Less than two weeks after being led to write and post the event of The Lesson of the Pain, God brought to fruition part of the revelation of the pastor’s prayer for me. Less than two weeks… Yet, more than seven years had passed between the revelation and the posting.
Seven years ago, in the prayer that I had received for healing, God had revealed two things: one, that I had a problem; and, two, that He is my Solution. (See The Lesson of the Pain and The Lesson of the Illumination.)
But following the prayer, I was certain of only one thing: I didn’t understand either event that had transpired. Somehow, though, I had the faith to accept what I had heard and seen, despite my lack of understanding. More importantly, I was left with a burning desire to know more about the events, and, in particular, about my God who was behind them. On that day, I began a conscious quest to know the Truth.
Following reliable testimonies, I ventured to places where I hoped to and did witness the Truth of God in ways that were beyond my previous experience. Like the proverbial fly on the wall, I sat in on teachings, prayers and worship, observing all that I could, yet participating little. Still, in the midst of my uncertain apprehension regarding a reality that superseded my senses, God began showing His Presence to me in new ways, giving me new personal experience with Him.
During those years, God changed my thinking, words and actions by the power of the Truth that is in His Word. God made Jesus my very personal Savior, Lord and Friend. This is what changed: Jesus became the overriding reality of my life.
Carrying me from Truth to Truth and from event to event, God delivered me to the point in time when He had fully prepared me to allow Him to deal with my need that the prayer had revealed. On the day when God deemed me ready, He proved Himself.
On that particular day, my husband and I were standing in the driveway at our son’s house. We had dropped off our grandsons and were about to leave, when I stopped my husband from getting in the car.
For some reason, not understood by me, I had found myself short tempered all evening, practically biting my tongue at times to keep from speaking with words and tones of voice that would not have been commendable. Something nasty was welling up inside me, but I didn’t know what or why.
Then, suddenly, in the driveway, I knew what I was feeling. Standing eye to eye with my husband, I blurted out the realization. “I finally feel something for my father. I hate him! I hate him! I hate him!” The words spewed out of my mouth with venomous conviction.
As great of a shock as the feeling and words were to me, the greater shock was still to come. Without missing a beat, my husband emphatically declared, “Oh, I’ve always known that. I saw it in your eyes the first time that you introduced me to him.”
I could barely believe my ears. For more than forty years, the bitterness that I had hidden from myself had been visible to someone who knew me. The resentment and anger, along with other negative emotions that accompany them, had always been present. Undoubtedly, they had affected my decisions and my life in incalculable ways, just as the pastor’s question regarding my father had suggested. God knew exactly what was in my heart, and He also knew exactly how to resolve the issue.
Getting in our car, my husband and I drove only a short distance before pulling into a gas station. When he got out of the car to pump gas, I was left alone. Sitting quietly, I softly murmured, “God, I’m sorry that hatred has lived in me for so long. I really don’t want it. I rebuke it in the name of Jesus, and I give it to you. Please, get rid of it, Jesus.”
The words were barely out of my mouth when the tangible Presence of God filled me, the car or both. I don’t know which. I only know that He was suddenly there in a way that could not be mistaken. The air was thick with His Presence, and in that moment peace filled me.
The amazement of the experience was compounded by the realization that the hatred that I had felt just moments earlier was completely gone! The realization was so unbelievable that I tested it, actually trying hard to stir up the negative emotions that simply were no longer present.
Feeling a bit like the man born blind, who was unable to explain how Jesus had restored his sight (See John 9:25), I cannot explain how God freed me from the oppression of hatred and its relatives, uprooting them from me. I only know, gratefully, that He did.
Previously, I had spoken words of forgiveness numerous times regarding my father. But apparently more was needed. I had to trust God, recognizing and letting go of my equally wrong reaction to my father’s wrong actions. We had both sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. In God’s eyes, sin is sin, and we all need continual forgiveness… not in degrees, but in totality.
Forgiveness is a gift given to ourselves when we release others from the debts that we believe that they owe us. Often, the “unforgiveness” to which we sometimes cling in judgment of others is over debts that are impossible for them to pay. (See Matthew 18:23-35) Unable to go back in time and change the outcome of the events that they caused, we tie ourselves to a desired revenge that, no matter what occurs, never satisfies us. Mentally, we brand our offenders with a scarlet “W” for “wrong,” wanting the world to know what they have done to us. But the “unforgiveness” that we harbor eats away at us, not at the ones for whom we hold self-righteous anger.
True Righteousness of God includes righteous justice: a justice of mercy and grace, a supernatural forgiveness that is given to all men, covering all sin. God condemns Sin (the wedge separating man from God), not men (the prey of Sin).
Our self-righteousness, set apart from God, is never right. Singling out individuals (ourselves included) in condemnation of particular wrongs, we erect walls that destroy relationships by closing off hearts. Such walls are not of God. Constructed under the guise of self-protection, they do more harm than good. Inadvertently, they wall pain in, giving it a permanent foothold.
Only this morning did I realize that the walls of the fortified cities in the Old Testament, built for self-protection, were actually perfect weapons of death. While a city’s enemy might find it difficult or impossible to conquer a city by going over or through the walls, all that was needed for assured victory were sufficient men to surround the city, laying siege to it. This made it virtually impossible for life-giving supplies to reach the people inside. If a city’s enemy were willing to allot sufficient time to waiting, the city could be theirs with minimal battle engagement.
Entrapped by the very wall that their hands had built, the city’s inhabitants had only two options. One was to sit tight, praying for miraculous deliverance. Even while in prayer, though, awareness of slow but certain death from thirst and starvation led to infighting. Lies, deception, thievery, hoarding and even cannibalism all became acceptable concessions to a hoped for end—all to the glory of self-preservation. (See Deuteronomy 28:49-57)
The other option, outright surrender to the enemy, was equally detrimental. Confronted by an enemy also driven by selfish motives, mercy was in just as short supply outside the city walls as it was within. Typically, surrender meant assured death amid plunder and mutilation. At best, a lifetime of slavery, often in the enemy’s homeland, was to be expected. Without God’s intervention, loss of freedom and life were certain.
Ironically, though, the removal of God’s protection due to the people’s failure to heed His warnings usually stood behind a siege. The people inside the city were their own worst enemy, having created their own death trap. (Deuteronomy 28:45-48)
Similarly, we create heart sieges by refusing to forgive others as God has forgiven us. The walls that we construct between others and ourselves stand as barriers of pride between God and us. They restrict our hearts from the good things of God that are needed to flourish. Consequently, our starving hearts harden even more to God’s ways, further inclining our thoughts and actions toward greater evil.
Only in giving up prideful self-righteousness in agreement with and in obedience to God are we miraculously delivered into freedom from evil, both within and without. (See Psalm 31) God alone is our Provision: the life for which we pray. Saying that He will be Jerusalem’s “wall of fire around it” and “its glory within” (Zechariah 2:5), God wants to be such for each and every person.
When God arranged for Barabbas to be released from the death for which his acts of murderous insurrection warranted him (Mark 15:7), Barabbas had little, if any, idea of the identity of the One who took his place upon the cross (Mark 15:14). But we do. And, like Barabbas, Jesus has enabled each of us to walk away from our earned punishment and into His freedom, also thereby empowering us to forego crucifying others, as does He.
If Jesus, who is always Right, never laid aside His Rightness, but utilized it for the welfare of others, aren’t we required to follow suit, demonstrating our faith in His Rightness? And shouldn’t we then follow Jesus from the Cross to the Empty Tomb to not only stop crucifying others, but also to be used by God to deliver healing and restoration to everyone, especially to those who have hurt us and are in great need themselves?
Every time that we do so (purely by the grace of God), we walk into greater freedom (also purely by the grace of God). By giving in to God’s ways, we receive more of the life of meaningful and lasting value for which we were made… always by God’s merciful grace.
God, who is Grace, is always for giving, proving so in the giving of His Son for the forgiveness of all. No one is excluded. No one… We each have been given equal opportunity to live forgiven and forgiving.
Consider this: Of the 129 times that variations of the word “forgive” occur in the NIV Bible, the prefix “un” and the word “not” are used in conjunction with them only one (See 2 Timothy 3:3) and seven times, respectively. God is all for forgiveness.
And here is more good news: Not only is the word “unforgiveness” not in the Bible, it isn’t even in the dictionary. It doesn’t exist. While to be unforgiving is possible, to “unforgive” someone is not.
When we give up our “unforgiveness” to God, we literally lose nothing but a mass of deception—one rooted in nothing more than a lot of hot air.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31, 32)