I have a personal story. You probably did not know this, but I was terribly abused as a child and teenager. My abusers included my parents, and forgiveness was something I found very difficult to address until God called me into following Jesus and living His way of life. One day, I was reading scripture and had a spiritual “aha” moment when I saw Jesus telling His followers that if they (we) didn’t forgive those that hurt them, God would not forgive them. That sent me to my knees because I sincerely then as I do now want to follow Jesus and live the way He wants me to. I told God that I knew it was impossible for me to forgive my mother on my own power and strength alone and that I would need His help in doing so. There’s biblical precedent for that. Jesus asked a desperate dad if he believe He could heal his son. The dad was honest and pleaded, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” I did the same thing with forgiveness. I went on with my life, knowing that God heard my prayer and that He would help whenever He saw fit to.
Months later, I was recovering from a nearly fatal illness when my mother had a stroke and had to be hospitalized. It took a while for me to get there, and the 40 mile drive was agonizing because I was dreading seeing her knowing how she would verbally rip me to shreds as was her habit. I took a deep breath outside her room and forced myself inside. I was astonished to find that she didn’t know who I was and that her personality was changed so much that she was emotionally unrecognizable. The stroke robbed her of her memory and changed her anger and bitterness into gentleness and childlikeness. The thing was that my anger just melted away because I simply couldn’t be angry at the woman lying in the bed in front of me.
When I got back home, I realized God literally changed me from the inside out by engineering the circumstances regarding my mother. Instead of anger, I was able to feel compassion for her as she appeared in that hospital room. I learned that I could indeed leave negative thoughts and emotions behind and replace them with spiritually healthy ones. My blessing is that because of my changed attitude, I was able to pray my mother home to God at the end of her physical life. Although not a believer, she was indeed His creation, and it was a joy as well as closure for me to be able to do so.
So, here’s to the transforming power of forgiveness. May these words encourage those that read them. May all recognize that God is here to help in ways that you might not have thought possible.
©2013, Pastors George and Sharon Billington, All Rights Reserved