Yesterday I spoke with you about offenses and forgiveness. The New Testament word for an offense is actually the part of an animal trap upon which a piece of raw meat was placed. When an animal reached for the meat the trap was sprung and they were captured. It is very interesting that the word for an offense basically means to “take the bait.” This is also why it is called “picking up” an offense.
Regarding forgiveness, in yesterday's post (Don’t Take the Bait), we mentioned that the word means “to release.” In Luke 6:37 Jesus said, “Release, and you will be released.” When we release the person who has offended or wounded us, we can then be released from the bruises and pain they caused us. We also said yesterday that forgiveness is a choice - a decision - not a feeling.
When I was 17 years old, my family went through a very difficult time. The Board of Directors of the church my father was pastoring fired him and kicked us out of the home where we were living. The house had been given to us, but put in the church’s name. We were left homeless and penniless. Shortly thereafter, my father divorced my mother and married another woman. Mom was devastated - her circumstances had gone from bad to catastrophic. I remember holding her in my arms as she wept, saying she did not want to go on living.
I did not know how to process all of the pain I was experiencing. I didn’t want to blame God or my father, so I blamed all of this on the chairman of that church board. I focused all of my anger upon him, an anger that soon became a bitter hatred. I said on several occasions that I could not kill this man, but I would rejoice if someone else did.
I also became bitter at the church, in general. I associated my pain and my family’s disintegration with religion and swore I would never darken the door of another church. I became very rebellious and turned to drugs and alcohol.
God was incredibly patient. He protected me and for two years waited patiently for me to come to a point where I could respond to Him again. I returned to Him and have enjoyed a wonderful walk with God since that time.
Around six months into my renewed walk with the Lord, He began dealing with me about my hatred for the man I had blamed for all of our problems. I heard Holy Spirit very clearly telling me I would have to forgive him. I did not angrily resist the Lord, but I did not believe I could ever truly do so. What I had against this man was so deep in me I had no confidence whatsoever that I would be able to forgive him, and I told the Lord this. It’s comical sometimes when we act as though the Lord doesn’t know what we’re thinking.
Holy Spirit was very gentle with me. He was not pushing, His promptings always came as a gentle nudge deep in my heart. He was, however, insistent and persistent. “You will have to do this if you want My best for you and to truly be free from all of the pain this caused you,” He said. When my heart softened to the point that I was willing, Holy Spirit began teaching me how to do it. Some of what He taught me I shared in yesterday's post.
He revealed to me that I could have feelings of anger, hurt, etc., toward this man in my mind and emotions, but still choose to forgive from my heart allowing that to overrule my emotions. “You don’t like to get up early some days and go to work but you do it anyway because it’s right, and it’s your responsibility,” he said. “You don’t like certain aspects of exercise but you do it anyway because you know you need to,” He said again. Then came the winning blow, “Jesus did not want to go to the Cross, but He did so anyway, for the joy He knew it would produce later,” (Hebrews 12:2). “Choose to do this because it’s right, even though you don’t want to and you don’t feel like it. If you will make this choice and maintain the decision daily, I will release you from all the pain, resentment, and hatred. Your responsibility is to let go; it’s my responsibility to heal your emotions and release you from every effect of this. Choose life!”
Somehow this clicked in my thinking. I realized I didn’t have to have any positive feelings about this man, whatsoever. I simply needed to release him to God and trust Him to deal with what had happened. I did so daily, saying something along these lines (it’s important to say it), “I choose to release David (not his real name) from all he did to hurt my family.” Every time he came to mind and unpleasant feelings began rising up inside of me, I would say it again, “I choose to release David from all he did to hurt my family.” Some days I had to do this multiple times. After a couple of weeks, he was rarely coming to my mind, and when he did, I felt less and less emotion. But I would say it again. A week or two after that, I thought of him and I realized I felt no pain or anger, whatsoever. I was shocked. I knew God had released me from all the effects of what had occurred two years earlier.
However, Holy Spirit wanted to show me that I was truly healed. One night my mom and I were returning home from a Sunday night service, and stopped at a local restaurant to grab a bite to eat. There were no tables available and we were waiting for one, when I noticed this particular man and his wife seated across the room. He noticed us at the same time. I also noticed that he and his wife were seated at a table for four people, and two of the chairs were empty. He jumped to his feet and headed in our direction. Well, I thought to myself, I’m about to find out if this is real. He wanted to do more than just say hello. “Would the two of you like to join us at our table,” he asked.
“Sure,” said my mother, “that’s very kind of you.”
I kept waiting for that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that I used to feel when I thought of him. I waited for at least a mix of negative emotions. But there were none. I realized I was not having to feign being nice to him while burying my anger and hatred. It was very easy - actually, it felt normal - to treat him with kindness. And I felt no pain whatsoever. All I could do was thank the Lord for delivering me from my chains of bitterness. This man did not become my friend, but he was no longer my enemy.
Friends, no matter what your situation is, who hurt you, or how long ago it occurred, He can do this for you. Let’s pray.
Pray with me:
Father, it is impossible to go through life and not have numerous opportunities to forgive. You said offenses will come. You did not tell us to forgive only if we felt like doing so; You said we must do it. You never ask us to do anything You will not enable us to do. So we choose this day to honor Your word and obey it from our hearts, our spirits, regardless of how our emotions feel. As we do what You say, our emotions and feelings must come into alignment with the Word-based decision we make. They must…and they will. As we release, we will be released.
And now, Father, we ask for a release of tremendous grace to everyone praying this prayer with us now. Give them grace to forgive and release. Let a process of healing begin now for people who have been abandoned, abused, rejected, betrayed, and harmed in any way. Cause the revelation that forgiveness is a choice we can all make to become strong in them. May today mark a new beginning for all who need one, and all of the negative results of what they have suffered be reversed. Let this begin today.
Heal bodies through this. Mend hurting hearts and minds. Tear down the walls we’ve built to protect our emotions. Cause victims to be victimized no longer. Let the abused go free. Release captives, mend broken hearts, and restore hope. We ask that this truly be a new beginning. And we ask it all in the name of the great healer, Jesus. Amen.
We declare that we will walk in forgiveness to all.
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