Wow! Thank you, ladies for your honesty, authenticity and willingness to share your hearts so openly. I think it is so important for us to share our trials, victories, and suffering with one another...to carry one another's burdens, to encourage each other, to love each other.... I am so humbled and honored that you are doing that each time we meet together!
If you are new to "A Heart Make-Over," don't worry- you can jump in any time! If you like, simply scroll down to read the earlier studies. This is our third week together, meeting each Tuesday and Thursday. My prayer is that this study touches YOUR heart, stirring it....encouraging you to seek after Him more and more. I pray that God performs a complete "heart transplant" as He transforms you from glory to glory!
Today (and last time) is "heavy." I have worked through much pain in my life. God has healed many wounds. I am so thankful that the women participating have also shared how God has helped them through difficult times. So, if you have been here since we have begun the study, or if you are just joining us today, or if you are a "lurker," checking things out, but not yet ready to join in- my prayer is that you open your heart to God, allowing Him to reveal any hidden wounds or wounds that you have suppressed, so that He may HEAL them. I pray that He will set you free from any areas of bondage. I pray that you would experience the true peace, JOY, and perfect love that only comes from a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Oh, how I pray that this study blesses you, dear one!
(By the way, if anyone is trying to email me, I am sorry...my email is "down" right now. If you would like to "talk", just comment and state that you don't want the comment publish. I can then comment back at your blog. Sorry!)
Let's get started!
I’d like to share a very personal story of unforgiveness and complete trust with you. When I was 6 months old, my father and brother died in a boating accident. As you can imagine, my mother was devastated, feeling as if her world had fallen apart. She was left as a young mother with a 9 year old daughter and a 6 month old baby to raise on her own. In less than a year she remarried and began a new life.
Bob was a creative man who painted beautiful pictures of forests and wildlife, especially owls. He played the guitar and had a soulful voice. I remember him singing “The Green, Green Grass of Home.”
Four years later tragedy hit again in my mom’s life. One stormy night Bob was out on his motorcycle. It was slippery, and Bob was hit by a car.
Bob lost his arm and almost lost a leg in that accident. My mom nursed him through the next 9 months and took care of him while he was in a full body cast for 9 MONTHS. Bob lost more than his arm in that accident- he lost his livelihood and his love of life. He received a large settlement from the accident and didn’t need to work. So Bob began spending his free time and his money wallowing in his pain every day at several bars in our small town. It was common for him to be there by early afternoon every day. He was a bitter, angry man and a mean drunk. My most vivid childhood memories are the fights my mom and stepfather would have after a late night of drinking.
With each passing year, the fighting kept getting worse and he began beating my mom. I can remember the fear I had and the feeling of helplessness. Friday nights were the worst because the drinking that had begun in the day always continued into the late night hours. I remember lying in my bed awake dreading the sound of a car in the driveway because I knew the fighting would begin soon after that. One night, after being awakened by loud screaming, I ran downstairs to find my mom wedged between a table and bay windows. Bob was telling me that he was going to kill my mother by pushing her and the table out of the window. In that moment, my mom was able to escape his wrath for the moment.
My mom survived that night and many more beatings, cuts, bruises, and a broken jaw. It wasn’t until Bob molested me that my left him. Because she wanted to protect me, she and Bob
divorced immediately. There was no visitation allowed. All ties to Bob were cut completely.
The last I heard from him was the first Christmas we were apart. He put a check in the mailbox for my present. There was no card, no note, no phone call… just a check made out to me in the mailbox. To a 9-year-old child, that was probably the most devastating part of this whole experience. You see, even though Bob was a monster, he was still the only father I had ever known. His rejection crushed me.
Well, life went on and I stuffed my childhood way down deep into my heart. I had no idea I had hidden wounds that needed to be healed. I felt like I, just like everyone else I knew, had a dysfunctional family. Watching Oprah, my life seemed normal. When I thought back to my childhood, it didn’t seem like it had happened to me. It seemed like I was watching a movie. Granted, a “made- for TV” movie, starring Farrah Fawcett! I had no idea that all of this affected any part of me until God wanted to heal my broken heart.
I had been walking with the Lord in very close relationship for about a year. I was changing. I had fallen in love with the Lord and been praying and reading God’s word daily. I was growing closer to God and into a deep relationship with him. I was striving to walk in obedience. It was then I felt his call to my heart to forgive this man of my past, Bob. Since I had denied having any feelings of hatred, bitterness, or anger for Bob, I thought, “Sure, I’ll forgive him. No problem. That was part of my life from so long ago. I don’t have any feelings, good or bad, for Bob.”
So I sat down at my computer to compose a letter of forgiveness. It began, "Dear Bob, in case you don’t remember who I am, I am Shirley’s daughter, the little girl you hurt so long ago. In case you don’t remember all of the horrible things you did to us.…” Then I began to list them one by one. As I wrote, a feeling of anger flooded my heart. Suddenly, my computer CRASHED. The screen went black and a little message began flashing, “The operation you are trying to perform is an illegal operation…”
Okay, God, I get it. This is NOT what you had in mind for a letter of forgiveness. I can’t recount to him all the terrible things he had done, but I have to FORGIVE HIM? I confessed that I had not been honest to Him or myself about the hidden wounds of my heart.
My heart cried out, “Maybe I can’t write this letter.” It was then I realized that YES, I was harboring anger, hatred, humiliation, grief, and pain in my heart. I HAD A WOUNDED HEART. I decided to put the letter away for awhile and continue living day to day.
I spent the next few months reading God’s word and praying daily. I was praying about everything and walking in obedience except in this area of forgiving Bob. I constantly had a nagging in the back of my mind and just didn’t feel at peace. To trust in the Lord, I knew I had to forgive Bob. I had to physically make a commitment by taking a leap of faith and writing to him. I knew forgiving him in my heart was not enough.
Finally, Christmas of that same year, I felt I needed to sit down and try again. I needed to TRUST IN THE LORD and obey his call on my heart. I felt like it was time to obey on this issue and release Bob, the anger I had for him, the hatred I felt, and the unforgiveness of my heart.
I was making out Christmas cards and it seemed natural to sit down and write a letter to Bob. It went something like this. “Dear Bob, at this time of the year, when we are thinking about the spirit of Christmas and about the incredible gift of Jesus and His forgiveness of our sins, I felt a need to write to you. At this special time of the year, we pray for peace and love for all people. I wanted to tell you I forgive you and I want you to know the peace and love of Jesus. May God bless you this Christmas with His forgiveness and His peace." I included our family Christmas letter and pictures of our family.
I felt good when I finished the letter and sent it off. I had trusted God that He knew His plan and purpose for my life. I surrendered in this area and obeyed His leading and His will for my life. I felt satisfied.
The real ending to this story, though is what happened next. Within a few days a letter from Bob arrived within a stack of pretty green and red Christmas cards. I still recognized Bob’s left-handed scrawl on the return address. My hands trembled. I wasn’t sure I wanted to open this letter. Part of me wanted to run, throw the letter away, and never think about this man again. I knew if I opened the letter and read it, I was TRULY forgiving and releasing this man. It was a PHYSICAL act of my forgiveness. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to do that. I had to make a choice.
I opened the letter and read it.
No, he didn’t write how sorry he was. No, he didn’t take responsibility for anything that had happened. But, that didn’t matter. What Bob wrote didn’t matter.
What I experienced had to do with what I had done and then what God was able to do because I had trusted Him. When I read Bob’s simple letter, the most incredible peace washed over me. My body was limp and I was weeping. I felt like the heaviest burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I felt light. My heart felt light. The peace of God, the peace THAT PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING is just that it passes our understanding. We don’t understand it, we can’t explain it, but we feel it!
It didn’t seem logical that I felt so good about forgiving this man. I didn’t get revenge. I didn’t make him pay. I don’t even know if he’s sorry! He didn’t deserve my forgiveness, but when I gave it, through the love of Jesus Christ, it flooded ME with peace and joy and love. I felt like I could love this person who had hurt me so badly. God wasn’t saying I needed to have a relationship with this person. I needed to forgive him and release him. And this brought healing to my heart and closure to a part of my life I had kept hidden deep within me for so long.
Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive right now? Has unforgiveness gnawed at your heart? Are you missing out on the peace that passes understanding because you are holding on to your bitterness? Jesus tells us to forgive others just as our Heavenly Father has forgiven us.
Please pray with me right now to let go of anger and bitterness and to completely forgive that person. Pray with me to release that person.
Father God, praise Your Holy name! You are an awesome God. Thank you, God, for Your forgiveness of my sins. You are slow to anger and rich in mercy. Even though I am so unworthy of Your forgiveness, You offer it completely and freely. God, I know I can only forgive those who have hurt me through the power of Your love. I ask that You help me now to forgive (name). Your Word says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Even though this person may not deserve it, You tell me to forgive. I know when I do, I will receive the peace that passes all understanding. I know when I let go of my anger towards this person, it is I who will be set free. I pray, Father, You will give me the strength to do this. Your Word says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Your Word says I am strong in the Lord. I release (name) now to You. Please forgive this person. By the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.
Have you accepted the forgiveness only Jesus can offer? Or, do you hold on to your mistakes and your sins, refusing to accept His forgiveness?
We are forgiven because Jesus was forsaken. Why is this forgiveness so important? Why can’t we have a deep faith without the forgiveness of our sins? Sin keeps us from our relationship with the Lord. It is a barrier. God wants to forgive us. That is why He sent His only Son to die for us. (John 3:16) Sometimes we hear these words so often, we become “immune” to the meaning of them, the Truth. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father, except through me.” We can’t have salvation unless we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and we can’t have life “more abundantly” here on earth until we have accepted the forgiveness of Jesus.
God is a loving, merciful, forgiving God. He is gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and abounding in love.
The story of Jonah illustrates this beautifully. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh with a message to give to the people about their wickedness. Jonah did not want to obey the Lord, so he ran away from Him, and sailed to Tarshish. God sent a storm to get Jonah’s attention, and in His great mercy, a giant fish to swallow Jonah and save him from drowning when he was thrown overboard. After three days in the fish, Jonah repented and the Lord brought him out of the fish. Jonah finally obeyed the Lord and went to Nineveh. But, Jonah went there desiring judgement and condemnation for the people. He gave the people a message of God’s anger towards them because of their wickedness and sin. Jonah was expecting God to wipe out these wicked people and bring punishment to them. But, the people of Nineveh repented and cried out for God’s mercy. The Bible says when God saw this, He had compassion on them and forgave them.
God desires His children to come back to Him. Jesus tells us the story of the Prodigal son to illustrate this to us. The son takes his inheritance and leaves home. After he loses everything, he decides to return home, not as a son, but as a servant. But, the father welcomes him home as a lost treasure. The father wraps the son in the best robe and celebrates his son’s return. God is like this father. He wants us to return to Him. He wants us! Our Heavenly Father is not willing that anyone is lost. He would leave 99 for the sake of one lost sheep.
But, God is Holy and good. His is righteous and just. There are spiritual laws that God MUST stand on, or He would not be God. In order to receive His kingdom, we must be holy and sanctified. We could never make ourselves good enough, no matter how hard we try. We can never be spotless and perfect. We have to accept Jesus as our Savior as our Deliverer, not because we, as Christians are being close-minded or intolerant, or not because Jesus is merely God’s Son or not because He was so wonderful and loving and such a great teacher. No, we MUST accept Jesus as our Savior because He died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and rose again. He BECAME sin- my sin and your sin. It is only through His blood that I have forgiveness of sin and redemption. Jesus took my sins away so that I can now wear His robes of righteousness.
“The wages of sin are death.” Sin equals death. We can either hold on to our sins and die, or we can release them to the cross and live. Psalm 32:3-7 says, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then, I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”- and You forgave the guilt of my sin.” Sin sucks the life from us, spiritually, mentally, and physically.
Jesus said, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:24) John later tells us that “the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.” And also, “He (Jesus) appeared so that He might take away our sins.” Finally, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
Jesus paid such a price- his life; He made such a sacrifice for you. Don’t let it slip away. You can not be saved unless you have accepted this free gift of grace and mercy. Invite Jesus into your heart. Make Him Lord and King of your life. Accept Him as your Savior. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1John 4:10)
Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior? If you haven’t, and desperately want to experience this forgiveness for yourself, please pray with me.
Dear God, I want this! I want to be forgiven. I want my sins to be washed clean by the blood of Jesus. I understand the sacrifice He made for me. I believe in my heart that He died for my sins. I know now that I cannot do this on my own. No matter how good I’ve been (or how bad I’ve been) the only One who can atone for my mistakes is the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a sinner. I have sinned against the Lord by thought, word, and deed. I confess with my mouth and believe in my heart that only Jesus can wash me clean as snow. I believe He died for me. I love you, Lord. I thank you for Your love, for Your sacrifice. Thank You, Jesus. In His name I pray. Amen.
Once we have received Jesus, we still need to confess our sins and call them by name. Jesus offers us complete forgiveness of past, present, and future sins. But our sins do separate us from a strong relationship with our Lord. Psalm 38:18 says, “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.”
We are troubled by our sins. There is a lack of peace in our spirits when we have unconfessed sin. David describes the feeling this way in Psalm 38, “Because of Your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.” The seeds of guilt and sin continue to grow until we confess our sins. The act of confession and repentance brings forth forgiveness and peace.
1John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Even after we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we still need to confess our sins. We need to bring our sins out of the darkness and allow God’s wonderful light to shine on them. Once we have named our sins and repent of them, we can receive His forgiveness and God purifies us from all unrighteousness.
Take a few minutes now to be silent before the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to whisper to you. Pray that God would show you any sins that need to be brought forth and confessed, brought before His throne. Confess them, repent of them and thank God for His forgiveness!
Father God, all glory and honor and praise to You! You are such a good God. You are so loving and forgiving and merciful. Your Word says we are dead in our sins, but because of Your great love for us and Your mercy, You have made us alive again in Christ. You are filled with kindness. Lord, I confess… (confess any sins that the Holy Spirit has brought to your mind). I am sorry. Thank you for your forgiveness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
At times we hide our wounds inside of us and bury them deeply inside. We also bury our emotions deep within us. We are not honest with ourselves or with God. Sometimes this is hurt we keep inside. But sometimes it is anger.
Rick Warren says, “If you want a deeper, more intimate connection with God, you must learn to honestly share your feelings with him, trust him when he asks you to do something, learn to care about what he cares about, and desire his friendship more than anything else.” He says we must be completely honest with God- about our faults and feelings. Warren asks, “
Can God handle that kind of frank, intense honesty from you? Absolutely! Genuine friendship is built on disclosure. What may appear as audacity God views as authenticity. God listens to the passionate words of his friends. He is bored with predictable clichés. To be God’s friend, you must be honest with God, sharing your true feelings, not just what you THINK you ought to say or feel. It is likely you need to confess some hidden anger and resentment at God for certain areas of your life where you have felt cheated or disappointed.”
When our prayers aren’t answered the way we think they should be, when we are suffering, when we are facing trials and not getting the results we think we should, those are the times we may start to blame God and become bitter. These are the times it is difficult to trust God. But, when we fall at God’s feet, confess our pain, and ask for his mercy and comfort, He will walk with us through these times. We may never understand God’s will in certain situations, but this is true FAITH- completely releasing these feelings to God.
Never forget this earth is not your home. Many of us are SO married to this world and the ways of this world that we forget it is NOT our home. Our citizenship is in heaven. Our home is in Heaven with our Lord! And Jesus said that we would face trials of many kinds here on earth. Peter says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you.” As long as we are on earth, we will have to endure suffering and trials.
All through the Bible are encouraging stories of people facing trials and struggles- Esther, Mary, mother of Jesus, Jonah, and of course Job. Suffering is nothing new or different. As it says in Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Like every generation before us, we will be tested. Our faith will be tested. We will endure hardship.
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” To be mature and complete, you MUST face trials. Did you catch that? In order to be complete, to be a complete person, you must endure trials and persevere through them. And then, verse 12 says, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”
The Bible also says, “God works out EVERYTHING for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28). Not just some things, not just good things, but all things! We may not understand why things happen, but we can rest assured that God is using our experiences for GOOD- somehow bringing good from them. I know I would not be the same person I am if I had not endured the painful trials I experienced as a child. God’s ways are not our ways and often we don’t understand His ways. But, when trust in the Lord, completely, even when life doesn’t make sense, we grow a healed heart.
“Trust in the Lord and you will live safely and prosper.” Your relationship with the Lord will prosper and you will experience the peace that passes all understanding. Psalm 30:5b says, “weeping may go on all night, but JOY comes with the morning.” You may be experiencing the pain of the night right now in your life. But, God will bring the morning into your life. The joy will return, if you allow God into your heart, abandoning yourself, surrendering to His love. God is watching. God does care. He notices when we are hurting.
“Praise be to God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Father of COMPASSION and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” God promises we will never walk alone. Always remember, “The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with his love. And, He will rejoice over you with singing.” When you open your heart to the Lord, He will heal it! Open your heart today. Forgive others, forgive yourself, and be healed, dear Reader. Please pray with me.
Father God, we thank You for Your goodness. We praise You and give You all glory and honor. Lord, I pray that You would open the eyes of the heart of this reader. I pray that You would make her love “abound more and more in knowledge and depth and insight” so that she will be able to discern what is best. I pray that she would put her trust in You Lord. I pray that whatever trial she is facing right now, she knows with absolute certainty that You are walking with her, watching over her, protecting her, and loving her. I pray that she has forgiven any and all people in her life through You. Your word says we are strong in the Lord. So, no matter how undeserving or terrible a person has been, You give us the strength to release that person and forgive him. Help the reader to “guard her heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Help her to forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead. Please, Lord, put Your healing hand around her heart, completely binding up any wounds. Thank you Father. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
1. Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Savior? If not, what is holding you back? Are you willing to make that first step?
2. Are there people in your life you need to forgive? Ask God to help you in a prayer.
3. Are there areas you haven’t forgiven yourself? Release those to God. Write a prayer receiving God’s forgiveness and forgiving yourself.
4. Are there any hidden sins, past or present, that you need to confess and release to Jesus? Have you told yourself that what you have done is too terrible? That it is unforgivable? Romans tells us that we “are dead to sin but alive to God in Christ” and that we “have been set free from sin.” The blood of Jesus Christ covers ALL sin. No matter WHO you are, what you have done, or what has been done to you, God forgives you completely through the blood of Jesus.