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Freedom Through Forgiveness

Freedom Thru Forgiveness 
A Testimony of God’s Work in my life

When bad things happen to us. 
We become hurt and angry. 
We also come to believe lies. 
Lies about who God is.
Lies about who we are.
From the evil one. 
Over time we hold on to the bitterness. 
We hold on to the pain and anguish.
It becomes part of our identity. 
It becomes a pattern of sinning.

I want to share with you. 
Some things that happened in my life. 
Some things that made me feel hurt and rejected. 
Some things the evil one used to tempt me to sin. 
I want to share with you. 
The way God used Set Free Ministries: 
To break the bondage of bitterness, 
To break the bondage of suicidal thoughts, 
To break the bondage of anger and depression, 
To set me free from all of that, 
Thru deep abiding forgiveness.

When I was 2 years old, 
My father became ill with lung cancer. 
He was dying. 
I have been told many times the story. 
I was 2 years old and had a dirty diaper.  
My mother was upset.
At the same time my father was calling, 
At the same time the phone was ringing, 
At the same time the pastor was at the door. 
My mother was coming unglued. 
The pastor assessed the situation, 
And took me home with him. 
No clothes, no blanket, nothing. 
For six weeks until my father died. 
I felt alone and abandoned at the pastor’s house. 
So I learned if I do something really bad I will be rejected.

By the time I returned home, my father was dead 
I was told by good people trying to explain to a little girl.
God took my father to heaven to be with Him. 
I didn't like a God,  who stole the Daddy of a little girl. 
He was not loving, but a thief who couldn't be trusted.
For much of my life when something went wrong, 
I wished I was dead, to be in heaven with my father.

From the time I was 6 to 12, 
Someone was inappropriate with me. 
I was confused and bitter about love and sexuality. 
Subsequently I made poor and sinful choices. 
So there was him and there were others.

In time I got married. 
We had three children. 
And when the children were 2, 4, and 6. 
My husband left me for another woman. 
I was devastated to the point of despair and suicide. 
For months and months.
 
In time, I pulled my life together,    
On the outside. . . 
I raised my children. 
I finished school. 
I worked. 
I even worshiped. 
On the inside, however, 
My thoughts were filled with negativism. 
Whenever something went wrong, 
I just wanted to be dead. 
I held bitterness toward God. 
I held bitterness toward men. 
I wondered if I would ever ever feel, 
The joy of the Lord.

Twelve years ago I first encountered Set Free Ministries. 
I had a Freedom Appointment. 
I read Neil T. Anderson's books. 
But I did not actually do forgiveness with my heart. 
I did not realize its importance. 
I was a psychologist, 
But had not learned about forgiveness 
In graduate school. 
I was a Christian, 
But had not applied teachings on forgiveness 
To my life.

Finally, I came to my Pastor Jeff (PJ) Stam, 
Who started Set Free Ministries, 
To work on the issues with my abuser and the others.

I took a whole weekend, 
To take myself thru A Freedom Appointment. 
(Something I do not recommend, have someone trained
walk thru  A Freedom Appointment with you,) 
I diligently worked my way thru, 
The section on forgiveness: 
I listed the men, 
I listed what had happened, 
I listed my feelings and reactions, 
I confessed my part for things when I was older.
I forgave each one from my heart.

God transformed my bitterness into compassion. 
It was as though a veil was lifted. 
The perpetual noise was gone. 
My senses were more acute. 
Colors were brighter. 
Music was more vibrant. 
The Bible came alive. 
Thru my obedience to forgive and confess. 
God had healed my mind. 
My emotions 
My soul.

However, I continued to struggle 
With wishing I was dead. 
I wasn't suicidal. 
I didn't want to harm myself. 
I just wished I wasn't alive. 
I wished I was in heaven. 
Particularly when life was stressful. 
I talked with Pastor Jeff about it. 
He recommended I speak with a counselor at Set Free Ministries. 
So we met and spoke about my father’s death, 
And my mother sending me away to be with the pastor. 
I was only two, so I had little actual memory, 
But there was still significant impact. 
I know it seems odd, but
I needed to forgive my father for dying. 
I needed to forgive my mother for sending me away. 
I needed to forgive God for allowing it to happen. 
Now, I know God is perfect. 
I know God does not need to be forgiven, 
Because He does not sin. 
But I needed to let go of the bitterness I held in my heart, 
And I refer to that as "forgiving" God. 
Perhaps there is a better word to use, 
But I don't know what it is.

So I wrestled with the feelings. 
I wrestled with the bitterness. 
I talked it thru with the counselor for three hours. 
But didn't feel done
So I went to my father’s grave and prayed. 
I went home and prayed some more. 
I prayed with persistence, 
Until the wall of distrust between God and I came down.
I knew He truly loved me.
I knew He was working even this for my good.
I knew in His omniscience He understood what I could not.
I felt free to truly live for Christ. 
Forgiveness had transformed death into life.

It had been 20 years since the divorce. 
And I knew the value of forgiveness. 
But I had not yet forgiven 
My ex-husband and his wife.

The winter of 2008, my son was getting married soon. 
His fiance was making Profession of Faith at her church. 
She wanted us all to come over for brunch after church. 
Us all . . . 
My ex-husband, his wife, our children, and I. 
We rarely were together,
If we were, they tended to shun me. 
God told me 
"You need to forgive them." 
And I said, "Later." 
Time went by . . . 
"You need to forgive them." 
"Later." 
Time went by . . . 
"You need to forgive them." 
"Later."

Finally the day of the Profession of Faith arrived. 
And I got up a little early, 
But not early enough to forgive, 
20 years of hurt and pain. 
I opened the curtain and looked outside. 
There was two feet of snow on the ground. 
(For those with no experience of snow. 
It is like having two feet of ice cream on the ground.) 
The roads were impassable. 
No one was going any where. 
The churches were canceled. 
There was no Profession of Faith that day.         
God said, "Now! . . . You will forgive." 
And I did. 
I took the whole afternoon: 
To list all the incidents. 
To list all the hurts. 
To confess all my part. 
To choose to forgive.
I forgave things they had done to me
I forgave things they had done to my children.
Any mother knows it hurts worse to see her children hurt.
Again God blessed me with healing.

A few weeks later the Profession of Faith was rescheduled. 
We got together for brunch. 
My ex-husband and his wife, 
Acted as tho I wasn't there. 
Instead of being hurt, 

Instead of feeling rejected, 
I thought it was funny. 
I thought they were silly. 
Forgiveness had transformed hurt into humor.
I confess I even felt proud, 
That they were not over it in 20 years, 
But I was over it. 
Then I was humbled to recall. 
I had forgiven only been three weeks ago, 
So I did not have a reason to be proud.

The last sentence in the prayer for forgiveness.
“I now ask You to bless those who have hurt me.”
Almost stuck in my throat.
Forgiveness is one thing but asking God to bless?

As I studied God's word:  Bless those who curse you.
So blessing is as much a command as forgiveness.
How could I bless my former husband?
I decided to write him a Thank You Note.
To bless him with appreciation for....
Being a good father and spiritual leader in the home,
Sending the children to Christian schools and church, and
For paying for school fees, expenses and weddings.

It did not result in reconciliation, but
I knew I had obeyed God thru forgiveness.
I knew I had obeyed God thru blessing.
It changed my relationship with God.
It changed me inside my heart and soul.

So there were three dramatic incidents in my life 
That were healed thru forgiveness: 
The death of my father. 
The damage from my abusers. 
The divorce of my husband. 
Thru forgiveness and blessing God transformed: 
Death to life for Him. 
Bitterness to compassion. 
Hurt to humor. 
I can experience the joy of the Lord.

So don't let the sun go down on your anger. 
Don't give the evil one a foothold. 
Don't wait years to forgive. 
Take the time. 
Make the time.   
Today. 
To forgive. 
And be free.

Dalene Rooks DeGraaf RN PhD 
SFM Missionary to East Africa
For more information see
www.WalkFreeMinistries.com