Almost three years ago, after reading Thin Within, I completed the first Thin Within workbook. This workbook (I have always thought of it as a devotional) changed my spiritual life. Believe it or not, the workbook truly brought me to Christ. It was not until I completed the workbook that I really understood sin, the cross, my identity in Christ and the grace of the Lord (among many other things). And I experienced His healing powers in a very concrete way – by learning to forgive. (Now, I have been experiencing more and more of His healing powers over the past year, but that’s another story for another day).
The workbook’s week on forgiveness was instrumental in bringing me closer to the Lord. Without going into all of the details, I had a very strained relationship with one member of my family. It was a hurtful and painful relationship that caused me much anger. When I looked at my life at that time, I would have said that everything in my life – a loving husband, wonderful children, a healthy family, etc – was pretty great. But when I thought about this one relationship, I just didn’t deal well with the anger. Whenever I had to sit through a sermon or talk on forgiveness, I thought “yeah, but they don’t understand how badly I was treated. And I did nothing wrong! I don’t want to hear this and I’m not going to listen”. Yep, I was like a toddler having a temper tantrum!
I dreaded the week on forgiveness in the workbook. As I approached the week, I considered skipping it. But, I decided that I would start it and see what happened. Then, as I read the forgiveness lessons and studied the scripture, I learned about the grace and mercy that God showers on me when He forgives me. Praise Him!
And then I realized… that I am called to forgive others. Oh, no! But, the Lord began to change my heart as I desired to truly follow Him. I chose to study and commit to that week’s lesson. I then learned that forgiveness is an act of obedience. And I so wanted to be obedient to the Lord. I wanted to know Him. I wanted His healing. I wanted freedom from the diet mentality. I knew that I had to commit to obedience in this area. So, I committed to praying every day to forgive this particular person and I read the related scriptures over and over. I would picture all of my hurt, anger and pain tied up in a large piece of fabric and placed at the foot of the cross. After several months, I woke up one morning and the burden had been lifted! I knew for a fact then that God is faithful and that I can believe His Word. There is no way that, in my human power, I would have found the ability to forgive.
Here is the beauty of God’s way. When we are obedient to Him, we receive freedom. It sounds counterintuitive that obeying “someone else’s” way will free us, right? We want to be free to do it our own way. But, when I handled the anger and disappointment my own way, I lived in bondage to my emotions. When I handed my heart hurts to God, the chains around my heart broke in two.
It took me a lot longer to admit that eating within the God given boundary of 0-5 is also an act of obedience. I had to commit to more heart work and surrender in order to realize that truth. But, as I said earlier, that is another story for another day.
How About You?
Do you feel that you are not worthy of God’s forgiveness? Do you feel that someone in particular is not worthy of your forgiveness? Read what Jesus says about forgiveness. Talk to God about your feelings. Bring your embarrassment, pain, hurt, anger or bitterness to the foot of the cross. Ask for forgiveness. Ask for the ability to forgive. He and He alone is able to set you free!
*The fervent and deliberate daily prayers to forgive were combined with counseling with a Christian therapist. The therapy sessions were more about deciding whether I wanted to continue a relationship with this person or not. Forgiveness really was a separate matter all together. But I do want to disclose this fact because short-term counseling was helpful for me and someone reading this may want to consider it.