One of the most exhilarating Scriptures that causes my mind and heart to soar beyond the cosmos is Galatians 5:1.
“It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do no let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
What a precious gift our Christ-won freedom from sins bondage is! For many years, resentment and bitterness weighed deeply in my mind and heart. What I am about to share with you is a personal story. It is a story that impacted my spiritual growth as I was freed to live for, love and serve God (and those He puts on my path) with a glad heart. It is a difficult story to tell because of the oddness of it, but I assure you that it is absolutely true. I share it in the hope that it will encourage to you (or someone you know) to trust God to accomplish what seems impossible: To be free from the hurts and regrets that weigh heavy on the soul. The formula is simple: Forgiveness + God’s Gracious Hand = Freedom to Love
The Call: It was late one evening, my husband was away on a trip and our little girls were asleep. I was sitting in bed reading my Bible. I cannot tell you what I was reading, except to say that it did not have anything to so with what was about to occur. As I read I heard a voice say, “Kathie, you must forgive.” Startled, I looked around our bedroom but realized the voice was not really audible–I heard it in my head. Assuming it was God speaking to me, my mind started to race, “Forgive what? Forgive who?” The room remained quiet, but as I thought about it I realized that I blamed my mom for many of my inadequacies. The voice spoke again, “Kathie you must forgive, otherwise you will remain an emotional cripple.” I sat there thinking about my options, “Emotional cripple or forgive my mom . . . emotional cripple . . . forgive my mom . . . emotional cripple . . . .” I recognized that forgiving my mom was the only viable option so I thought, “Okay, I forgive my mom,” and promptly fell asleep.
Forgiveness applied? The saying that “old habits die hard” is all too true. When I said I forgave my mom I meant it. But it was not long before I recognized the old anger and frustration overtake me when I interacted with her. I went into a tailspin . . . devastated by the thought that, “I lied to God!” I struggled with depression for many months. It was awful.
I continued to struggle with my failure to forgive until one day reading in I Samuel 13:14 where King Saul, the first king of Israel, was replaced by David, “a man after God’s own heart.” I remember wondering why this was so, when David was by no means a perfect man. Curious, I began to read the Psalms because so many of them were written by David. What stood out to me was that David, more than anyone else in the Bible, exposed his heart to God. Desiring to become a woman “after God’s own heart”, I began to pray the Psalms where David opened his heart to God. I found the process to be helpful until the day I came to Psalm 139:23,24–Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
As I contemplated praying those words I experienced a panic attack! Suddenly, I was in God’s operating room and I was about to come under the knife; my heart was about to be totally exposed! Should I trust Him? It took several minutes to decide . . . . Finally, I moved forward in faith, scared out of my mind but determined to remove the unforgiveness that plagued my mind and heart. I wondered, could I stand the pain?
God’s Gracious Hand: It was a pivotal moment in my life. What I found out was that God is far more gentle than I ever dreamed! Where I expected the old junk of resentment and bitterness to be ripped out once and for all, He was far more gentle and thorough! Amazing grace flooded my fearful heart in a profound way with the revelation of an all-encompassing love that ran far deeper than I ever imagined. It was at that moment, that I knew that I could trust His divine power to finish the work of forgiveness in my heart that I desired, but had not the ability to complete.
I would love to tell you that after such an amazing encounter everything fell into place. It did not . . . but change did come. Rather than beat myself up when resentment reared its ugly head, I ran to God instead and said, “Take it! I hate it! Help me Lord to walk worthy of Your Name!” Ephesians 5:21 took on new meaning for me:
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
As I reverenced Christ by surrendering and confessing my sin, He continued to cleanse and make me whole within. It was nothing less than a miracle being worked out in my heart. Then one day it happened . . . .
Freedom to Love: I will not go into the details except that one day God finally broke down the last wall of resentment in my heart, replacing it with a heart of compassion for my mom. The thought still brings tears to my eyes when I realized that I was truly free, not only to forgive but to truly love my mom! Having just recently lost her, I cherish the twenty years of being able to love and enjoy my mom (warts and all) as one of God’s sweetest gifts to me.
How about you? Is there an area in your life where forgiveness needs to be applied? Perhaps you are in a place as I was, feeling like a failure as you battle within? If that be so, then learn from my experience and go (RUN!) to God for the cleansing work that only He can work out to completion. Let’s face it, only God can accomplish the miracle of change in any of us . . . one heart at a time. Forgiveness + God’s Gracious Hand = Freedom to Love . . . it’s totally a God-thing!
All to His Glory!