I was having lunch at my desk one day, and happened to pull up the Insight for Living Ministries Web site to read the daily devotional. That day, the devotional was Cynthia Swindoll’s testimony, called “My Story.” The devotional, I found out, was adapted from a message Chuck Swindoll preached on Matthew 18, titled “Looking Back: Finding Healing through Forgiveness.” I went home that night and listened to the message over the Internet. What happened as a result changed my life.
Many years earlier, the Lord had brought into my life a handsome, intelligent man who loved the Lord with great passion. We got married and were blessed with three children. Alan became a Sunday school teacher and a deacon, and I worked with children and led the women’s ministry at our church.
But our lives abruptly changed when Alan was diagnosed with brain cancer. Our peaceful home life turned into a nightmare as his health eroded. My gentle, loving husband grew dark, angry, and violent. Relatives and friends walked away, not knowing how to handle his outbursts. Four years later, Alan had a stroke. He developed symptoms similar to those caused by Alzheimer’s disease and was moved to a nursing home. He no longer recognized our family.
I fell apart emotionally. My anger toward God deepened as I questioned His purpose in allowing such a tragedy when we had loved and served Him so faithfully. And I felt resentful toward all those who had deserted us during our time of need.
After I listened to “Finding Healing through Forgiveness,” I realized my bitterness was poisoning my relationships with God, my family, and those closest to me. I knew what I needed to do.
I checked into a hotel, and for eight straight hours I worked to create a legal-sized, single-spaced list of places in my life that needed the Lord’s grace. Then I listed people I needed to forgive. Making that list revealed just how angry I had become toward some of my friends and even a few relatives.
The Lord was so gracious. As I poured my heart to Him, His love filled me and I was able to forgive every person on my list. The bitterness left. I felt so free.
I approached those relatives and friends to ask for forgiveness. I don’t have words to describe the peace I felt.
Alan died in 2006. We miss him every day, but we are at peace in the knowledge that he is in heaven.
Two of my three children walk closely with the Lord. The third is slowly working his way back. For some, finding genuine healing is a longer process. But I know God is at work. I have three grandchildren who are a joy and a blessing.
I believe with all my heart that a large part of the reason my family and I have found healing goes back to the day when I chose to forgive. Inspired by reading Cynthia’s story, my ability to forgive opened the door for me to learn the healing that comes through forgiveness. The anger and bitterness that I held deep inside had the potential to root itself in my children. But God in His infinite mercy intervened; He taught me that forgiveness was His key to healing hearts. And He brought healing to me and to my children.
My family and I are truly blessed.
Two Principles to Healing through Forgiveness
Everyone has been hurt by someone. The offense may be a personal hurt, abuse, the pain of a fractured relationship.
Forgiveness is a required course in the curriculum of the Christian life. If you have ever gone through the process of seeking forgiveness from another person or—sometimes even more difficult—giving forgiveness to one who asks, you know how tough it can be. Yet there is nothing—nothing—more healing than a forgiving spirit. Here are two principles to guide us toward healing through forgiveness.
- It is hypocritical to refuse to forgive anyone. “Be kind to each another, tenderhearted,” the apostle Paul wrote (look closely now at the next phrase), “forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). God says we should extend to others the forgiveness we received.
- God is honored by immediate obedience. “Don’t brag about tomorrow,” Proverbs warns us, “since you don’t know what the day will bring” (Proverbs 27:1). Don’t wait. As far as it depends on you, reconcile. Today.
We all have someone we need to forgive. Like Karen, make healing through forgiveness part of your story.
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