Christian Living


Overcoming the Effects of Abuse Starts Here

I first met Barbara when she came to church on a Sunday morning. I had only recently taken over as pastor in the wake of the untimely death of my husband who had previously lead the church. I was rather new in this leadership role, but I knew a hurting soul when I saw one.

 Barbara’s shoulders were hunched over and she didn’t make eye contact with anyone as she got up to exit the church. She looked as if she would cry at any moment.

 I extended my hand as I greeted her. “Thank you,” she murmured with eyes focused on her feet. I wanted to speak with her longer, to offer some element of comfort, but she turned toward the parking lot and slipped quietly away.

It was about her third Sunday, when I finally managed to catch her for a quick conversation. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

She started to shake her head, but somehow mustered up the courage to look at me. “Could I meet with you sometime?” she asked.

I could tell it was a brave step for her. “Of course!” I agreed, and we set up a time to meet.

On the day of our meeting, Barbara took a seat in my office and dry-eyed and matter-of-factly she spelled out a horrifying childhood. From the time she was two or three years old, she had been abused both physically and emotionally by several men in her family. As a result, her adult life was a mess. Her three children had three different fathers, and none of the men had stayed with her. Now she was struggled not only to raise her three children on her own, but to form any kind of relationship with anyone, even friends and coworkers.

If you heard her whole story, you would understand why. She had no kind of normalcy in her past and no understanding or tools with which to engage with people in a healthy way. It affected every area of her life. My heart broke for her.

After meeting with her several times, I was at home pouring out my heart to the Lord as I prayed for her one night. “Father, this is so unfair! It’s not Barbara’s fault that she was born into an abusive family, yet her life is a mess because of what those horrible people did to her. How can I help her? It can’t be hopeless. Is there an answer for her?”

 “Yes, there’s an answer for her,” the Lord replied.

“I knew it! What’s the answer for this precious woman?”

I was totally surprised by his answer as He said, “Forgiveness.”

It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. “No way! Are you sure, Lord? It doesn’t seem like forgiveness will help her get over everything that’s happened to her.”

And right then, the Lord told me something that I’ve never forgotten. He said, “Forgiveness is how my relationship started with you.”

Forgiveness is the Key to a Fresh Start

I realized at that moment, that there was way more to forgiveness than I had thought. What about you? If our relationship with the Lord started with that important act, what does it mean for every other relationship in our lives and our spiritual, mental, physical and emotional well-being? It means a lot.

Every one of us started our relationship with God through forgiveness. Colossians 2:13 says, “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions(NASB).

Think about it. God made us alive together with him by forgiving us! You could say that forgiveness is God’s way of making a fresh start, his way of executing do-overs. After all, it’s how he started you and me over again. He made us new creatures in Christ, where old things passed away and all things became new (2 Cor. 5:17). He transformed us into brand new, born-again, righteous beings by forgiving us. Most of us can’t forgive on our own, we need supernatural help! And God’s Word is where we get it.

As Barbara and I embarked on a journey to study about forgiveness, we dove into the Word. We discovered that God has a lot to say about this issue. It’s his “go-to” reaction with human beings, because His very nature is forgiveness!

As Barbara and I studied, we found that God’s way of dealing with mankind is forgiveness. In Isaiah 43:25, he says, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and will not remember your sins.” So what does this mean?

  1. God never has unforgiveness in his relationship with us. Never.
  2. We have the capacity to forgive. The good news is that as born-again Christians, we have God’s very nature inside of us. So we’ve not only been forgiven, but we also totally have the capacity to forgive. We just need supernatural help to do it!
  3. We have that supernatural help!

    As we soak our spirits in the truth of God’s Word on forgiveness, it gives us the strength we need to choose to do things God’s way.

Forgiveness is a Choice

Even though we have supernatural help, God always leaves it up to us whether or not we make that choice to forgive. God has created us with a will of our own, and He allows us to choose as we will. In the book of Deuteronomy He says, “I call heaven and earth to witnesses against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). He does give us a clue in this verse when he says, “Choose life!” But still it’s always our choice.

Later, we see Joshua exercising his own right to choose when he said, “Choose today whom you will serve…yet as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

God won’t ever make us forgive. No one can make us; it has to be our choice. The good news is that He’s standing by ready to help us do it. He just wants us to want to forgive. When we take it to Him and ask for His help, He’s right there with His supernatural help to put us over.

Forgiveness Brings Release

Forgiveness is how God deals with mankind. He is not a grudge-holder. He is a forgiving Father. Since we are his children, we should (and can!) also be a forgiver. It’s for our ultimate benefit. When God forgave us, it released us from the sin of our past. When we forgive others it releases us from the stronghold of that unhealthy soul-tie.

Harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die; it’s not hurting the one we’re holding a grudge against, it’s hurting us. When we forgive it releases us from the tie to that other person which remains as long as we are tied to them in unforgiveness.

Unforgiveness goes against God’s principles. We need to come to the realization that if we don’t choose to deal with people in the same manner God does (by forgiving), then we are disobeying His admonition to forgive. That then puts outside of His realm of blessing. When we refuse to offer forgiveness, we are then bound to unforgiveness in our lives. We can’t go against His nature by harboring unforgiveness and expect His blessings to flow to us.

Don’t Clog the Blessing Pipe

I like to say it this way: If we harbor unforgiveness, we’re “clogging the blessing pipe.” All of God’s blessings belong to and are always flowing to us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3), and He always loves us (Jeremiah 31:3). But when we disobey His command to forgive, that clogs the pipe. In essence, it puts up a wall that stands between us and all of His blessings. That wall is unforgiveness. Unforgiveness puts us outside of His promises.

On the other hand, when we do choose to forgive, we’re right there in his bailiwick. I know bailiwick is a funny word, but Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it as a special domain” or “a jurisdiction.” When we choose forgiveness, we’re right there with God in His domain. We’re in his jurisdiction, which means all that He is and all that He’s promised is available to us. You could say He lives in “forgiveness land” where forgiveness is the way of life.

But if we choose to hold a grudge or keep unforgiveness, then we’re outside of his jurisdiction, out of the reach of His blessings and protection. I don’t want to be there, do you?  

Once Barbara was able to forgive her abusers, it removed the wall that continued to tie her to the abusers and allowed her to live in God’s domain and receive His blessings. It released her from the past and allowed her to begin to heal and receive His promises.

I believe that’s the place we all desire to live. But to do so, we must understand that one of the requirements for living there is that we must also forgive, as He does. Ephesians 4:32 says it this way: “And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.”

No matter what type of abuse or injustice you have experienced in your life, His blessings are available to you now as you choose to forgive. Forgiveness isn’t always easy, but remember there is supernatural help available when we choose to ask for it. Personally, I’ve decided (and I hope you do, too) that I don’t want to live in “grudge-holding land” because God’s not there! I want to choose forgiveness, walk free from ties to the past, and keep my blessing pipe clear.

*all scriptures are taken from MEV unless otherwise noted.

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