Friday, August 14, 2009

Faith Zone Challenge #3: The Art of Forgiveness

I feel pretty sure that many of you were hoping that we could attack this faith zone challenge without actually talking about that ugly word -"forgive".

I learned about nine years ago that forgiveness is a two-step process. I realized that before I could have a heart that was equipped to forgive others, I had to have a heart that accepted forgiveness from God for my own sins.

For many years, I knew that God loved me because the Bible told me so, but I really didnt accept that He would forgive me for my sins, much less forget about them. Why would He?

I had created this visual picture in my mind of what God probably looked like when I prayed or asked for forgiveness for the same past sin over and over, or new sins... again.

I envisioned Him sitting on His throne, looking down on me, with a solemn look on His holy face, head resting in His hands, and a heavy sigh leaving His almighty chest, as He uttered the words, "Tisk, tisk. Poor child, she just cant get her act together. What is wrong with her? How many times do I need to forgive her? Geeesh."

But one day, something was different. Like the light bulb suddenly clicked on. My vision changed to seeing a God who was disgusted with me, to seeing a God who was smiling at me, with a tender heart, a gentle face, and a forgiving attitude.

As I listened to the speakers testimony at a womens event, it sounded remarkably similar to my own. I learned how she had spent years in the bondage of guilt, but found amazing freedom in the sufficient grace and mercy of Lord Jesus. That day, I found that same freedom.

For the first time ever, I accepted with my entire being that God truly did forgive me once and for all, and there was no need for me to continue to plea for His forgiveness for the same sins over and over. I finally understood what the verse meant in Psalm 130:3, when it read "If you, O Lord, kept a record of my sins, O Lord, who could stand?" God had forgiven and forgotten my sins, and I was cleansed. I fully grasped and understood that I no longer needed to live in captivity of the devil, who had spent years filling my head with lies. I was free. Truly free.

And my heart was changed forever.

Since that time, my faith has grown by leaps and bounds, but nonetheless, granting others that same mercy that I received from God is not near as easy! Receiving forgiveness is one thing, but giving it is a whole other ballgame. A game I had to learn how to play, and am still continually working at getting good at.

To give you an example, a couple years ago, I was faced with some very difficult circumstances, which involved some very difficult people. Sandpaper people you might call them - except this was the toughest sandpaper I had ever come in contact with! A small handful of these people stepped all over my feelings, treated me rudely, went out of their way to be mean, and even made me cry at times. After a while, I just got fuming mad!

I was fed up with being treated ugly, and fed up with their mean attitudes. I was tired of feeling like a punching bag. As the months drug slowly by, I became more and more upset, angry and resentful by the minute. For months those feelings grew and grew, and although I never acted out in revenge in any way, I must admit that I did entertain some ungodly thoughts.

But one day, I finally admitted the cold hard truth that I was simply making myself miserable by obsessing over how these people had treated me and being mad about it. It was getting to where I dreaded getting up in the morning, because I would think about the problem, talk about the problem, worry about the problem, hurt about the problem, and literally obsess about the problem!

I broke down and got on my knees, and asked God to forgive me for carrying this burden and for harboring this unforgiveness towards these people. I realized that the unforgiveness was like poison to my heart. I was ingesting this poison every day, but then expecting the other person(s) to suffer.

But guess what?! They were still going about their normal lives without a care in the world, as I was drowning in my all consuming emotions! I became addicted to wishing they would change, hoping that they would realize the error of their ways and ask for my forgiveness, desiring that we could be friends, or that maybe someone would give them the same treatment as they had given me, so they would know how they made me feel (see what I mean? Not a very Godly thought.)

Honestly, I was just plum tired of feeling down and discouraged - so after months of bondage to this anger and hurt, I simply chose to forgive. It wasnt easy, but I knew it was necessary. Not because they deserved it; not because I wanted to; not because I liked it! But because God commanded it.

I threw away that poison, and boy did I feel better! The problem was still there, but the poison was not. As I look back, I can see how God used that situation to bring me closer to Him, but in the midst of the crisis, it was still difficult.

One of those important lessons that I learned from that experience was the fact that I could not change other people, no matter how badly I wanted to. I could not change their actions and behaviors. I could not change their hearts......but I could most certainly change mine. I wanted my heart to be one full of God, not one full of anger. I wanted my love for the Lord to grow in my heart, not weeds of bitterness that would eventually wrap its way around my entire life.

Forgiveness is like art - it takes practice, it takes perfecting, it takes patience. I guess you could say these are the three Ps to forgiveness.

Now I want you to take a moment to think - do you need to put the three Ps into action in your life? Has someone wronged you? Has someone hurt you? Abused you in some way? Neglected you? Lied to you? Manipulated you? Been unfaithful to you? Stole from you? Harmed you? Wounded you?

Friend - forgive them. They probably do not deserve it, wont appreciate it and may not even realize it. But do it anyway - for YOU.

What does God do when we commit wrongs against Him? He forgives, and even forgets. Granted, we may never forget, but we can still forgive, through His strength. It is hard - but all things are possible with our God.

Max Lucado put it this way: "Quit focusing on what someone did TO you, and start focusing on what God did FOR you."

You can do it. Throw out that poison today.
________________________________________________________________
Challenge #3: The challenge for today is two-fold:

1. Forgive yourself. Let go of the shame, guilt and regrets that may have held you hostage for years. If you have repented, God has already forgiven you. God has already forgotten that sin and loves you for your repentance. Please do not allow any past sin, big or small, to keep you from realizing your incredible value to God. He loves you, and is ready and willing to extend His grace and mercy to you, if you are willing to accept it. Today could be the first day of total freedom. Embrace it.

2. Forgive that person whom you have been holding a grudge against for days, weeks, months, maybe years. Bask in the freedom that you will gain from being obedient to God in this way. Your rewards will be great.

Psalm 103:2-4
Praise the LORD, O my soul,and forget not all his benefits-who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

Prayer for Today: Jesus, I ask for your forgiveness, plead for you to cleanse me, and wash in the blood in the lamb. Help me to never pick up that sin again, and to be free from any shame that the devil tries to heap upon me.

Lord, You know my heart, and you must know that there is nothing in me that wants to forgive this person who has hurt me. There is nothing in me that wants to pray for this person. But Lord, I know it is your will. I am tired, exhausted actually, of being weighted down by carrying this bitterness in my heart. I am afraid that this bitterness towards them will seep out into other areas of my life, and I am seeking your forgiveness for my refusal to forgive. I accept that you are the healer of hearts, and that you truly have forgiven me for all my sins. In the same way, please give me the strength and courage and supernatural ability if needed, to forgive the person(s) who have wounded me. I pray that they will one day see how they have hurt me, and maybe even apologize, but if I never receive that apology, I will still love you Lord, and trust in all your ways. I want to sleep peacefully tonight knowing that my heart is free from poison.

In Jesus name, Amen.

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13 comments:

Tracey said...

Tracie, I feel like God is speaking to me through your challenges. I have been going through some deep molding by God lately. Like the song from by Sanctus Real says, "Whatever you're doing inside of me it feels like chaos but I believe You're up to something bigger than me larger than life something heavenly." Thank you again for obeying God and living your life in a way that touches others. I definately need to work on some things.

Tammy said...

Tracie,
Several years ago I went through a really dark period of hurt and anger not only at the people that had hurt me, but at God for not letting me have my way. In response He took me out of my town, away from my family working in Dallas seeing patients in a large radius around Dallas. During that time God healed my heart, I was able to let go of my anger at Him and others. I look back at that time with a thankful heart now.

Pam Swope said...

Whoa! This challenge has been hitting the nail on the head every day so far. Today really opened my eyes. I have pleaded with God to help me forgive: my ex husband, an ex employer, an ex friend. The hurts I experienced from these people were life altering, excruciatingly painful. I have yet to let go of that pain! It's like I want to hold on to it for some weird reason. But now I know I don't have to. Why should I relive these hurts over and over when I can let them go? Also, the sins that I committed as a result of these hurts were horrible! I continued to beat myself down because I didn't feel worthy to let go of pain. I thought all those hurts were my fault. So now I see that I have to practice forgiveness...every day! Thank you so much for letting God use you to heal and grow others. Blessings!

The Seeking Mom said...

Yesterday my comment was about forgiveness, and I said I needed more help...I had no idea your entire post today would be on forgiveness! Thank you for writing about it and sharing your struggle, so similar to my own. Right now I'm dealing with two very difficult situations where the enemies really do go out of their way to be nasty to me. The reason I'm being attacked is I confronted their controlling nature, and of course this is also spiritual warfare. I could write and write, but this is the most important thing I can share: when I told God I was ready to give up, he said that by suffering in his name, I can show them who Christ really is. When he put it to me like that, I thought about Jesus forgiving the Roman soldiers even as he was being crucified--and Jesus had truly done nothing wrong but accepted the chance to minister, and he put himself last. So I cannot refuse this opportunity he's given me to evangelize. I'm realizing that I won't really show them Christ if I harbor unforgiveness, because that's certainly not his example. So, there's a lot of work God needs to do in me, and thank you for the practical tips you gave today to help me get started.

Connie said...

I, too, want to be free from the bitterness that I have held against two significant people in my life. I have been praying about how to release these angry feelings...thank you for today's challenge...the Lord knows what I need.

tam said...

Wow....I've been following along this week...and wanted to let you know that this has been a blessing to my heart. Almost "spooky" how it's JUST WHAT MY HEART needs. ;o) Just what my family needs. Thank you for your "W.O.W." (Words of Wisdom)
tmom21998@aol.com

Angie said...

Challenge....to confront; to arouse or stimulate especially by presenting with difficulties.

This is what I found as the definiton of challenge. Boy can I relate!

A few months back I realized a past sin was causing self condemnation in my life. I had asked for forgivness time and time again. It was then that I learned I needed to forgive myself because that sin was already forgiven.

God has recently been dealing with another issue. Resentment toward someone else. This resentment has been something that I have carried for many years. It has robbed me of joy in numerous areas of my life. It has caused bitterness and seperation. I have always looked at it as something that happened, I can't change what happened, and I would forever more just live with it.

Sometimes it takes those light bulb moments for me. God has been dealing with my heart about this grudge because it is a sin. A sin that needs forgivness and a burden that needs lifted.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tracie,
Wow!!! Was my response this morning at 5:45 AM. and than now I read Tam's abbrivation of wow(words of wisdom). Which they really are.
Have to admit after that WOW!!! I had to go for a walk and talk with God, before responding back. Been having a lot of thoughts too much too consume in for me all at once. Need to take this slow.

This is something I have been working on for sometime this year...been feeling more at peace since I've made this decision of letting a friendship go...A friendship which now I see has had me in a bondage. One where I wasn't going to chage her and Me I was trying to get her to feel the same mercy that I received from God as you put it. I feel such peace with him and wish everyone could feel this peace...and experience that true freedom. I know exactly what you mean by feeling his mercy. This friendship which I had has taught me much...and I am very thankful for it. It is because of this friendship I found the most true friend someone can have. I found and experienced God.

After one of the quarrels ...which yes I was really fueling inside was and yes this too is something I hate too admit was finding revenge. The only thing I could do was seek his wisdom...I sought God's word I needed his peace... his wisdom in what I should do....The advice that evening which (I believe)and no kidding the words that pop up for me he turned the page to was from:

Romans chapter 15,"Patience and Self-Denial. 1 We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves; let each of us please our neighbor for the good, for building up. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, 'The insults of those who insult you fall upon me. For whatever was writen previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope......

His word tells us so much...I just wish everyone could read it and I wonder what this world could be like. His scripture...his word he tells us so much to seek. I was so
intreged by this chapter that my eyes wandered to this here part next:

Romans 12:18,"If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Rather, "if you enemy is hungry, feed him.......

The friendship which I've been choosing to let go. I think I also must be forgiving her...I have to say the poision in my heart is bleeding out slowly.

You open my eyes to a broader view of how I felt which i did not know how to express ...... (Your words now): to the most important lesson I learned from this relationship. you put it best...the fact that I could not change other people, no matter how badly I wanted to. I could not change their actions and behaviors. I could not chage their hearts....but I could most certainly change mine. i wanted my heart to be one full of God, not one full of anger. I wanted my love for the Lord to grow in my heart, not weeds of bitterness, that would eventually wrap its way around my entire life.

Tracie...Thanks so much...God uses us all just wish there were more like you.

I've written down the quote from Max Lucado ..."Quit focusing on what someone did TO you, and start focusing on what God did FOR you."

Keep seeking his word gals...He pulls us through so so much.

A truly God Bless to All!!

Rhonda

Mary said...

Tracie,

Thank you for today's challenge.

Mary

~Issy said...

I stumbled across your blog from the Proverbs 31 email. I'm so glad that i did....many years ago i was married to a not-so-nice man. I had drifted away from my church after marrying him, and truth be told, i drifted away from God, too. One night, after an especially horrible fight that i came out on the worst end of, i remember running out of the house to hide. For the first time in many years, i began to pray. Prayed that he wouldn't follow me, prayed that God would help me as i wasn't strong enough to help myself. My neighbor found me, took me inside of his home where his wife and he prayed over me as they cleaned me up.

My husband at that time, left me for another woman. It was the answer to my prayers that night.

As i struggled on my own, i continued to pray, and learned to pray for strength. But i also became angry at my ex-husband. It was an anger i didn't know what to do with...and although the anger has faded, nine years later, it is still with me.

I am re-married now to a wonderful, amazing man with a beautiful two year old daughter. We attend a church together as a family and i can feel the hand of God in my life. But this lingering anger? It must go. And i guess the first step is to forgive my ex-husband and just release that part of my life. For if not for that part of my life, i would not be here now. I wonder how many times i'll have to forgive him before i feel it in my heart?

Thank you for this post...and i'll be back to read more.

Beth said...

Thank you for your post about forgiveness. Isn't it ironic that even after we ask for forgiveness, we can't forgive ourselves?

LeeAnn said...

Well Tracie, God is up to something big in changing me! So far, in the 5 day challenge, I was expecting non-stressful and good feelings to be the high point of what God brought around me. I can't go into detail here, it would take too long, but I have instead learned something deeper because of this challenge about myself and it has opened a big door in my mind and heart. I was expecting to slide through these last few days, but God is so good to have shown me some hidden areas in my heart that I've held these for years and didn't even know it! Things that have held me back, I'm sure from He being able to use me to His fullest purposes for me. I'm being stretched and it is great!!! His word has been showing up all over the place for me through your site, through the Bible, through books I am reading and they all seem to point to the same thing!

Thank you Tracie!

LeeAnn

Danielle said...

God has worked on me through the years with different situations with the issue of forgiveness... non so trying as that with my dad. But God brought forgiveness AND healing.

Now, now it's an issue of myself. He's taking things from my past, things from now and cleaning me out... Seriously! He's taking all that I've held onto from my own sin and showing me how to throw it as far as the east is from the west. He is so good!

Thank you for your willingness to share your life with us and these Challenges!