Releasing the Healing Power of Forgiveness–Body, Mind, and Spirit

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven (left, remitted, and let go of the debts, and have given up resentment against) our debtors.”  “For if you forgive people their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”  “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.”  (Matthew 6:12, 14-15)

Is anyone among you afflicted (ill-treated, suffering evil)? He should pray. Is anyone glad at heart? He should sing praise [to God].  Is anyone among you sick? He should call in the church elders (the spiritual guides). And they should pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Lord’s name.  And the prayer [that is] of faith will save him who is sick, and the Lord will restore him; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].  (James 5:13-16)

Is there really a connection between unforgiveness and sickness?  One might argue that the two subjects were addressed separately in the Scriptures, or that one has nothing to do with the other, but I urge you to consider the possibility of how dispensing forgiveness is integral component to our health and well-being.  We all get wounded by others at some point in our lives.  There’s no sin in that.  When we refuse to move on and we let it become a wall between us and the God who has asked us to forgive when we are wronged, it’s like applying a tourniquet to a hemorrhaging wound, but permanently.  It cuts all blood flow and life off to the injured part.  So one would wind up damaging or even losing the very thing he or she tried to preserve.  When we refuse to forgive, it is a rebellion and therefore, sin.  Making a spirit of offense a way of life can set us up for iniquity (deep, embedded sin) that is toxic to our loved ones.  Look at entire cultures who live for revenge!  Gangs.  The Mob.  We take on that same mentality of an eye-for-an-eye when we refuse to forgive.  There are individuals and groups of people who are still hating and warring against one another for wrongs committed years and even centuries before they were born!

Back to the point.  Forgiving those who have harmed or offended us is a critical element of healing of illnesses in our bodies. If we hold offense toward other people, it can actually hinder our recovery from sickness and can even be the root cause of certain instances of disease!  And while I certainly don’t believe that every sickness is tied to unforgiveness or other sin in one’s life, I would ask you to do some honest self-assessment if you are battling a health or mental issue or other chronic problem that just won’t go away.  Whether you never get well in the physical (and I believe you can), you owe it to your soul’s peace to toss some excess baggage over the side of the ship.  I don’t care what excuse you’re prepared to offer me, it’s worth peace and healing to let that vendetta die and stay in the past.

Even medical science, though not necessarily enlightened as to the spiritual aspect, agrees with the assessment that unforgiveness can breed/perpetuate illness.  Even if it feels unfair for you to be required to release forgiveness to someone who hurt you, please let me separate their act from your choice in my appeal for forgiveness.  You had no power over what they did.  You do, however, have power over what you choose to do going forward.  It doesn’t mean that you are agreeing to or pleased with what they did, or that you no longer feel it was wrong.  It doesn’t mean that justice no longer is applicable.  It simply means that you are shifting responsibility for retribution, going forward, out of your hands and into God’s.  You are no longer the jailor OR the jailed.  I plead with you to value your physical, spiritual, and emotional health over the luxury of holding your offender(s) in the limbo of offense.  Moreover, I plead with you to value your right standing with God in higher regard than your compulsion to hate and despise those who’ve mistreated you!  The satisfaction of incubating resentment is a cheap substitute for true freedom…and it’s a poor swap for health and peace of mind.

And if it doesn’t concern you enough for your physical health, let me tell you that unforgiveness can drive you quite literally mad.  I know the true story of a person whose family had a grave injustice done.  I certainly don’t downplay the seriousness of what happened; but this particular member of the family would not forgive, obsessed about the situation to the point of a nervous breakdown, and now is clinically insane.  That person babbles and rants all the time about what happened and is isolated from family and friends and community because the unforgiveness drove him/her to a loss of mental stability.  Unless a deliverance from that tormenting lunatic spirit were to take place, the person will remain in a mental state where reason and communication and peace are beyond reach.   Yes, it’s that serious.  How far are you willing to let the devil enslave you to unforgiveness?  Are you willing to never recover, or do you want to be free?

I wish I could tell you that you have every right to carry that grudge if it makes you feel better, but I’d be doing you a terrible disservice. You can choose to keep carrying that thing, but not without terrible consequences to yourself. You’re not hurting the other party–you’re letting poison sludge through your own body, soul, and spirit. You tie the hands of God from righting the wrong when you take this liberty to violate what His Word says about forgiveness, justice, revenge, and mercy. A grudge doesn’t create a separation from you and the person who hurt you, as it seems it should–but it actually cements the connection. Would you like to handcuff yourself to someone you have something against and have him/her everywhere you go, 24/7? When you refuse to forgive, that’s exactly what you do in the spirit realm.  That person or offense then follows you day and night, giving you no rest, giving the devil legal access to attack you in your body and mind.  Sickness, depression, anxiety, fear…they love to sneak through the cracks in your armor left by unforgiveness.  The only way to truly sever a tie that’s capable of keeping you sick is to forgive and release. Don’t be mad because I’ve told you the truth–the good news is, you can set yourself free when you forgive.

If someone has done a terrible injustice to you, let God be the one responsible for dispensing the justice. No one wants to be sick or to suffer or to create an iniquity that can go from generation to generation in one’s family! The devil tells you that you cannot forgive that person, that employer, that race of people, that school, that political group, that church.  He will even tell you that you are betraying yourself, your family, or your cause if you forgive and release.  But I tell you, you can. And you must, if you want to walk in the full blessing of God! If laws have been broken and moral laws violated, judges and courts may still dispense justice and in many cases, absolutely should. But don’t let the probability of or the right/wrong outcome of those things determine whether you forgive and forgive quickly.  Do it now, before a root of bitterness springs up and starts an avalanche of emotional and physical illnesses in your life.

Believe me when I tell you, people don’t really care if you choose to hurt yourself by holding that grudge. The other party may never know or never care that you feel this way. It won’t make anyone treat you better or feel sorry for you or grant you favor…or make you look like the one who was right. You sickening yourself through unforgiveness won’t compel the other person to make things right with you. If you choose to hold onto this offense, you do so to your own detriment. Please…let it go and be healedYou can do this.  Pray with me:

Father, _____ hurt me. You saw it happen and you have watched from Day One as it all unfolded. I am still harboring anger, hurt, resentment, and yes, unforgiveness. It’s so hard to just let this go! My flesh says I can’t! But…I don’t want any barriers between You and me. I don’t want my refusal to cooperate with Your Word to be a cause for sickness and disease, or to cause a chain-reaction unfortunate events in my life and in my family. I don’t want to pass on a begrudging, vengeful spirit to my children and grandchildren as they watch me stew and rant and implode.  I don’t want the people around me to grow weary with my constant re-hashing how I’ve been done wrong and how I can get even.  I repent before You, even though the devil has told me I shouldn’t have to be sorry. I’m sorry that I let my feelings come before my relationship with You. Jesus didn’t just die for me, He died for the people who hurt and crucified Him; and He died for the people who have hurt me, too.

I declare with my mouth that I forgive ____ and I release him/her/them from this day forward of this injustice against me. Every time what was done to me comes back to my mind, I will say “I forgive” over and over again. Your Word mentioned a 70 x 7 of offenses; and while that person may not be doing evil things to me 490 times in a day, my thoughts may be rehearsing those past wrongs that many times or more in a day. So I will address every instant replay with “I forgive” because I AM forgiving! I even forgive those who are now in the grave. I even forgive myself of things I’ve done, should not have done, said, whatever.  I may have done a great job of hiding my feelings about this thing, but You knew my heart all along. Forgive what I held in contempt privately even though I never told a soul! Forgiveness isn’t saying that I deny any wrongdoing on the other person’s part. It doesn’t mean that his/her/their actions will not bear consequences of sowing and reaping. It doesn’t even mean that I have to welcome future opportunities for abuse. It does, however, mean that I no longer wish harm on that person! It does mean that I stop obsessing about what I can’t rewind and change. It does mean that I love You more than I love to feel as if I’m in control. It means that I am willing to do as Jesus taught: I will love those who have made themselves my enemy. I will bless those who have cursed me. I will do good to those who hate me, and I will pray for those who persecute, bully, and accuse me falsely. You would never ask me to do what Your grace could not enable me to do, so in faith I say that I am a FORGIVER. In giving my best effort to do these things, I release Your favor over my life and I loose Your hands to be my vindicator, my healer, and my protector!  When I’m tempted to take on this spirit of heaviness and unforgiveness again, I’ll think of myself kind of like a hermit crab–offense may have once been my identity; but I’ve grown since then and I can’t squeeze back into that old, small, suffocating, incarcerating shell!

And now, Father, I lay my physical and mental health conditions before You and ask that Your healing go to work in those things which unforgiveness may have caused or exasperated. Send Your blessing over my life and mend the brokenness. You can restore all things which may have lain in ruins. I look to You to provide for my needs, to right the wrongs, to bring joy and health back to me, and You may even enable me to laugh at the very thing which tried to take me out! I love You, I trust You, and I ask Your will to be done in my life. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart please You, my Rock and Redeemer! Thank You for revealing the problem and helping me to get on the path to WHOLENESS!

File Thirteen: The 490 Principle

IMG_4775“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”  Matthew 18:21-22 (New Living Translation)

I’m going to share a personal insight on the above Scripture that may or may not get a round of applause from seasoned theologians; but for those of you who struggle in this area, it may be what you need to help set you free.

I went through an ordeal once where, for about 5 years, I was done terribly wrong by someone very close to me.  I was hung in an endless loop of hurt and self-permitted abuse, and one of the biggest tethers which had me bound was my own inability to let it go.

You see, often when we deal with a deep-seated or long-term hurt, it becomes as much our “friend” as it is our enemy.  Our hurt becomes our identity, something we nurse and justify and protect.  Without it, we no longer know who we are…why, what would we have to talk about with others if not for “it?”  Without it, on whom or what could we blame the weight gain, those pesky gray hairs, or that once-in-a-lifetime dream gone down the tubes?

During this season of my life, I was faced with a crossroads and not much time in which to choose.  On the one hand, I had a lifetime ahead of me to continue carrying that overloaded briefcase of offenses, stuffed haphazardly with the file folders of my memory.  I might be humpbacked from straining and dragging it behind me, but at least I’d never be alone as long as I had my hurt!  I’d never have to reinvent myself because at least I recognized and had learned to co-exist with the long, pitiful face staring back at me in the mirror!

On the other hand, there was a clean slate and a pure conscience; there was love and opportunity and peace of mind waiting through a narrow passage…only I couldn’t squeeze through that passage with my knapsack stuffed with past hurts.  What if I got to the other side and missed being able to thumb through the pages and pages of things gone wrong?  What would I have left if no one else were made to remember the martyr I’d been for having gone through all that hurt?  What glory was there in people suddenly forgetting my sacrifices and longsuffering?  What IF?!!!

Perhaps I’m being overly illustrative, but I truly was struggling and I wanted desperately to do the right thing.  Deep in my heart, I was tired of being sad, and tired of having an excuse for not rising above that series of incidents which kept me stuck in first gear.  It was at this point that in my prayer time, God began to not only edge me toward a new level of maturity, but He also began to reveal something simple yet profound enough to help me actually want to be free.  He’s a really merciful Father…He loves us too much to allow us to stay the way we are!

I had read the Scripture many times about forgiving 490 times in a day, and had a whole different idea of what it meant.  Although my offender at times came pretty close to meeting quota by my estimation (smile), I never actually had to release 490 separate sins committed against me in one day EVER.  But, this Scripture came to life and began to grow with greater revelation when I suddenly made the course-altering move to speak the words that very first time, “I choose to forgive.”

I had thought all my life that, once you forgive someone, you forgive…and the forget part comes automatically.  Well, eventually perhaps, but not always.  For situations like what I overcame, and what you’re getting ready to become free from, there comes “File 13.”

Beginning today, I want you to set a goal to get out from under that one hurt you’ve babied and protected.  Jesus had your situation in mind when He commanded to forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven–or–as often as it comes to your mind.  Our memory can be pretty active when it comes to instant replay, and unless we discipline ourselves to shut that button off, we can consume entire days with reliving hurts over and over.  What a waste of a perfectly good life!

Get serious about this thing, because not only is it toxic to your spirit and to your physical body, but if you want to receive forgiveness from the Lord, you’re going to have to learn how to dish it out.  Right now, say out loud with me, “I choose to forgive __________ (name).”  That person can be dead or alive…doesn’t matter…you’re doing this in obedience to God, and you’re doing it for YOU.  You need to let him or her off the hook more than your offender needs to be let off!

It will feel almost like a self-betrayal at first–and your carnal side is going to kick and scream for retribution and that proverbial pound of flesh–but stick to your guns!  Oops, you just now thought of it again…so say it again:  “I choose to forgive _________.”  Don’t be surprised that, since thoughts seem to travel at warp speed, you may have the occasion to forgive the memory of one act 490 times in a day.  Your mental trashcan will probably have wadded up papers flowing out on all sides.  Keep confessing forgiveness and tossing the offense into the garbage.

Know this:  if you have to re-do the act of forgiveness, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you didn’t truly forgive in the first place.  That doesn’t make you a failure any more than having to die to sin each new day makes you unsaved.  Don’t give up and say, “I just can’t forgive!”  You CAN—with work.  It’s as much a process as it is an action, and sometimes you have to speak with your mouth and then let your attitude follow your intention.  The power of life and death is in the tongue, and you’re in a battle for the quality of your life!  You may not even feel your heart 100% in what you’re saying, but keep saying it anyway.  Trust me when I tell you that for every time you say it with as much faith as you can muster, that hurt has less and less a hold on you.  Eventually the day will come when you really will forget to hurt!  You may not forget the incident, but you will forget to let it control your life. That’s freedom indeed.

I’ll never forget an object lesson Debra Catron taught on a Wednesday night at our church several years ago, when she recounted a difficult season in her own life.  She said, “There’s a little trunk of painful memories in the attic of my mind.  Now, I can open that trunk and go through the contents at any time, or I can leave it locked.  I simply choose not to go there anymore.”

©2011  Lisa Crum.

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Thorn-Proof Determination

macro-thorn“…I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  1 Cor. 12:6-10 NLT

I think often of the Apostle Paul and the “thorn” (2 Cor 12) that remains a mystery to us all to this day. Perhaps it was meant to be an unnamed source of contention, so that we could identify it with our own thorns.  Interesting, isn’t it, that Paul didn’t refer to an entire thicket of entanglement…just one lone irritating thorn;  like a splinter that is stubbornly embedded, or an itch in the middle of your back that you can’t quite reach.  You’ve dealt with all the rest and there’s this one that you haven’t been able to conquer yet.  Am I getting warm here?  Does this sound like any area of your life where you’ve not yet succeeded in getting permanent victory from struggle?

I could be wrong, but I like to think that instead of a chronic or recurring physical illness, Paul’s thorn was–and ours is– a personal ‪#‎struggle‬ on the battle front of the mind.  All of us have our areas which need work; and if you don’t, I sure do. I won’t bore you with the details, but there are areas of my life that require more spot-checks and maintenance than others. There are areas which, if I don’t renew my mind daily to the Word, will cause me to start reverting back to previous wrong mindsets. What’s your thorn? Is it disappointment in yourself or others…unforgiveness…a nagging temptation to do something that you know is wrong…a terrible feeling of inferiority that sabotages your best attempts for success…an old wound from someone who should have loved you but didn’t, and it robs you of peace?  The enemy has convinced many of us that sickness and disease is our thorn, and that God wants us to stay sick to teach us some kind of lesson.  What a load of garbage!  No, I don’t think the “thorn” represents sickness at all–but I do think, however, that the thorn in our mind can interfere with us receiving the physical, spiritual, and mental healing God has already provided, if we allow it to dwarf our faith with a cloud of unbelief. Where you see sickness manifest, however, there’s quite possibly also the presence of the thorn. Whatever your thorn might be, it operates as a distraction, an annoyance, an attempt to divert your focus from the truth. And yes, the thorn can fling you headlong into ‪#‎depression‬ when it digs in long and hard enough. The thorn whispers and taunts, “God doesn’t care about you. If He did, why would you be having this problem? You’re just a reject, a castoff. I don’t know why He even puts up with you!”

Your answer from ‪#‎God‬ is the same as the answer He gave Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you.” God didn’t tell Paul He would never remove the thorn; but He did tell Paul that His grace would cover those times when the thorn seemed to get the best of him. Who’s to say that God didn’t remove the thorn before Paul died? We only know from his writing that Paul apparently quit asking after the third time. Maybe at some point, Paul was so confident in God’s ability to keep him that the thorn no longer mattered.  The most important take-away of this passage is, God never lifted the grace that covered Paul’s weaknesses; He never left him to the wolves. If that thorn were endangering Paul’s soul or the heavy calling on his life, I believe God would’ve wiped it out the moment Paul were in imminent danger. Paul concluded that as long as he continually had to lean on the Lord and not his own strength, it kept him reliant on God; and it prevented Paul from believing himself to be somehow superior to the people with whom he shared the Gospel. Most of all, we see that Paul grew at peace in the fact that God loved him, thorn or no thorn. The thorn was not Paul’s identity; and you must not let the thorn become YOUR identity, either! God LOVES you!

Take this walk with ‪#‎Jesus‬ a day at a time. You may be high-fiving one day and needing pulled out of the ditch the next day. Maturity in the Word does help minimize the severity or number of times when you’re “the ditch person,” so be encouraged that you’re going to be having increasing good days as you gain strength and momentum. When you are in need of a helping hand, however, for heaven’s sake don’t isolate yourself out of shame. Your brothers and sisters have dealt with their own thorns that are just as embarrassing and tormenting as the one you’ve encountered. Let them help you. Let God help you. Keep a list of the Scriptures that pertain to your struggle somewhere that you can access at all times, and don’t just read them–speak the Word OUT LOUD over your circumstances. The demonic forces assigned against you can’t hear you reading silently, but they sure hate when you read and speak the Word into the atmosphere, where they have to hear it and tremble!

I suspect that if you’re reading this post, you’re having a low day. My friend, God has not left you, and He isn’t orchestrating some cosmic ‘pick-on-YOU’ party for his amusement. Our Father doesn’t work like that; Satan, however, is very much amused by your struggles and failures. God wants you to WIN. Stop beating yourself up today over the fact that you’re there, again, in that big hole where you’ve wound up numerous times before. God isn’t beating you up. No, if you’ll look closely, He is assembling angel armies around you to stand guard while you dust yourself back off. He is sending prayer warriors to intercede on your behalf. And He has already provided a finished work in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The same grace that saved you is the same grace that will cover you while you get back on your feet. It isn’t our excuse for courting a sinful lifestyle or for giving less than our best; it’s the mortar that holds our pieces together and makes up for what we cannot, even on our best days, give. Let His grace cover you now. Feel God’s love and forgiveness and yes–even understanding–scrubbing away all those hateful things the enemy is trying to write about you in your mind. Let it go. Receive God’s help. And whether the process is instantaneous or takes a little while to complete, it’s ok…God’s got your back.  If you’re depressed as you read this, remind yourself, “This is a temporary state and I’m already in healing and recovery mode. I can trust God while I wait to “get over the hump” and back to my normal self again.”

Pray with me: “Father, I’m hurting today. The enemy has launched another attack on a vulnerable spot, and I’m in need of Your mercy. You told Paul that Your grace was all he needed when “the thorn” pressed in and caused him pain. You didn’t love Paul any more than You love me. You’re not comparing the many amazing things Paul did and wrote against the small life I live. You’re willing to give me JUST AS MUCH grace as You gave Paul because the thorn in my life is important to You too. You’re just as much in favor of my being victorious. I release this wounded-ness to You today, and I surrender the fight to handle it my way. Whether it’s an addiction, an attitude, or a hurdle I can’t seem to get beyond no matter how hard I try, I am encouraging myself in You today and reminding myself of Your promise NEVER to leave or forsake me. It’s not Your will that I be destitute, sick, defeated, walking in lack, depressed, feeling inferior or walking under any kind of cloud. I submit myself to You, as Your Word has instructed, and then I resist the devil…and he MUST flee from me. I don’t care if he tries to come back again and again, I will fight him until You say, “Enough!” I plead the blood of Jesus now over my life, and I draw the bloodline around myself. I receive Your grace and I wrap myself in it, like a big protective bubble. The shield of faith deflects every piercing weapon the enemy tries to injure me with. Even those bruises and scratches and wounds I’ve already encountered are being healed by the Balm of Gilead! Thank You, Father, because Your Word is enabling me to see myself as YOU see me. I’m NOT a reject! I’m that earthen vessel in which You choose to house Your precious treasures. You are using this imperfect me–yes! And You are getting glory for the miracles You perform through me in spite of the fact that I’m not yet where I WILL BE when You’ve finished with me!  I will walk holy before You and trust You to carry me across the terrain that’s too rugged for my own feet to navigate.”

I say, “Devil, you cannot have me. I belong to God. You can’t even have me in my mind. I believe God’s Word and He is even helping me with any areas of unbelief…so be gone, in Jesus’ name! In Jesus’ name, I break your assignment against me today, all of you evil spirits who are trying to take me down. You WILL NOT wreck my day and you WILL NOT get my soul. God already knows my weaknesses and His grace is holding me together in spite of them. You don’t win in the court of Heaven today because I’m already forgiven. You have no authority over me. You are under my feet. I’m not listening to your lies. If you want to bring accusation, talk to the hand—the nail-scarred hand!”