Obstacles To Forgiveness

Steve Arterburn

 

 

Pastor Walter Everett’s twenty-three-year-old son was shot to death in cold blood. After the killer was behind bars, the pastor had a large, impossible task before him’namely, forgiving the person who so callously cut short his son’s life, and tore the pastor’s heart to shreds in the process.

In the court case that followed, the murderer told the judge and those assembled in the courtroom he was sorry, but his voice and manner seemed insincere to all who heard him. This made forgiveness even more difficult for the grieving pastor.

It’s always difficult to give even an inch of grace to someone whose actions have brought enduring pain into your life. It’s especially difficult when the person doesn’t sincerely exhibit sorrow, repentance, and remorse.

But Pastor Everett knew forgiveness wasn’t an option. Eventually, in an act that amounted to nothing short of sheer determination and stubborn obedience, he composed a letter of forgiveness to the killer.

The pastor later learned that the young man, after reading the letter, had fallen to his knees. Sobbing beside his prison bunk, the killer asked Jesus to forgive his sins and come into his heart.

When Pastor Everett mailed his letter he had no idea what the result of his obedience would be. And neither do any of us. Pastor Everett had plenty of so-called ‘good’ reasons not to forgive his son’s killer. But he knew that none of them were quite good enough.

Men, who do you need to forgive?

Extending Forgiveness

Steve Arterburn

 

 

Emotional pain never dies of natural causes. Old age doesn’t sap its strength. And you can’t bury it alive. If you try, it’ll kick and scream until you acknowledge it, feel it, and work through it. And working through it usually requires you to forgive. Of course, you can try ignoring the pain ‘ we call that denial. And this may work’to some extent and for some short period of time. But the only way to get it out of your heart is through forgiveness.

Unexpressed grief festers and swells, waiting to erupt. It may explode in uncontrollable rage, gush out in unstoppable tears, seep out in unexplainable depression, or ooze internally, resulting in undiagnosed illness. But men, the one thing you can be absolutely sure of is this: pain you’ve shoved deep down never leaves on its own.

People carry all kinds of pain from disappointments, failures, betrayals, and losses. In our hectic world, the most efficient and acceptable way of dealing with emotional pain is to get yourself so busy that you simply have no time to think about it. This eases your discomfort, so you can carry on, seemingly no worse for wear. The avoidance of pain, however, will keep you from going through the process of forgiveness. When you refuse to feel the full impact of your pain, you don’t allow it to do its necessary work on your character.

Men, please don’t settle for temporary and inadequate fixes. Extending forgiveness is the only real way toward healing.

Rebooting Your Marriage

Steve Arterburn

I host a weekday call-in radio show with five other counselors called New Life Live! Since we handle many calls each day, it’s easy to spot common themes that arise.

One common theme is the one about blaming and judging a wife who ‘just isn’t enough’ for a man. It’s amazing the mental gyrations some men will go through not to take responsibility. One day we commented that the worst-selling T-shirt we could market would say, ‘It was my fault.’ No guys would buy it!

Here’s an idea for another T-shirt message: ‘You’re not to blame for my problems.’ But let’s not wait for that T-shirt to land in stores to own that truth. Because when we own this, we’re humbled and ready to do what needs doing: asking for forgiveness.

Every computer has a reboot key that allows for fresh starts. Everything cranks up as if it were doing it for the first time. For individuals, the reboot key is called confession. Confession realigns the person with God and removes the stain of denial. The reboot key for a relationship is asking for forgiveness. It places the relationship back at ground zero. It doesn’t ensure that forgiveness will be granted, but at least from the point of forgiveness the relationship has an opportunity to flourish. Men, if you and your marriage are stuck, consider the most humbling thing you can do: Ask your wife to forgive you.

When Forgiving Seems Impossible

Steve Arterburn

Corrie ten Boom, one of the twentieth century’s great Christian spokespersons, lost her sister and father in the Nazi death camps of World War II, and she barely escaped with her own life too.

 

Years after the war, she began speaking on the subject of forgiveness. After one address in Munich, a former S.S. man who brutalized and humiliated Corrie while she was in prison approached her as the church was emptying. Beaming with joy, he said, ‘How grateful I am for your message Fraulein. To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’

 

He extended his hand to her. She was frozen, trying to smile as angry, vengeful thoughts boiled inside her. Breathing a silent prayer and acting in sheer obedience, she finally managed to take the man’s hand. She recalls what happened next like this:

 

‘As I took his hand in mine the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on Christ’s. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.’

 

Men, whenever forgiveness seems impossible, remember this: Jesus Christ lives in you, and He can do what you cannot.

The Cost of Forgiveness

Brad Stenberg

The wrong done by sexual sin and betrayal is a serious matter, but the forgiveness involved is more serious still. That’s because forgiveness can set in motion the healing of a relationship where truth replaces deception, and a future hope is birthed out of ashes. But there are certain costs involved.

To ask for forgiveness costs you having to bear the sting of humility and humiliation. You have to give up the defenses that protect your self-image from being morally wrong by openly admitting your failure and being exposed. It also costs you what status or power you may have had with your wife because you have to give up that position to the one you have wronged. And it costs you the uncertainty of knowing whether your wife will be willing and able to overcome the many impediments to forgiving you. This kind of betrayal can cause irreparable damage to a marriage.

As difficult as it seems for you, think what it costs your wife to forgive you.

First, she has to give up her claim to justice. She has to let go of her desire to see you get what you deserve for your sexual sin. While she experiences the painful agony of being betrayed, it seems to her that you are getting by without this pain. Instead, she has to trust and obey God’s instruction to not take vengeance or carry a grudge, but rather to love you in the Lord (Leviticus 19:18). This is not easy.

Second, the forgiving process costs your wife her sense of safety with you. The discovery of sexual unfaithfulness in one’s marriage is described by many women as being worse than having your body torn apart, or having open heart surgery without anesthesia. This kind of trauma often causes a wife to organize the entire relationship around the injury. The hurt can reemerge in an alive and intensely emotional manner, like a flashback that feels overwhelming. Though you sorrowfully admit and repent of your transgression, she finds it difficult to let it go because she never wants to be hurt like this again. So she naturally protects herself from being vulnerable.

Third, the occasion for forgiveness has cost her the loss of trust in you. You betrayed a trust that you promised to protect. Your wife now has to protect what little trust she has left. Even though she forgives you for what you did in the past, trusting you is about the future. It’s going to take some time for her to be able to trust and invest in you again. This is something you will have to earn through more than verbal reassurances. She needs to see your bold, concrete, and consistent actions over time. Feeling remorse is good, and verbal promises help, but it’s your overall attitude and actions that will win your wife’s trust back. She has to trust that you will not harm her again.

So, in most cases of sexual betrayal a wife has the heavier emotional load to carry. She has to control intrusive and obsessive thoughts about your behaviors. She has to calm the rage that screams from her pain of rejection. She has to grieve the loss of not having the marriage she thought she had. And she has to find a way to restore her lost sense of self. Meanwhile, she also has to find the strength to act in ways that are attractive to you, while risking being vulnerable and intimate again. And she has to do all this while dealing with the difficult issue of forgiving you. It’s necessary, but costly.

In contrast, you want it to be over. You’ve confessed or admitted your behavior (though perhaps only after having been caught). You’ve pledged your fidelity and commitment to be sexually pure. You feel relieved, cleansed, and ready to move on. You think it’s in your and her best interest to forgive, trust, and get over it. But it is not in your wife’s best interest to forgive and trust you too quickly because cheap grace does not produce the lasting change you both need.

It cost God His only Son to be able to say, I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me for I have redeemed you (Isaiah 44:22, NIV).

So know and accept that the forgiveness process you and your wife are involved in will cost you both something.

For help in experiencing forgiveness and healing, we strongly encourage you to attend the New Life Weekend with your spouse.

Looking Good on the Inside

Chuck Underwood

What is it that keeps men imprisoned in a downward spiral of sexual sin? It can be summed up in one word’denial. The fact is we cannot change what we will not acknowledge.

Many men have a behavioral life that is in conflict with the professed values, and beliefs that define their Christian walk. They look good on the outside, but are pretty shabby on the inside–like the duck that seems to glide effortlessly across the smooth calm water. It looks good on the surface, but under the water that duck’s feet are anything but still: they are wildly kicking just to stay in forward motion.

Some men create a lot of ways to look good on the surface without looking at what goes on under the waterline’a lot of violent kicking.

Many times a man will try to solve his sexual addictions by making the problem someone else”a wife, or girlfriend. If only she would change, then I wouldn’t have to act this way. She just isn’t meeting my needs. Someone else must be responsible for my choices.

The most difficult thing for a man struggling with sexual sin is to be honest. The wisest man ever’King Solomon said, ‘He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy’ (Proverbs 28:13, NIV).

Admitting that there is a need to change is the first step out of sexual bondage. Minimizing the need to confess to God, others, and ourselves only obstructs positive growth.

What is the positive growth we are after? To restore the relationships that were destroyed as a result of sexual sin is of utmost importance. Sexual sin separates and isolates a man from his network of support. In a counseling practice one of the predictors of successful therapy is the degree of connection of a person to his family and friends. A sexual addict perpetuates fantasy in his daily life that plays a huge part in isolating him from other people. It becomes a double life that seeks to avoid exposure at all costs’bringing a loss of emotional connectedness. Disconnection and isolation are the very things that are realized in a world that becomes extremely self-centered.

The goal for every Christian should be restoration. This begins with confession. Confession implies transparency’a straightforward agreement with God that those choices were sinful. Confession is reality-based: a complete honest, humble emptying of self. The reality is being willing to deal with the sexual sin up close and personal. When a man comes before God in this manner He declares him forgiven’even righteous (I John 1:9). It is a three-part journey’forgiveness from God, forgiveness of self, and forgiveness of others.

God’s forgiveness is always available for the asking. But, have you ever asked God to forgive you and then not felt forgiven? First, forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a fact, a fact backed up by God’s own Word.
For some forgiveness isn’t accepted because there is a belief that forgiveness is not deserved’the idea of not being good enough to be forgiven. The reality is that men often stand in the way of the effects of forgiveness because they are trying to hide the complete truth from God and themselves.

Forgiveness and reconciliation must take place in order to restore relationships with Christ, wives, family, and friends. Reconciliation is a process of emotional reconnection to those vital relationships.

Can the downward spiral of sexual sin be stopped? Absolutely! What does it take? It takes honesty confession, growth, forgiveness and restoration. Acknowledging the problem and desiring to change is the pathway to establishing a behavioral life that is no longer in conflict with the values and beliefs of a growing Christian walk.

For more help in the battle for purity see Every Man\’s Battle.
Also, take the loving step of helping your spouse. See the programs for wives and couples offered at the New Life Weekend.

Receiving the Gift that Heals: Forgiveness

Brad Stenberg

- Read: Psalm 103:2-4; 8-13; Isaiah 44:22; 1 John 1:9 -

We all wish there was a delete key for dealing with the past so we could forget the hurtful things we’ve done. But our memory gets in the way of forgetting the pain our sin has caused others. The only way this pain can be truly removed is through forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the basis of our life in Christ. The Christian life is a forgiven and forgiving life. Jesus taught us to pray, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. We cannot give what we do not have, so forgiving is a function of having first received forgiveness. Thus, we live and relate to one another in the forgiveness of our sins.

What does it mean to receive forgiveness? Does it mean what we did is approved of, excused, or denied? Not in the least. Does it mean the hurt we caused is forgotten and not taken seriously? No. Does it mean we’re exempted from any consequences of our behavior? Not at all. Does it mean we’ve fully reinstated into the relationship we damaged as if nothing happened? Usually not.

To be forgiven simply means having our debt canceled. The forgiver, while blaming us for the serious, wounding wrong we did to them, gives up their right for vengeance and extends mercy instead.

Receiving forgiveness is experiencing grace ‘ receiving a gift we don’t deserve.

We all have difficulty receiving forgiveness and feeling it because we have difficulty receiving unmerited favor. We would prefer to have to work at it. Grace goes against who we are because we don’t feel like we deserve love when we’ve messed up. But deserve and love don’t go together. Gift and love go together. If we have to deserve love it’s not a gift; it’s a wage we have to negotiate. Forgiveness is a gift from the forgiver.

Receiving forgiveness is a process that requires several things. First, you have to be guilty of wrong doing. Some of us have difficulty accepting the fact that we did something wrong. We resist being in the ‘I am wrong’ position and owning the fact that what we did caused others to experience serious pain and to suffer the resulting, and often prolonged fallout of this. But you cannot receive forgiveness unless you own up to, take responsibility for, and truly feel remorseful of your wrong doing.

Then you must confess it in specific terms. Proverbs 28:13 says, He who conceals his transgression will not succeed, but He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy. Some guys admit they sinned in global terms, but not in specific, personal terms. They admit they’re weak in sexual sin like every other guy without naming and identifying with the specific wrong they’ve done. We are to be specific. General confessions do very little to convict of sin, convince the one offended of your seriousness, or to bring healing.

We are then to turn away from our sin; remove it from our thoughts, and resolve in our heart that we will not do it again. Isaiah 55:7 says, Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. God knows the difference between those who are sincere and those who are trying to temporarily ease their conscience. He is not mocked or deceived. If you come in sorrow, humility and sincerity, His grace is abundant. However, He has little patience for those who would abuse His mercy. Search your heart for true repentance, and seek the Holy Spirit’s power to make the necessary changes.

We also need a forgiver. Forgiveness is relational. It’s an interpersonal process, not an intellectual thing, mind set, or some meditative state. It’s something that transpires between two people. Someone has to give forgiveness for us to receive it. The forgiver needs to be a good accuser by making the offense direct and specific. Once we’ve admitted to and taken ownership of it, the forgiver’s words should be something like those of Jesus to woman caught in adultery, Neither do I accuse you. Now go and sin no more.

The wrong that we’ve done is serious, but true repentance and the forgiveness received is more serious still. Wounds are healed, self-respect is restored, hope for the future is birthed, light removes the former darkness, positives replace negatives, and newness of life made possible.

Key#5: Forgiveness

Steve Arterburn

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is important to our health.

Unresolved anger or suppressed anger leads to depression.
Ongoing anger causes surges of adrenaline and other powerful chemicals which can attack our bodies.
Not dealing with anger increases our level of stress.
Rage and depression both contribute to addictions.
When we forgive, we recognize our own failures and we are humbled.

To forgive and to receive forgiveness are gracious acts of love. These acts have supernatural power to change both the life of the forgiven and the one who forgives. When you look at how God has forgiven you, it moves you to find a way to forgive others even if they have hurt you deeply. The cross of Christ makes forgiveness possible for you and me far beyond our own power to forgive. When you refuse to forgive, you play ‘god’ in the lives of others, and pass your judgment on them.

Forgiveness can be difficult ‘ almost impossible ‘ for those who have been severely abused physically, sexually and even spiritually. It is never easy or instant, and may take years to complete. However, if forgiveness isn’t rendered, the injured person remains trapped in the abuse of the past. Additionally, choosing not to forgive allows others to continue to abuse you, as you endlessly relive their offenses. Your yesterdays must be put in the past so you can fully enjoy today.

The forgiveness process also involves making things right with those you have wounded. This may require you to write letters or phone calls, to repay debts, to make amends or otherwise do our part in making wrongs as right as possible. This, of course, can result in enormous spiritual blessings, both to others and to you.

Forgiveness, when empowered by God’s Spirit, is a process of detaching painful events from your emotional response to them, thus facilitating the process of healing. In contrast, the refusal to forgive has far-reaching results spiritually, emotionally and even physically.

Evidence of Forgiveness:

‘ Means you hand back your rights to God and invite Him to be in charge.

‘ Means asking for forgiveness and making restitution for the damage you’ve done.

‘ Means you no longer energize yourself with rage or hatred.

‘ Means you stop trying to change other people and ask God to do it.

‘ Means you step out of the past into the present.

‘ Means you accept the pardon of the cross for others as well as for yourself.

‘ Means you begin a process of forgiveness which may continue for a lifetime.

‘ Means living in the light of God’s forgiveness.

‘ Means you sift through your life and discard the resentments and hurts of the past.

Evidence of a lack of Forgiveness:

‘ You continue to hold a grudge against others.

‘ You do not make restitution for past wrongs.

‘ You feel that God is angry at you personally.

Forgiveness Prayer:

Dear Lord,
You have commanded me to forgive others, just as you have forgiven me through the
sacrifice of your Son, Jesus. I choose to obey you, even though this is not easy for me.
You listed all of my sins, then you nailed them to the cross so that Jesus’ blood could pay for them. Help me to release this account over to you and not seek justice for my sake. Help me to trust that you are just and will carry out whatever punishment is necessary.

Yet, while I transfer this account to you, you know how I feel. You know the wounds that
still remain as a result of this wrong. As I obey you by releasing this person from my
debt, I pray that you will heal the hurts they have caused me. Help me to trust that you
are willing and able to redeem me from the wrongs that have been done against me. If
thoughts of revenge occur, I pray that you will help me continually to release this person’s
account over to you. Amen