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The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Lessons from Cherith

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Matthew 18:21

He’d been a drug addict and alcoholic for at least the 35 years I knew him.  In fact, this lost uncle was my husband’s main reason for why he never touched drugs in his college days.  My husband saw the path of destruction his uncle created throughout their family.  This uncle, my mother-in-law’s youngest sibling, took the road so many addicts follow.  They demand help, make others feel guilty for not rescuing them, promise to do better then start the cycle over and over again.

In my visits to my husband’s hometown, we’d have infrequent contact with his uncle.  But we would hear of his begging his own mother for money and complaining of how “lucky” and “privileged” everyone else in the family were because they weren’t always so down on their luck.  To be fair, this man bore the brunt of being the youngest child of an alcoholic philanderer.  As for my in-laws, they gave money, moral support, food, and more for much of his life.  But after a number of run-ins with the law and intolerable behavior toward my husband’s grandmother, the uncle found himself eventually with backs turned.  Enough was enough.

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:22

Let’s face it, we are only human.  We get our feelings hurt.  We often seek to protect ourselves from harmful relationships.  We don’t want to be taken advantage of and have our kindness thrown back at us with vitriol.  Like many of Jesus’ expectations of us the concept of forgiveness is not so easy for us sinful humans.  We get to the end of our rope.  We have no more tears to shed.  

I remember when my loving, caring mother-in-law said to me one day a few years ago, “I’m done.  I’m tired of being blamed for his problems.  I’m tired of being taken for granted that we will always help.  I’m angry how he treats our mother.”  And really, could anyone fault her?  But the thing is, I knew deep down she didn’t mean any of it.  I knew if her brother came again with hat in hand she would help.  Because she knew that Jesus would do the same for her.

25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:28

We can be thankful we haven’t been assigned the task of God’s prophets to administer final judgements like Elijah had to (although one day two of us will be called to do just that). In the Old Testament, we see time after time the people turning their backs on God after so many warnings. And he sent his prophets to speak truth and judgement. His final truth-speaker was His Son, Jesus. But this prophet came to tell us when we seek forgiveness and to forgive we receive eternal forgiveness from God, even when we mess up over and over. You see, Jesus doesn’t just want the one who needs forgiveness healed, he wants us, the forgiver to be healed.  Because when we place our own lives under God’s microscope, we each have a heck of a lot that needs forgiving.  We each are blessed with the incredible gift of coming with our own hat in hand to the Lord and asking, “One more time, please Lord.  Forgive me.” And He does.  

I’ve been fortunate to witness the healing power of forgiveness in a few people’s lives.  My friend Andrea will forever be changed simply by forgiving a family member for past hurts and asking for forgiveness for how she has hurt others.  My own relationship with my parents has required me to forgive them.  And although the situation can still be painful, I now have the healing strength which forgiveness affords to help me pray for them each day.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

I started this message about a man so broken from addiction.  A man who most would say was without hope, without the peace from God.  But God is a miracle worker as we all know.  So, after another stint in prison about a year ago, my husband’s uncle finally said, “Enough is enough.”  He turned to God for forgiveness and healing.  When he got the news that his oldest sister was now riddled with cancer he came immediately to be by her side.

I don’t know if I’ll ever have the same opportunity to watch such a beautiful miracle unfold before my eyes.  To see God’s hands work like no other.  To experience the full promise of God’s grace and love descend upon a room.  We met in the lobby of the hospital, just the uncle and I.  His mind and eyes were clear. He looked so healthy!  His demeanor was clearly different.  I took him up to his sister’s room and we sat and chatted.  I felt like I should leave the room and give them some alone time when suddenly he took her by the hand and with tears streaming down his face he asked for forgiveness.  He asked to be forgiven for the destruction he caused, the pain, and for all the lost years that could’ve been different.

My mother-in-law thanked him immediately.  She said, “I needed to hear this.  It hurt so much when you blamed me for your troubles.”  And they wept.  For the next two weeks I witnessed this man stand guard outside her room, praying and participating in her last days.  I listened as he asked the rest of the family for forgiveness.  And saw them weep from the healing love of God.  I watched as he helped lift his sister’s lifeless body onto the gurney for her final road toward home.  He was in pain but was healed.  He was washed in sorrow but cleansed from forgiveness.  And he knew he was loved.

Who do you need to forgive right now?

Who do you need to ask for forgiveness?  

It’s time for healing.

PS: Happy Birthday to my amazing, handsome, loving, forgiving husband 🙂

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Repair My Soul, Oh Lord

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.  Psalm 23:1-3

A couple of ladies in one of my Bible study groups have had workmen at their houses this year.  If you’ve ever had people working on your house you probably have already conjured up the trials and delays you experienced.  It seems inevitable.  So often promises are made and quickly broken from timeframes to costs.  One of these ladies missed Bible study to be at home for a painter, who had not completed the work the day prior.  The next day the painter arrived only to tell her he was going to another job instead and just needed to pick up his ladder.  After multiple delays the painter fired my friend.  Yes, you read that correctly.  After asking him to give her a better idea of the actual timeframe the painter called her up and said he couldn’t work with her!

Thank goodness when we need work done on our hearts and minds God is a much more trustworthy repairman!  Today I praise God for refreshing us, for fixing our missteps, for repairing our souls.

I was recently talking with a friend about forgiveness.  And what came out of that was the need not only to forgive but to ask God to help repair our hearts and minds of all the negative associated emotions.  Forgiveness is not an easy task when we’ve been hurt, abused, taken advantage of, or even when things or people are taken from us.  And so, we give it to God to help us forgive.  I wonder however, how often when we forgive others do we have a residual bitterness or pain or guilt left in us?  I find this is often the case for me when it comes to having to forgive myself.  When something triggers a bad memory I cringe a bit and that demon called “guilt” or “shame” wants to raise it’s ugly head. 

God doesn’t want us to just forgive but to live a life of forgiveness – a life free from that guilt and shame and bitterness.  All of it. Not one single tiny pocket of it left in our hearts.

Psalm 51 has so many great prayers to God for restoration and healing.  Here’s a couple:

Verse 2:  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Verse 7: Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Verse 12 — Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

God has a 1-800-Repairman hotline.  He not only answers 24/7 He jumps into action when needed.  It’s time to ask God to completely remove those the negative emotions from our past.  To be completely renewed.  To be completely healed.

A Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin again after each stumble – because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time.

C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity

Isn’t God so loving, so unique in this trait?  He lives as our own mini-repairman right in our souls.  We don’t need to wait for the next appointment (in 3 weeks) or be disappointed when he doesn’t show up.  All we need to do is ask God to fix us.  And even if we aren’t sure exactly what the problem is, if we ask him to make a diagnosis He will – free of charge.  

I know that I will mess up and break some things in my life.  I also know that when I gave my life over to Christ I got a lifetime warranty.  All repairs covered upon asking.


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Death to My Evil Twin

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

One of the most amazing gifts God has given us humans is our mind.   The brain weighs about 3 pounds and contains around 100 billion neurons— cells that carry information.  There’s an old myth that we only use about 10 percent of our brains.  That has been debunked.  I know that must’ve been false because it seems some people don’t even use that much!  But seriously, new studies show how much of our brain we actively use varies from person to person.

I can tell you without a doubt that my mind runs 24/7 – seemingly all by itself.  And usually, off into thoughts that seem like they belong in someone else’s body.  It’s my destructive thoughts that tell me I’m not good enough.  I’m not worthy.  I’m not loved.  I will never be forgiven.  I’m ugly, fat, wrinkly, etc.  It’s like my mind gets taken over by my evil twin.

Isn’t that the battleground so many of us find ourselves on day and night?  Those anxious thoughts that keep us looking at the clock at 1am, 2am, 3am….?

Praise God that He gave us a shield and sword to fight back the beast who is really behind all those thoughts – the devil himself.

My friend Caroline gave me a great tool last year that helps me in this spiritual battle.  It’s a piece of paper with three columns.  The first column lists the destructive thought such as, “There’s nothing special about me.”  The second column speaks God’s truth against that thought with statements like, “I have been chosen/set apart by God.”  And the third column lists the shields and swords of God—related scripture.  In this example it lists Ps 139, 1 Cor. 1:30 & 6:11, Eph 1:4, and Hebrews 10:10 & 14.

This handy guide is something I can pull out whenever my evil twin brain decides to ruin my day or disrupt my sleep!  The best part?  You have the same tool at your fingertips.  The Word of God was given to us not just to learn more about Him but to help tear down those thought strongholds that want to rule our lives.  His mighty words were what Jesus Himself used when tempted by the devil.

I was recently reading in my Sparkling Gems from The Greek about the difference between using His Word as a “logos” or a “rhema.”  Logos is a “sweeping stroke.”  When we study the Bible this way we get broad and full direction for our lives.  But in Ephesians 6:17 the word “rhema” is used.  That means a sharp and fatal blow to the enemy.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word (rhema) of God: Ephesians 6:17

What Paul is directing us to do is have at the ready “fighting words.”  God’s words that we can call up quickly to mind and tear apart any thoughts the devil wants to use against us.  And we can use those words knowing the power and authority that lay behind them.  

God in His greatness knows how amazing our mind is – He created it.  He knows the power and dangers of our imagination and our thoughts.  The devil knows it too.  But with the gracious gift of the Holy Bible we can shield ourselves from the devil’s lies.


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Send Me!

Now if you obey me fully 
and keep my covenant, then 
out of all nations you will 
be my treasured possession. 
Exodus 19:5

A prayer to act when directed by God

Dear God, I used to think that my faith was solely a personal, spiritual pursuit.  But I keep hearing the word “obey.”  I admit that obeying isn’t a comfortable word for me.  It implies me giving up something for someone else.  In your covenant world however, “obey” just means holding up my end of the bargain.  You are always faithful, LORD, and I need to be faithful as well.  James said it best when he admonished us to be “doers of the Word, not just hearers.”  Sometimes I allow the world to drown out your Holy Spirit who speaks your will to me.  Or I worry that I’m not worthy or ready to do your work. But I’m tuning in to you and listening, watching, and anticipating for your direction.  Give me opportunities to be your hands, your feet and your heart.  I will obey.  In your Son’s name I pray this.  Amen


One of my BSGs shared with us the other day how she was one of those Christians who claimed to never hear God direct her.  That isn’t the case any longer.  He’s been nudging her so hard she may almost have a bruise on her back!  She shared how she bought 10- $5 coffee gift cards from a locally owned coffee shop.  At random she is handing them out telling people, “God has blessed me so much this year and I want to share in the blessing.”  She told us of approaching a policeman and giving him a card.  He looked surprised.  When she walked away, she heard him on his radio exclaiming, “You won’t believe what just happened.”

Isn’t that awesome!  I want some of that God-goodness!  He speaks to us through His Word, Jesus’ teachings, and the Holy Spirit.  He tells us how to treat the poor, the downtrodden, the sick, our neighbor, our loved ones, and the stranger.  When we feel that nudge and the nudge feels like God, it can never be wrong.

I love the story of Isaiah and his vision amongst the angels.  He first sees himself unworthy of being in the presence of heavenly beings.  So, what does he do?  He cries out, “For I am a man of unclean lips.”  In other words, he prays for help with his unworthiness.  And an angel touches his lips with burning coal (ouch) to take away his guilt and sin.  And then the real action takes place.

Then I heard the voice of 
the Lord saying, “Whom shall 
I send? And who will go for us?” 
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Isaiah 6:8

He “hears to voice of the Lord” make an urgent request.  God needs volunteers to spread His message of love and hope.  And when we Christians accepted the covenant promise of Jesus, that left us a spot to sign on the dotted line to volunteer for that service.  

When others step to the back of the line we need to learn to step forward.  Not hang out waiting for thunder and lightning to give us a loud message.  We need to be ready to jump at a moment’s notice – not only that, but be so excited to say, “Here am I.  Send me!”

I want to wake up every day in anticipation of the work He wants done through me.  And I want to go to bed looking forward to another chance tomorrow.  I’m listening LORD.  Send me.

If you want this too, add the prayer to your daily prayer list and watch and see how God works in your life!