The will to forgive
By Wanda Guenther
Betrayed! I think I'm going to be sick. This can't be happening. This can't be true. My hope for a better life -- for a normal life -- crushed by the words of one man. The man I thought would be my savior. The man I thought would deliver me from the hell that was my life.
Now this man, this judge, was condemning me to a life of futility and fear. I had to face some very urgent questions. Did I have value? Would anyone ever want me? Would anyone ever accept me for who I am?
Of more immediate concern, what was my father going to do to me? I had just told the judge about the dreadful things to which my Dad had subjected me, my brothers, and my, sisters.
I had bared my soul to him. Now this judge that I had trusted to take me away from all of that, that I had trusted to protect me from my father, said I had to go back.
Life had been far from fair to a skinny, freckle faced, red headed little girl. Abusive parents had left me with a legacy of physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. Older brothers had also done their part to contribute to the torment.
Dirty, smelly, and unkempt, I was not only a social outcast amongst my peers, but the butt of their cruel jokes. I was full of unforgiveness, bitterness, loneliness, and guilt. All of us kids, there were seventeen of us, were at the mercy of my father's unpredictable fits of rage. I feared -- we all feared for our lives.
When I was twelve, the state took three of my sisters away from my parents because of the abuse. My brothers and sisters who had already left home testified against my parents. As a result, my father threatened to kill them if they stepped foot on his property. He also threatened to kill any of us if he ever found out we had talked to them.
I can remember the feelings of anger and hate I had for that judge for leaving me in that hell. I went through life with a deep seated hatred for my parents, especially my father, and a distrust of all men.
Even when I married, I vowed that no man was going to treat me like my father had. Perhaps worst of all, I also transferred those feelings of anger and distrust to God. If He was my heavenly father, then He must be just like all other men.
I was always on guard, always expecting the worst. Could there ever be stability in my life? Would I ever be able to experience love, joy, peace? Where was I to go? What could I do? To whom could I turn for the answers that seemed to elude me?
The answers came for me when I stopped looking at my problems and started looking to the only one who could help, when I realized that God was not like my Dad, when I finally reached the point where I could trust what my heavenly father had to say. Proverbs 3:5 says,
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding".
In the end it comes down to just that -- TRUST. It took me a long time to just trust, but when I was ready to listen, what my Heavenly Father had to say was unmistakable -- forgive. God's Word is full of references on the need of forgiveness:
"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you"; (Mat 5:44).
"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Mat 6:12).
"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Mat 6:14,15).
God tells us in His word that not only are we in need of forgiveness from a holy God, but we are under obligation from that same God to forgive also. We can not be right with God and have wrong attitudes towards others. I had to forgive my parents for the wrongs that I felt they had inflicted upon me, my brothers, and my sisters.
I had to understand that they too were human, subject to the same frailties as me. I had to understand that they too had their painful experiences and disappoint- ments in life that caused them to act and react as they did. I was not to blame for their actions nor was I the one to hold them accountable.
My part was to accept what I could not change, to understand that trials and tribulation are a part of this life, and to forgive those through whom those trials come.
But how to forgive. To say I must forgive was easy but to act upon it seemed to be beyond my human capabilities. First of all, I had to ask God to help me forgive and release my parents from the wrong they had done; to no longer want to see them hurt the way they had made me hurt.
I had to let go of this desire for revenge before I could expect the bitterness, anger, and hurt I carried inside to begin to heal. Second, I had to realize that the healing process was going to take time. I was an emotional time bomb and it takes time to disarm a bomb.
Finally I had to learn that just because I remembered things did not mean I had not forgiven. This is a lie of the devil told by well meaning but ignorant men. I did not need to forget, I needed to learn to deal with my past according to the word of God.
As God began to work on me, He gave me a word that has done so much in bringing about the healing that I desired. It continues to be a strong word of encouragement to me even now.
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again... (Jer 31:3,4).
God has plans for me, and for all His children,
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you..." (Jer 29:11).
The more I sought God, the more peace I found. His peace was going deep down inside replacing the hatred.
And then one day I realized the hatred was gone. Anger was replaced with compassion and I actually meant the prayers I was praying for my parents and for all those who had hurt me. I no longer wanted to see them punished. I wanted them to know the forgiveness of God just as I had come to know it.
Things are not always great. There are still mountains to climb and valleys to go through..
When I began my search for "inner healing" I felt that I was drowning, but I have learned to trust God in all things. I have learned that forgiveness is a matter of the will and not the emotions. I must will to forgive. When I took this step of faith, God was there to help me. Now I am at peace -- with God, with myself, and with others. Its a good feeling.