “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). He alone can bring about the change of heart necessary to see your own sin, to recognize Christ’s righteousness, and to see that judgment belongs to God alone.

Application

Most of us have no enemies, but we should prepare our hearts for the hard work of forgiving as the Amish do, working forgiveness into the corners of our life. Take the initiative when someone wrongs you. Ask God to show you your sin and remind you of His grace. Sooner rather than later, seek the person out, and, mindful of your own faults, ask for and extend forgiveness. Pray for the well-being of the wrongdoer—not just that he’d see the error of his ways, but that God would protect and prosper him.

Offer mercy quickly, leave justice to God, and make sure you don’t allow resentment to find fertile soil.

Forgiven, But Not Forgiving?

Would you rather punish those who hurt you than forgive them?

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Gloria Chisholm

I struggled with angry and hurt feelings toward a group of people with whom I had engaged in conflict for what seemed like the hundredth time that week. My prayer scenario went something like this:

Me: Lord, they did it again. Do they lie awake at night thinking up ways to torment me? Of course, I know I’m not perfect. Please forgive me for my part in this.

God: I do.

Me: But I pray that You show them what they’re doing. I know You want them to grow and all that, so I know it’s Your will to bring them to repentance. God, make them pay (whoops!).

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Father, forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt. 6:12). Forgive? To forgive would be to let the offense go and open myself up to my tormentors once again. It would be to get hurt again and again and again.

Peter thought he was doing well if he forgave someone seven times (Mt. 18:21). I’m with Peter. Seven times seems like plenty to me. Yet Jesus pushed it to seventy-seven times. In other words, He wasn’t putting a limit on forgiveness. In fact, He was saying, “Forgive anyone and everyone as often as necessary, and make it a lifestyle.”

An impossible feat? In the context of these verses in the Lord’s Prayer, what Jesus is after is the attitude behind our inability or refusal to forgive, our resistance to face the truth God wants us to see in our hearts.

Along those lines, I see four basic attitudes connected with the forgiveness process that we must eventually acknowledge, whether consciously or unconsciously, in order to work through our hurts to a place of healing. We may hold more than one of these attitudes simultaneously, or we may move through them one after the other. The important thing is that we see where we are so that we can respond to where God wants to take us.

“I Won’t.”

The unmerciful servant had experienced forgiveness (Mt. 18:23–35). With his wife, kids, possessions, and his own life on the line, he pleaded for mercy. His master forgave him, canceled the debt, and let him go.

Offered the same opportunity to forgive a fellow servant, he made a sad choice. The Bible tells us “he refused” (v. 30).

When his master found out about it, he was furious and had him thrown in jail. Jesus summed up this parable with these shocking words: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (v. 35).

These may sound like harsh words coming from our compassionate, loving Savior. But the truth is that it’s because He is a loving God and desires for His people to love each other that He lays out the choices for us. It is always our choice. We get to forgive or be locked up. Literally. Refusal to forgive thrusts us into bondage.

If we look at this parable symbolically, we can imagine who the “jailors” are: bitterness, unforgiveness, depression, physical disease, etc. If we choose to act unmercifully to a fellow sinner like ourselves, we leave our Master no choice but to turn us over to unmerciful jailors. What else could a just God do with an unforgiving heart?

You may think you have never said “I won’t” to forgiveness. But what about the church you stopped attending because people there hurt you? Or the boss who fired you? The parent who abused you? The friend who gossiped about you? Have you ever stopped pursuing a relationship with someone because they hurt you and you live in fear of the same thing happening again?

There is hope for those of us who have said “I won’t.” I don’t know about you, but the isolation I feel in my soul drives me to repentance. “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Ps. 13:2).

God leaves how long up to us. We decide when we’ve suffered enough bitterness, enough isolation, enough unforgiveness.

“I Can’t.”

Those of us who claim we can’t forgive have often been burned by a relationship that has caused us more pain than we ever thought we could endure. We’re tired and resentful, and we’re full of unforgiveness.

Gordon MacDonald writes: “Spiritual passion cannot coexist with resentments. We can do our best to claim that we are in the right, but the Scriptures are clear. The unforgiving spirit is no home to the energy that causes Christian growth and effectiveness.”

It takes a lot of energy to maintain a bitter heart. Unfortunately, instead of acknowledging the painful feelings that surface when we’ve been offended, we repress them. We continue to say, “I can’t,” and the pain sinks deeper and deeper into our subconscious, finally coming to rest on top of the pile of offenses we’ve collected throughout our lives.

To say “I can’t” is to say “I don’t want to try anymore. I give up.” Here we totter on a precarious edge. We can become numb, or we can admit our powerlessness and our dependence on God. When we do this, we allow God to surface the sinful attitude and skim off the impurities unforgiveness produces. The decision to do this takes courage, since the process can be extremely painful. But it is productive pain that activates healing, unlike the destructive pain of unresolved bitterness.

“I Don’t Want To.”

This may be the most honest response you can make when an offense is gnawing at your heart.

“I don’t want to” is usually a conscious response, unlike “I won’t” and “I can’t,” which are often unconscious. “I don’t want to” means you know where you are, but you don’t know how to get out of that place. To forgive is to allow more pain in and you don’t want any part of that. So you feel trapped.

I remember a time when someone in my life was hurting me fairly consistently—the seven-times-(and more)-a-day kind of offender. Inside, I had to admit I wanted God to “get her.”

I discussed the situation with a number of people, sometimes to vent my anger, sometimes because I wanted help.

“Waste her,” was my teenage son’s advice. (If you have kids, you know what he meant.)

“Pray for her,” was another friend’s response.

“Love her.”

“Tell her off.”

“Ignore her.”

I considered everyone’s advice (yes, even wasting her). And then God spoke: “Forgive her.” Profound, yet simple. But I didn’t want to. Now what?

Forgiving this person would be a test in endurance because the offenses occurred daily. But my commitment to grow in love toward God and others finally kicked in. I couldn’t love her if I couldn’t forgive her.

My decision to forgive, which was only the beginning, has taken me on a long, hard journey. I’m still on it, learning to walk in forgiveness, to embrace the pain. Learning to confront and to let go of offenses and judgments. God is there daily, cheering, affirming, and supporting me. I couldn’t make it one day without Him.

“I’m Willing.”

Jesus did not condemn Peter for asking if seven times was enough to forgive someone in a day. He simply laid out the consequences of what would happen when the eighth offense rolled around and Peter’s attitude didn’t allow for any more forgiveness.

God does not condemn you for your unforgiving heart. All He desires is that you sacrifice it for a broken and contrite one (Ps. 51:17) and that, like David, you pray, “Grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Ps. 51:12). All He asks is that you be willing to forgive.

When the father of the boy with the evil spirit came to Jesus to ask healing for his son, he said, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

Jesus picked up on the word if, which revealed the man’s heart. “‘If you can?'” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

The father did believe, but in a precious moment of honesty, he cried out, “Help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mk. 9:22–24).

Too often, when we see our unbelief, guilt overwhelms us and we deny the reality of our sin. We don’t seem to understand that to cry out, “Help me overcome my unbelief!” is to repent of our unforgiveness.

One thing that keeps me stuck in unbelief is fear that if I don’t punish my debtors, they won’t be punished. They’ll get off scot-free. My pain will have been in vain. That’s why I easily fall into a martyr’s role and, in my sinful heart, desire for God to “get” my debtors. But this is where trust comes in. I must trust that God is just; He will deal with my offender as He deals with me.

“Get ‘em, God!”

How long it takes us to move through the forgiveness process isn’t the issue. The important thing is that we keep moving and that we continue to stay open and willing to God’s softening of our hearts.

We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness. We have sinned against Him, against others, and against ourselves. We can be thankful no one is counting our sins, least of all, God. Instead He offers forgiveness. Can we do any less for our offenders?

Chuck Swindoll sums it up well. “The extent to which you can envision God’s forgiveness of you, to that same measure you will be given the capacity to forgive others.”

Envision forgiveness? How about our Lord hanging on a cross, bloody and beaten? Dying to forgive your sins and mine? Let’s hold that image clearly in our minds. Then we can pray, “God, forgive us our debts, but as for our debtors, get ‘em  . . . with Your love and forgiveness. Pour it on as you have with us.”

We Aren’t Made To Bear the WEIGHT Of Unforgiveness

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by the American Association of Christian Counselors

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” -Mark Twain

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” -Jesus Christ

In his book “Unconditional” Brian Zahnd asks this question, “So what is your story? Who has been cruel to you? Perhaps bitterly cruel. What injustice have you suffered? How have you been mistreated? Perhaps miserably so. Who has cheated you? Abused you? Lied to you? Lied about you? Maybe it was last week. Maybe it was a lifetime ago.” i

It is interesting to look at Jesus’ words in Mark 11 concerning interpersonal forgiveness, “And, whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive your trespasses.” (vs. 25 ESV) Christ is in effect saying that our vertical relationship with God is much more related to our horizontal relationships with those around us, than we would like to admit.

As our personal creator, Jesus understands how we are made. Not just spiritually, but physiologically as well. Our bodies simply are not fashioned to carry the burden and weight of unforgiveness. Psychiatrist Loren Olson recently noted that “those more inclined to pardon the transgressions of others have been found to have lower blood pressure, fewer depressive symptoms and, once they hit late middle age, better overall mental and physical health than those who do not forgive easily.” ii

Forgive easily? Is that even possible? We all have heard someone say (or maybe even said it ourselves), “I will forgive, but I will never forget!” Ev Worthington, whose elderly mother was brutally beaten, raped, and left alone to slowly bleed to death by an enraged burglar, gives personal insight into this. “Sometimes people have a hard time admitting that they aren’t forgiving a person who hurt them. They think that forgiving is a matter of saying certain words — ‘I forgive you’, but there is a heart by-pass. Being able to say the words is a step, but the Lord really wants our hearts touched.”

At the core, forgiveness is releasing a debt. Choosing not to harbor the hurt and anger anymore. Opening the door for healing — maybe even reconciliation.

Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s always necessary.

And it only takes one to forgive. When you get to the heart of the matter, our ability to forgive is rooted in the fact that we have been forgiven by Christ, in God. (2Corinthians 5:18-20)

All relationships demand the deep oil of forgiveness. When we forgive it breaks the poisonous cycle of revenge, and allows the broken to walk in peace. The Jesus way is always the way of forgiveness. We forgive to free ourselves and to get our lives back. His way is the way that gives the future hope… a hope that can turn your life around.

i Zahnd, B., (2010). Unconditional? The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness. Orlando, FL: Charisma House.

ii Olson, L. A., (2011, March/April). Forgiveness: You Life Depends Upon It. Family Therapy Magazine, 10(2), 28-31.

You Don’t Ask, I Don’t Forgive. Right? Wrong!!

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 217

If you are struggling with unforgiveness, take another look at the enormous debt for which God has forgiven you. Turning to the Bible and reminding yourself of God’s holiness will help you see more clearly the seriousness of even your smallest sin (see Isa. 6:1-5; James 2:10-11). Make a list of some of the sins for which God has forgiven you. In particular, ask yourself whether you have ever treated God or others the same way you have been treated by the person you are trying to forgive. Take a long look at this list and remind yourself what you deserve from God because of your sins. Then rejoice in the wonderful promise of Psalm 103:8-11: “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love….  He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.”

The more you understand and appreciate the wonders of God’s forgiveness, the more motivation you will have to forgive others.

Food for Thought

I remember having spent years refusing to forgive an individual who had wronged me. I had rationalized my refusal by telling myself that since he hadn’t asked, I wasn’t obligated to have an attitude of forgiveness. I had decided to wait for this person to ask me for forgiveness, and had planned how much he would have to suffer in my process of forgiveness. I doubt I’m alone in thinking this way. But then I was convicted. I was reminded that Jesus went to the cross to forgive my sins long before I ever acknowledged those sins and sought forgiveness. Who was I to withhold forgiveness, as much as it depends on me, in light of this realization?

I began to make a list of some of the sins for which God had forgiven me. I didn’t have to think back more than a few days to have a sizeable list. Looking at my list, I recognized immediately the enormous debt God had paid on my behalf, and that I was in no position to refuse that same forgiveness to anybody else.

Are you withholding forgiveness from somebody today?  Take a few minutes and write down some of the sins for which you’ve been forgiven. Then write down the sins this other person has perpetuated against you. How do the lists compare? Do you recognize the enormity of the mercy you have been shown? It is only when we first meditate on how much we have been forgiven that we can even begin to follow the exhortation to “forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13b).

Satan’s Favorite Lies: Five Ways The Enemy Deceives Believers

SOURCE:  Douglas Wendel/Discipleship Journal

During my years in the air force, the government spent a lot of money training us to understand and recognize the tactics of our enemies. Why? Because in warfare, you must know your adversary. What weapons does he have? How, when, and where will he use them? This information provides a critical edge in battle.

As Christians, we wage war against a spiritual enemy (2 Cor. 10:3–4, Eph. 6:12). Although Jesus defeated Satan on the cross, the devil still wreaks havoc in our lives, knowing that his time is short (Rev. 12:12). Peter described him as a “roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Satan loves to trip up our walks with God, tempting us to dishonor His name. How does he attempt to derail us? With his tricky lies.

Jesus said that when Satan lies, he speaks his native language (Jn. 8:44). Just as we all speak one language that comes naturally to us, so Satan is a natural liar. In fact, Jesus called him the “father of lies” (Jn. 8:44). If we hope to resist the enemy’s attacks, we must realize that Satan doesn’t fight fair. He is a master of the guerrilla warfare of deceit.

Here are five of Satan’s favorite lies and the truths of God’s Word that can empower us to stand firm when the enemy attacks.

Lie 1: “God is holding out on you.”

In Genesis 3, Eve stood at the crossroads of temptation and obedience. Satan had tempted her to eat the fruit God had forbidden, saying, “You will not surely die… For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (vv. 4–5). What was Satan saying to Eve? “God is holding out on you. He has something good He’s trying to keep from you!” Unfortunately Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan’s first lie.

Throughout most of my college years (I started college in my mid-20s), I struggled with being single. I knew God had my best interests in mind, as Jer. 29:11 describes: “For I know the plans I have for you …plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Yet at times my strong desire to marry tempted me to doubt God’s goodness, just as Eve had done. I wondered why His plans for me did not seem to include a good thing like marriage.

One lonely night I cried out to God over my inner struggle. Sitting among the dark, empty track bleachers of my university, I told Him about this temptation and then recommitted myself to doing His will—even if it meant staying single. A year later I found myself at the marriage altar, thanking God for the grace to believe in His goodness instead of Satan’s lie. I experienced His perfect timing in this area of my life as I trusted Him.

Sometimes our circumstances don’t seem to make any sense and fail to meet our expectations of life. In these moments, Satan tempts us to believe that God’s goodness obligates Him to gratify our desires immediately. But we must intentionally recall that God’s plans are always aimed at our best over the long term.

Lie 2: “Trust yourself.”

David wrote, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Ps. 20:7). Yet even the author of these words fell victim to another one of Satan’s lies: the lie of self-reliance. In 1 Chron. 21:1, Satan “incited David to take a census of Israel.” David responded to Satan’s suggestion by commanding Joab to count all the fighting men in Israel. Why did David give this order? He had begun to believe his security lay in the size of his army instead of the strength of the Lord. Satan tempted David to trust in numbers instead of God’s provision. Though he was a man after God’s heart, David failed to recognize Satan’s deception.

Because of David’s self-reliance, the whole nation of Israel suffered through a terrible plague. Likewise, when we rely solely on our own insight, it damages our walk with God and our relationships with others.

When I came on staff with The Navigators, I had to raise my salary by asking friends and relatives to give regularly to my ministry. But asking people for their financial support was not something I wanted to do. For months I resisted the idea of earning a living this way while I investigated other sources of income. My unwillingness to ask others for money kept me from moving forward in my calling.

Then one day God clearly spoke to me regarding my hesitance to trust Him. A college friend I had led to Christ years earlier was killed in a car accident. At his funeral, I realized the eternal impact God had allowed me to make in this man’s life. It was clear He was calling me to do the same in the lives of others. To pursue that mission, I needed to trust Him—not myself—to provide an income for my family.

That day I began to believe that God would meet our financial needs as He promised in Phil. 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Today, I wonder how well I would be fulfilling my calling if I had continued to believe Satan’s lie of self-reliance instead of depending upon God.

Lie 3: “You will never suffer as a Christian.”

Another one of Satan’s favorite lies tells us nothing difficult will ever happen to us as Christians. When we believe this lie, it sows seeds of self-pity into our hearts that bloom into bitterness when trials overwhelm us.

In Matthew 16, Jesus told His disciples He would suffer and die in Jerusalem. When Peter heard these words, he emphatically rebuked Him, “Never, Lord! …This shall never happen to you!” (v. 22). Jesus replied,

Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.—v. 23

Jesus recognized Satan’s seductive suggestion in Peter’s words because He knew God’s plan for His life included suffering.

Several years ago, my wife gave birth to our premature son, Jonathan. Our hearts ached for Jonathan as he fought for life in the weeks following his birth. After five long months, we brought him home from the hospital. Our house became an intensive care unit full of oxygen tanks, beeping monitors, and medication. We cared for him around the clock, enduring months of little sleep.

Yet even in our exhaustion, we never questioned God or quit. Why? Because we sincerely believed Paul’s promise in Ro. 8:28: “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Even in our difficult circumstances, we trusted God would accomplish His good purpose in our lives.

God doesn’t promise that suffering will never touch our lives. In fact, He says the opposite. In Jas. 1:2, we are told, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Notice James says “whenever,” not if we face trials. Difficult circumstances will sift all of our lives. But God allows these trials so that we may be “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (v. 4).

God uses trials to shape our character and conform it to His own. That process equips us to reach out with compassion to a lost and hurting world.

Lie 4: “Money is the key to happiness.”

Satan knows the powerful lure of riches. He promised earthly extravagance to Jesus in an attempt to turn Him from the Father (Mt. 4:8–9). Jesus replied, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (v. 10). Satan is well aware of how greed takes our focus off God. The Apostle Paul verified this when he wrote, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10).

Recently, we sold our home for a profit. Though I had intended to tithe from the additional income, moving to another state delayed my giving. Instead, I put the money in an interest-bearing account until we could buy a new house.

But temptation crept in, and I began to think about how I could make the money grow faster. Periodically I thought of making the tithe, but the idea would slip away with my lack of action.

Finally, God spoke to me one morning through Mal. 3:10.

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this …and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

Within a few days the Lord showed me how much and where to give. I released the tithe I should have given months earlier. The next week we got a phone call. Some Christian friends outside our city had suddenly decided to move and wanted to sell their house and small acreage to us if we were interested. They thought the property might be a great place for our ministry and family. We were amazed. God wanted to bless us in a greater way but did not do so until I gave back to His work. Listening to Satan’s lie of greed could have short-circuited God’s plan for blessing.

God may bless us with earthly riches. If He does, we need to hold them with an open hand before Him. But when we say yes to the enemy’s lie and no to God, Satan’s promises will certainly be accompanied by a load of heartache. A lifetime of mammon is not worth shipwrecking our faith on the reef of earthly riches (Mt. 6:24).

Lie 5: “You can never forgive them.”

Finally, Satan attempts to derail us with the lie that we can’t forgive those who’ve wounded us severely. A respected Christian leader recently said that with the exception of sexual immorality, he’s seen more men and women drop out of the Christian life because of unforgiveness than any other factor. In the early days of the church, Paul also understood how unforgiveness separated believers. In 2 Cor. 2:7, 11, he urged believers to “forgive and comfort [the offender] …in order that Satan might not outwit us.”

How does Satan outwit us through unforgiveness? Someone once said that bitterness is a poison you drink hoping the other person dies. Refusal to forgive invites bitterness into our hearts, poisoning everything in our lives. It eats away at our souls and robs us of the joy and satisfaction God gives through our relationships with Him and others.

Unforgiveness divides people. As long as forgiveness is withheld, a wall of separation exists between two parties. Satan uses festering grievances to kill fellowship among believers and to thwart the work of God.

Several years ago I lost my job. The pain and humiliation left me bitter toward my former supervisor. Whenever she came to mind in the months that followed, anger flared up within me. One day the Lord spoke to me through Eph. 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” As I meditated on how much Christ had forgiven me, I realized I needed to let go of my bitterness and forgive her. Although the healing process took several years, today I can think of her with peace and genuine concern for her welfare.

The road to forgiveness begins by remembering how much we have been forgiven ourselves. When we recognize our own unworthiness before the Lord, the sweet love of God can flow again from our hearts toward others. Forgiveness is the oil that keeps our souls from burning up in the friction of our relationships.

Truly, our battle is “not against flesh and blood, but against …the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). The Bible promises God will have the final victory over Satan and his demons. Until that time, may we resist Satan’s lies by standing firm on the truths in God’s Word.

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