Thursday, March 6, 2014

Why Am I Stuck In Unforgiveness?

I have been on this journey of forgiveness for quite a few years now, and this week, God showed me forgiveness was not at completion.  Not for lack of trying, for sure.  But still I am shocked at the length and depth of the process. 

I do know that some things that God requires us to forgive will be a longer deeper process than other things.  If we have been hurt by someone close to us, like a spouse, parent, child, or dear friend, or if the pain has been repeated and protracted, or if the tragedy occurred when we were a child or adolescent, or if the trauma was particularly heinous or the loss very profound, the process of forgiveness will be longer and require more of us.

Like you, I have a number of people and incidences to forgive.  I will focus on just one offender right now for simplicity.

I started years ago with the first step of forgiveness:  release.  Releasing the offender to God.  “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord (Rom 12:19).  For me, that was huge, and took many many months, maybe more than a year, to take that very first step.  I thought that completed my work in forgiveness.

But a while later the Holy Spirit brought me to new revelations that there were areas of unforgiveness that I was still holding on to.  I had forgiven in general, but not specific memories, instances, moments.  He walked me through it, and this time, it did not take me so many months.

But later the Spirit showed me I still harbored resentment.  Why?  I asked.  Didn't I cover everything?  The Spirit revealed that I had forgiven the actions, but not the person.  Wow.  That was really deep.  Took a bit for me to reach forgiveness there.

Finished yet?  Nope.  The Spirit soon began to reveal to me the judgments I held against the offender.  I was prideful that I had not sinned in this same way, so I judged the offender with a condemning judgment.  I considered myself better than the offender, thinking, somehow, my sins were less sinful.  Oh, there was much to process with the Lord that time.

Another time He revealed my secret desire for revenge.  I wanted to hold something over the offender’s head.  Somehow, I believed the lie that by not quite releasing the offender it gave me power over that person.  Like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  Admitting my revenge to the Lord was very challenging.  Of course, He already knew it, but somehow I thought I could hide that part of my heart from Him.

Yet another time He revealed my deep fear.   I feared that if I forgave, I would open myself up to further pain.  I did not trust God to be greater than my pain.  I could not trust His protection or comfort.  I felt I needed to keep control over the situation, over the person, because I could not trust God to protect my fragile heart.  Not trusting God is a very deep root indeed.

He later revealed my stubborn refusal to reconcile, because that would require me to humble myself and ask forgiveness for holding onto unforgiveness.  To ask forgiveness for my sinful response of walling myself off.  He showed me the idol of myself, my reputation, and I have to admit that I did not want to expose my sins to the offender.  I wanted to remain this holy and upright person that I pretended to be.

Each time the Spirit revealed, and I repented, He drew me ever so much closer into His heart.  Each time, I was sure I had covered it all.  Each time, I thought forgiveness was complete.  What else could there possibly be?  But again and again we revisited the same issue.  Traveling down that spiral staircase, reaching a landing of rest, but then being called down to another level again, deeper and deeper into the Lord’s heart.

So here I stand, many years deep into the process.  And this week, the Spirit said, “It’s not finished yet.”  Ugh!  Still not finished?  I could not imagine what else could possibly be blocking me from completion of forgiveness.  Once again, I had absolutely no idea.  Once again, I went to prayer and fasting to hear His voice, begging Him to reveal what only He knew.

He said, “You’re angry at Me.”  I argued with Him a bit.  Futile, of course; He’s always right.  He reminded me that He took full responsibility for everything on this earth.  He even quoted my book, from Chapter 4, Sovereignty. He went on to say,  “You have been hurt, and your sinful response to your pain has left your life in a big mess.  And although you accept My sovereignty, you don’t like what I have chosen for your life.  I call that rebellion.” 

As I was on my face repenting, God explained, ever so gently, that the offenders in my life were His servants.

How are they Your servants?  I was desperate to know.  The Lord explained that only He knew my heart, and that He was using my offenders to expose the deepest darkest depths of my heart.  The core of my heart that remained hidden from me, the darkest sins of pride and control and fear, of not trusting Him, of idolatry and rebellion.  God, in His absolute sovereignty and infinite love for me, desires to expose the dark areas of my heart, to bring me to repentance, to cleanse me and deliver me and heal me, to drive out darkness and fill me with His Spirit.  He wants deep relationship with me that badly.  He wants to invade me with His Spirit in greater and greater measure, so He will do whatever it takes to expose my heart.  He chose to use the evil of this world as His servants.  Only He knows what it will take.  And not one tear more. 

I accept His perfect plan for my life.  Every moment, past, present, and future.  And, now that I can see with His eyes, I am deeply grateful to my offenders.  For I know, I am certain, that without their influence upon my life, my sins would remain hidden, blocking me from receiving Him in deeper and deeper measure.  I trust that only He knows what it will take.  I trust Him with my life, my loved ones, my heart.


For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”                                                                                                        Luke 8:17

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.                                                                    Hebrews 4:13

As I reflect on this 12-year journey, it is so abundantly clear that each step was only by His grace.  The kindness of God brings us to repentance (Rom 2:4).

Where are you on your forgiveness journey?








8 comments:

  1. Forgiveness for the betrayal of the most precious part of a husband and wife's relationship is what I had to forgive. I am not fully sure that I am at completion. After leaving this betrayal of my marriage covenant at the cross several times, I CHOSE to truly give it to God to carry. God's wrath was far greater than anything I could ever do. I did struggle with this at times. Any desires of revenge was not my problem. I CHOSE NOT to allow my strayed husband to live "rent free" in my mind. I actually took pity on him. . He made himself and $$$$,etc his idols. I made the CHOICE NOT to make my unforgiveness, bitterness and revenge an idol. I have found JOY in my heart and I am growing in Christ daily. He is My Precious Savior ! Now, as a mother, when my former husband hurts our blood children (all grown-up).. by not respecting a simple request of having our own family gathering without his new wife, I do have a problem with this. I don't have any desire to be around them as a couple. Perhaps in time God will close this gap. This to me is a sign that my children miss what we once had, togetherness and enjoyment. I pray for their healing considering their dad doesn't have their healing as a priority. Healing and forgiveness will come thru Christ in HIs timing. I feel like I will be required to forgive as long as I am alive. The goal, I pray, is that I address it as God shows me. I also realized that those who are the hardest to love need it the most...my former spouse is so loss, and this realization has truly helped with my forgiveness.

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    1. Cristina WilliamsMarch 6, 2014 at 5:03 PM

      I am sorry that happened. I can see the grace you have extended your husband by acknowledging that he is loss and hurting. It is true. I also see the deep love you have for your family. I am the daughter of divorced parents. In fact, both remarried and both divorced a second time. Although we had good times and a lot of blessings, there is years of deep, deep hurt and betrayal in my family as well. Old and new hurt continues to surface and occur.

      Yes, if your adult children are anything like me, they so (desperately at times) wish your family could be united again. The way it used to be. So much so that typing those words to you made me stop and cry for a brief moment reflecting on how I would love that for my family.

      While I’m not able to take away your pain or speed up your healing, I can tell you that my life would not be what it is today and what it will be tomorrow, had it not have been for my parents divorce (both times). I would not be married to the love of my life. I would not be who I am. I would not be living where I am. I would not be attending the church that I am. I would not have the mission I’ve been given. I would not be as close to God as I am and seeking Him more and more each day. The same applies to you and your children.

      My father had an affair on my mom and I have a second sister as a result. Notice, I don’t call her my half sister. God doesn’t do anything halfway. For the longest time, I couldn’t even call them by their name. They were “the other people” or “those people.” Literally, that’s what I called them. I thought I was controlling them by placing up these walls and parameters. In reality, by doing that, my dad and his mistress had control of me.

      What God helped me see is that I wasn’t facing and accepting the new road He had me going down. I was still mad MY plans didn’t work out the way I wanted. I was still living in MY hurt. I was still living in MY expectations of my dad. Now, there is nothing wrong with that during a course of healing, until I noticed it crossed over from grieving into me sinning. At what point was I taking into consideration God’s plans, hurt, and expectations?

      It was a beautiful day when my mom graciously went to dinner with the other woman and the entire family to celebrate my middle sister’s graduation. Although I’ve had a lot of anger and been hurt by mother over the years, there is a lot of love as well. She set an incredible example of forgiveness in that moment for us. I admire and respect that not only did she have dinner with the other woman; she took care of my youngest sister (the baby from the affair) one weekend.

      The other woman was and is still hurting in her own ways. When the mistress took off after my dad’s massive stroke in 2012, my mom let my dad move in with her so my husband and I could take care of him at her place. It didn't come easily for her, but again, she extended grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love.

      I could write an entire book on this topic through my parent’s story and the betrayal I’ve experienced from boyfriends that I didn’t even touch on here. I will close by saying that my mom’s forgiveness didn’t happen overnight, but it happened. She still struggles with layers of hurt to this day.

      However, it was so freeing when we all accepted and loved one another with a love that was only possible with Christ flowing in and through us, even when it came to the other women (yes, there are more than the one mentioned above) and my youngest sister who I love with all of my heart! I pray and believe you and your family will get there too!

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    2. Dear Anonymous,
      I echo Cristina's thoughts, that the grace you have extended to your former husband is so beautiful and Christ-like. And you have received revelation by the Spirit leading you to compassion for him, that he is lost and in need of Jesus. I am recalling how Jesus prayed on the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Lk 23:34).
      I think that you would agree with me that with each layer of forgiveness, the Lord releases greater healing. The Lord is so pleased with you. You have come far in your forgiveness journey, and I believe God has greater and deeper healing for you as you continue to grow in Him.

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  2. Cristina WilliamsMarch 6, 2014 at 4:18 PM

    This post is one of my favorites of yours! Thank you for exposing your heart and sharing your journey with the one offender you highlighted. It was beautiful to see how it started to the acceptance you've reached now!

    My mind tells me I have forgiven long ago and over and over since then as new offenders surface, or the same ones continue hurting. However, in going through this class, I’ve realized that there are deeper levels yet to explore.

    It was eye opening to read the part you wrote about not forgiving “specific memories, instances, moments.” That speaks to me. I have forgiven the people in general, still demonstrating great love to those who are a part of my life.

    What is happening at this stage of my healing is a lot of memory recall. I have been experiencing flash backs in my mind of things that were said or done (good and bad). I have select memories surfacing which I remember, but that I haven’t thought about in a long time, in some cases years (back to when they first occurred).

    I believe God is calling me to the most complete healing I can receive in those areas and with those people. I think I’m ready. More importantly, He thinks I’m ready. I’ve spent many years in survival mode, acknowledging a certain extent of the pain, but not fully healing. I had to keep moving forward and couldn’t sit in the hurt for an extended time.

    While I’ve been coping during a long period of transforming, He has been preparing me for this stage. It is such a gift to be at a point of surrender and dependence. I see the amazing growth and work He is doing in me! Thank you so much for being a part of the healing!

    God has me leaping, flying, bending, and jumping like the acrobatic cast members of Cirque Du Soleil! I’m experiencing new depths, heights, and positions like never before! Just like the risks those acrobats take, it’s scary. Admittedly, I still find myself relying on the perceived safety net below the trapeze artists and the foam blocks underneath the gymnasts.

    My “safety” net is found primarily in my sin of control, fear, pride, and anger. Fortunately, with each day of healing, surrendering, and depending, I’m building the courage and trust to fly without a net. It might be fine during times of practice and dress rehearsal, but I pray the main performance will be a duet with just God and me!

    In fact, I’m in the process of switching acts and moving into tightrope walking. A tightrope walker is required to achieve optimal balance and venture across the straight and narrow path, 100% focused. My focus is God. He is the leader. I am the follower. I am at one end of the rope. He is at the other end. The Word of God keeps me balanced as I near closer and closer to Him. Should I start to fall, I have to trust He will catch me!

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    1. Dear Cristina,
      Wow, thank you for sharing some of your deep heart wounds with us. I believe you are correct: God has equipped you to go deeper in forgiveness, and the flashbacks are His invitation to release those moments into His care. How beautiful that He is giving you recollection of good times also. That is a sign of maturity, that you are not throwing away an entire relationship and stamping it "bad," but are willing to accept some goodness, kindness, and love from those who have so hurt your heart. A very very challenging balance, a balance we cannot possibly embark on in the early stages of forgiveness, but one the tightrope walker will perfect as she grips tightly to Jesus and lets Him lead her.

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    2. Cristina WilliamsMarch 7, 2014 at 11:11 AM

      You're very welcome! Thank you so much! Even if I tried to stamp the relationship as bad, it would be impossible. The choices they made and did to me were definitely bad. However, too many wonderful things happened (continue to happen) through the relationships that are still present. There are happy memories and things I am grateful for those people, doing and sacrificing in my life, like my parents, despite ALL of their shortcomings and pain they have caused. I am even able to find light in the darkest of moments. There are other relationships that have been completely severed (it had to be that way), but I find goodness (as far as what God is doing with it) through the pain and, in some cases, the terrible things that happened to me. I now know certain instances resulted from my own sinning, others I suffered unjustly but I turned that into another form of sinning. He has revealed sooo much to me! I love you sharing with me how Jesus is on the tightrope leading me!!

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  3. Powerful words spoken here. As I read your initial post Celeste I come to understand even more..... and what I have learned is that I will eventually understand even more, that I am at the beginning, not the end.

    I was walking my little pup Bella on our daily walk to the beach in prayer time and speaking with God. Asking him to cleanse my heart and help me forgive the pain so deep. The fear so deep that no young human should ever now, the deepest darkest corners of evil of man. I breathe in the holy spirit and exhale pain and darkness.....The steps down to the beach were soaked with the pouring rain of the past few days. When we were walking up my little pup slipped and her paw went through the stairs. She thought she was falling and it scared he so much she jumped in my arms as I leaned down and caught her and whispered to her "It's ok, I have you and I love you", "It's ok, don't be afraid" and tears pour still through my eyes as I heard God's voice say the same thing to me. "I've had you all along in my arms, you made your choices but I have always been here to catch you, hold you close and tell you not to fear, that I love you so much". I wish God could put me on a leash to keep me from being hurt but he gave us free will. Free will to leave my house where I may not have been loved but I was safe from the evils of man. Freedom to expose myself to the darkness of the world and be hurt so deeply.

    I realized at our last group that I was still mad at Him for letting me get so scared and broken. But the truth is he rescued me in His arms, He has always been there to rescue me I didn't grab the rope. I realize that even though I have forgive the men who have hurt me because they are evil and it was their choice to do Satan's deeds I had not forgiven God for allowing it to happen. I never believe He allowed that to happen until studying this book and His word. That was painful but a necessary step in the triumph over suffering. Today I not only pray to continue to forgive deeper and grow deeper in His teachings but to be used in a mighty way so that every once of pain is not in vain but to do His work in His kingdom. Yikes. a huge reply and I'm not going to edit. I'm just going to share, typos and all. I love you ladies of this group and my Savior most of all xo

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    1. Cristina WilliamsMarch 7, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      Lori, that is such a wonderful story about little Bella and how God spoke to you saying that’s exactly what He does for you! I agree!

      It is such a revelation for you to acknowledge and come to accept more and more that this is the beginning of the next stage of healing for you! Many times I have thought I was at the end or at least much farther “ahead” in a particular area of my healing, only to realize I was and still am a mess. I noticed there were a significant amount of steps to take and moments yet to go through, before He would pull back another layer.

      I am deeply sorry for whatever evil you experienced. I have had similar thoughts that if only I had not done this or if only I stayed over here, then xyz would not have happened. That is a lie we tell ourselves. It is a form of guilt and shame designed by the devil to hold us back. We move from conviction to change and improve our lives into condemnation when we think that way.

      Yes, there are things we could have done differently in any situation; however, that is never a guarantee or shield from the evils of this world. It is impossible to know what evils you would have encountered had you gone down a different path. They may have been different than what you experienced, but only God knows if it would have been better or worse.

      I have lived depressed and in isolation before, a hiding of sorts. I can tell you from my experience that attempting to remove myself and control situations only leads me into bondage, away from God’s plans for me. When I was hiding, it was destructive emotionally and mentally, definitely another win for and a stronghold from the devil. It became a form of me residing in a voluntary prison, so to speak. That is not living either.

      As extremely difficult and impossible as it can be, one thing I know for sure is that through the darkest moments there is a tremendous amount of light, IF we will hang on to Jesus and not let go. There may be times when we are barely hanging on with one finger, but He’s still got us!

      After I read your entire post, your doggie’s name stood out to me. Bella. I’m sure you know it is also translated as beautiful in Spanish and Italian. In the same way you did for little Bella, while God is there protecting you, telling you not to be afraid and that He loves you, remember, that everything He does is for you, His precious BEAUTIFUL daughter! You are so very special to Him! xoxo

      You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you!
      Song of Solomon 4:7 ESV

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