One of the blessings of counseling others for the past 30 years, has been the work God has done in my own heart. I have learned that in helping others find and apply the help given in the Scriptures to their minds and hearts, my own life and perspective could not help but be impacted. Over time I have learned to give thanks to God for His love and mercy when disappointment or fear threaten; and, only recently noticed another change in me, that when someone greets me with, “How are you?” My honest response more often than not is, “Grateful.”
Early in my counseling career, God privileged me with the honor of working with several women who had been sexually abused. Initially, I struggled with the thought of counseling forgiveness to them because, in my mind, to forgive was to let the abuser off the hook. But as we worked together, and as I prayed I was reminded that God is all about justice and that the violation suffered at the hands of another is and affront to His justice and, if not repented of, it WILL be dealt with. I found the strength of Paul’s words especially helpful to me as well as for my Clients:
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends,
but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”
Over time I learned that most people (whether they know it or not) seek Biblical counseling because they need help with what I refer to as, spiritual regrouping*—realizing their struggle is bigger than they can handle on their own. When they come, I count it my privilege to simply listen and then seek to begin to minister to their hearts by having them read aloud passages of Scripture relevant to their situation. As we continue to work very often Christ’s call to forgive (be it to forgive self, someone else or God Himself) requires tenacity, courage and a desire to honor Him above all else:
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.”
Luke 6:27b, 28
Initially, when hurt or disappointed, we tend to put up walls of protection to avoid more hurt. I perceive that as a natural and necessary part of experiencing pain. However, to stay behind walls of self-protection long-term and to focus on what I often refer to as, “the what if’s?”, is to thwart God’s purpose for trials: “That you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4) To allow unforgiveness to reign–our commitment to holding onto the history of past hurt, or to give way to bitterness that leads to resentment–robs us of the freedom found in determining to trust Him no matter what our circumstance may be.
- Forgiveness is not an event, it’s a process.
- Forgiveness begins with a willingness to trust Christ in the process—no matter what direction it takes.
- Forgiveness, as the balm of grace is applied, heals the most wounded of souls. It requires that we entrust the pain of our past to His most caring and capable hands.
- The fruit of such Christ-centered forgiveness brings boundless freedom, to love others as He has loved us:
“It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again
by a yoke of slavery….The only thing that counts
is FAITH expressing itself through love.”
Galatians 5:1, 6b
When we are willing, this is where the roots of the calming grace of forgiveness begins to take hold
and potential healing can truly begin.
After teaching His disciples to pray Jesus challenged them with:
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others their sins,
your Father will not forgive your sins.
Bottom line? While forgiveness does not come easily—in fact, when facing past hurt it can become an overwhelming battle. Even so, forgiveness is not optional; it is an imperative.
What I have discovered personally
and witnessed in the lives of countless Clients,
is that as we rely on God’s Spirit and entrust our hurt to Him,
the wondrous calm that comes after a storm tends to our brokenness
as the calming grace of forgiveness is worked through.
All to His Glory!
*”On Spiritual Regrouping” https://hisglorysm.com/2023/01/31/on-spiritual-regrouping-2/
Kathie, thank you for this wonderful post. I have been working through childhood sexual trauma for many years. As you know, with any childhood trauma, there are so many layers that need peeled away, faced and healed. I recently was blessed with the recommendation of a book and workbook. It is unlike anything I’ve done before, and very eye opening. Just thought I’d share it with you…it may be helpful for you in your work with trauma survivors, or even if you know someone who is.
The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse https://a.co/d/bMP1kJh
Doing the workbook along with a therapist would be very helpful.
Barbara, thank you for your willingness to share part of your story. It’s a tough one to tell, but discovering the calming grace of healing that comes with forgiveness is priceless. I am familiar with The Wounded Heart–I worked through it with a Client years ago and found it helpful but she struggled with some of the writing exercises that required her to go back to re-experience her past. After that I found that focusing more on the Scriptures and encouraging doing their Journey Notes to help Clients move forward was a gentler approach toward healing. Thanks again for your encouragement; I greatly appreciate it. 🙂
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Kathie, This was beautiful! I love the way you weave your story in with Biblical truth. I find I need your posts several times to soak in all the little nuggets God has given you to share. Have a glorious weekend. Grateful for you, Suzanne
Thank you, Suzanne!
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Thank you Kathie, for all you post. I look forward to each of them.
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You wrote : “However, to stay behind walls of self-protection long-term and to focus on what I often refer to as, “the what if’s?”, is to thwart God’s purpose for trials: “That you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4) ”
When I think of the,” What if’s “, I find my self asking ” Why did any situation have to happen the way it did” or ” Couldn’t I have been made mature and complete, without the hard situation I was in or the incident that happen to me?”. Was I that bind or hardcore, that I needed to be knocked to my knees.
I was a teen, but I was God’s teen, not someone asking for what was delt me.
God has taught me to forgive and that was hard to do. I was beating myself up, thinking I had done something wrong but couldn’t figure out what. I gave all to God and He gave me peace.
Oh Joanne! Thank you for sharing your very honest struggle–it beautifully expresses the “what ifs” and the “if only’s” that are part of our human struggle. You are right, forgiveness is hard. But when I look at the fruit of forgiveness I see in you now, I cannot help but celebrate His faithfulness with you. Love you, Jo!