Can We Truly Forgive and Forget?

Ryan and I recently hosted a Blended Live on Facebook where we revealed that marriage and life in general has been difficult for the past few months.  Part of these difficulties stem from circumstances outside of our control: health, 8 kids, four teenagers, and a special needs son; part of them stem from our reactions to the issues – anger instead of joy – and part of it involves the very simple concept of forgiveness.  Instead of rehashing and focusing on the negative, offering forgiveness to the offender and letting go on the angst that accompanies an unforgiving heart.  I’m excited to have author Gil Mertz sharing on the topic of forgiveness today, AND, I have a copy of his book Forgive Your Way to Freedom: Reconcile Your Past and Reclaim Your Future to send to one reader! Simply comment here on this post or on Facebook for your chance to win.  Contest open until Oct 1st. 

Billy and Ruth Graham were married for almost 64 years and when asked for their secret, Ruth revealed that marriage is the union of two good forgivers. Forgiveness is vital for any successful relationship, marriage and family. One of the biggest challenges of forgiveness is trying to forget the offense and not bring it up over and over again. This not only threatens our peace in the present but our hope for the future. But is it possible to truly forget our past hurts?

We’re told that an elephant never forgets. Frankly, I don’t know where we come up with these funny expressions about animals such as sweating like a pig, eating like a horse, working like a dog or skinning a cat. I’ve never seen a pig sweat, a fat horse, a dog like mine work, and I don’t even want to think about skinning a cat, even those there’s apparently more than one way you can do it! But I know where the expression about elephants comes from.

Unscrupulous circus trainers needed to keep these massive animals stationary and so they would take them very young and tie one of their legs to a stake in the ground with a rope. The tiny elephant would soon learn that it cannot move if it is attached to the stake. A full-grown elephant that has the strength to knock over a tree will not test the stake in the ground because it thinks it cannot move. That’s because, an elephant never forgets.

Many of us are like this helpless elephant. We have total power and freedom to move on with our lives when we forgive, but our past pain is like a stake in the ground. We remain stuck because our memories are telling us that we cannot move forward. If we cannot forget, what if we could learn to remember in a different way so that we can manage our emotions instead of being overwhelmed by them?

The Bible says in Romans 12:2 “Don’t live the way this world lives. Let your way of thinking be completely changed.” (NIRV) Some translations call this the renewing of your mind, but it basically means to change the way you think. If we can change the way we think, it will change the way we feel and as a result, the way we behave. Advertisers spend billions practicing this biblical principle because they know if they can control your thinking, they can get you to buy their products.

Jesus said in John 8:32 “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” So how do we get to the truth so that we can remember in a different way and find the truth we need for our lives? One way is a simple tool known as reframing your picture. All of us see our experiences through a frame of our own choosing. It’s usually limited to our own personal biases and when we’re hurt or angry, the picture can get completely distorted from the actual truth. But if we can reframe our picture by enlarging it to let more truth in, we can remember the past differently.

Recently I was driving in a car with my wife and I was upset because a driver at the intersection pulled right out in front of us. According to the picture in my head, this crazy driver could have gotten us all killed and I was upset. Then my wife gently reminded me that I was intending to turn right at that intersection and actually had my blinker going. At the last second, I changed my mind and decided to go straight. But all the other driver saw was my blinker to turn right and was unable to read my mind. When the frame on that picture got enlarged and I could see the truth, it changed my mind immediately.
Not long ago I counseled with a couple whose marriage appeared doomed. He had a short-term affair which was long over. He knew it was a terrible mistake and had pleaded for forgiveness. His wife didn’t want a divorce but she could not forget the deep pain that had been inflicted. Clearly what he did was wrong and forgiveness doesn’t condone, justify, or rationalize his actions. But as we began to work together to enlarge the frame on this picture, we learned that the wife had been married to her job for years. She was frequently home late and her divided loyalties left a legitimate need in her husband that he tried to fill through other means.

As she could see the bigger picture beyond her own pain, she no longer saw her husband as the 100% villain and herself as the 100% victim. Though she couldn’t change the past, she could remember the past in a different way which gave her peace. This time with empathy, understanding, and love for her husband who also was dealing with a broken heart. Today their marriage is thriving because they become two good forgivers.

If you find yourself struggling to forget your painful past, try to enlarge the frame on that picture by talking to people you love and trust who can help you see things more objectively. Here are some good questions to get you started:

• Are there any details I may be leaving out because of my hurt and anger?
• How might another person’s account of the experience differ from mine?
• Did this person specifically set out to hurt me on purpose?
• Is there any way that I could have misunderstood what was said or done?
• Have I made any attempt to reach out to this person for clarification?
• Do I consider myself more worthy of forgiveness than this person?
Don’t keep rehashing a painful memory and feeling that pain repeatedly. You’ll never learn anything new, it will never help you grow, and it won’t help you change. Besides, didn’t it hurt enough the first time? Holding a grudge is a lot harder than forgiving. Take it easy on yourself and forgive your way to freedom!

Gil Mertz is Assistant to the President at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. He has been involved with full-time Christian service for nearly forty years and draws from a vast background of ministry with international missions, humanitarian causes, public policy, and consulting. Article is adapted from his book Forgive Your Way to Freedom: Reconcile Your Past and Reclaim Your Future (©2018). Published by Moody Publishers. Permission given.

Adapted from Forgive Your Way to Freedom: Reconcile Your Past and Reclaim Your Future by Gil Mertz (©2018). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

 

Unleash Sheets: The Soul Care Tool Born Out of Adversity

I’m so honored to have Jolene Underwood as a guest author on the blog today.  Jolene is the creative force behind a healing tool called the Unleash Sheets that Ryan and I have found extremely beneficial over the difficult summer months. These sheets helped to unpack what exactly we were feeling, why we were feeling it and how to begin to heal from the trauma and pain.  These sheets can be as simple or as complicated as you want to be.  We’ve even found them useful when addressing conflict with some of our children as they assist them in getting to the heart of the matter – their feelings – and how to process them in the light of God’s word. 

Ryan and I also did a Blended Live session on Saturday where we offered a giveaway to one lucky listener for an Unleash package valued at $35.00.  Make sure you check out that video to enter because we’ll be drawing a winner next Tuesday (9/18).  

Alrighty, here’s Jolene. 

I couldn’t write anymore.

Words wouldn’t form. Thoughts wouldn’t connect. Everything I said and did came out jumbled with confused purpose when stress took over my brain again. It had been two years since coming home from the place that sparked intense trauma. Two years of fighting for healing while our marriage struggled.

In 2012, we moved to a ranch owned by a foster agency where we would care for many hurting children. We had up to twelve in our home and endured more stress than I thought was possible in a lifetime. When our time was done, and we returned in 2013, reading and writing became part of my healing process. These steps were hard to take but they kept my brain moving. It gave me something to enjoy.

Eventually, my husband and I were in our second separation and we would spend Christmas apart. In my sister’s home, I couldn’t write anything worthwhile. Creativity welled up inside of me without a way to express it. I surmised it would be easier to create a planner. Because running a business while healing from PTSD is an obvious choice. Or not.

As I thought about the kind of planner I would want, I kept writing down questions for soul exploration. These were essential components of what I wanted to create. Eventually, those questions became something else entirely.

A tool for dealing with life’s challenges and connecting with God was created out of heartache, pain, and an inability to handle overwhelming thoughts and feelings.

When it began, I had no idea what was being shaped or how God would use this new thing. Not just for me, but for hundreds of others as well. I didn’t realize that some of the concepts in this tool align with teachings from numerous other psychologists, Christian counselors, and pastors.

God always knows the things we don’t, and He invites us to partake with Him in the journey.

That’s what Unleash: Heart & Soul Care Sheets have been from the inception and it’s how they are used by participants. They are a guided way of partaking with God in our unique journeys. By sitting down to work out the events of our lives, getting honest about our thoughts, and identifying our feelings, we bring awareness to what the Lord wants to touch.

He wants to be involved in helping us renew our minds.

‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ‘ ~ Romans 12:2 ESV

He never left us to do this on our own strength.
‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. ‘ ~ John 14:16-18 ESV

He wants to help us live with redemptive purpose where thoughts, emotions, and choices are concerned.

God’s way is a way of transforming and it doesn’t all happen at the point of salvation. It’s a process that occurs over time and it requires surrender and active steps with Him regularly.

I believe Unleash Sheets are an effective tool for facilitating spiritual growth, emotional health, and soul-level transformation. Not because the tool is all that great in and of itself, but because of how God works through an intentional process when we make ourselves available to Him then respond to what He has to say.

We all need help when it comes to hearing from God and then choosing what to put into practice.

I sure do.

God has used this tool over the last few years to help me hear His voice, receive His healing touch, and to take tough steps when faced with intense opposition and spiritual battles.

It has been used by teens as well as adults and men as well as women. It’s fostered awareness for hidden feelings which opened the door to receiving greater peace, joy, and freedom. It’s also helped many know God’s presence in powerful ways.

The work happens between you and God. The tool provides a way to experience it.

There are many ways this can happen, but I’m grateful for the ways it happens through regular time with God and intentionally pursuing His heart and revelation for me.

Today, I still use the tool regularly. It’s been helpful for enhancing work done with my counselor and for continuing my healing journey too.

I am also working on future courses and content that will take expand the work done through this tool. These will help users identify unhealthy beliefs, face unexpressed emotions, deal with unhealed hurts, and repent from unconfessed sins. Other topics may include: codependency, anxiety, feelings and emotions, and more.
In addition, my YouTube channel includes a growing playlist to help users benefit from this versatile tool. It also includes curated playlists from various experts that touch on the topics above and other content related to emotional health and spiritual growth.

Got questions? Let me know!

To order your own set of Unleash Sheets, check out the favorites tab on my home page or click on this link.

https://go.ahtrack.com/?pid=f033ab37c30201f73f142449d037028d&aid=11738

 

(Disclaimer, this is an affiliate link and I will be paid a commission if you choose to purchase through this link)

 

Jolene Underwood is an emotional health warrior and soul care mentor. She draws upon her personal journey towards emotional health, her psychology background, and passion for counseling to help others cultivate a life well-lived no matter the circumstance. She also leads a community called Rise Up Writers where she helps to equip and encourage Christian communicators.

Connect with her online via YouTube/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest at @theJoleneU or via the Cultivated Life Newsletter.

Not the Father’s Day You Hoped For.

As Father’s Day is quickly approaching – this Sunday for those who are unaware – many people find themselves enthralled in feelings of love and adoration as they celebrate the Dad figure in their lives; however, many people also struggle with feelings of sadness or overwhelming anger because of what this day represents in either the death of a father or a father who was less than ideal or downright crappy. If you are in this latter camp,  Todd Cartmell, author of 8 Simple Tools offers a few suggestions that might help in making this Father’s Day a little less painful. 

For many, Father’s Day includes a “dad” gift (code for a bad necktie or a grilling utensil), a fun family activity, and perhaps a phone call, if dad lives farther away. However, as time passes on, some of us find that Father’s Day can carry a more somber meaning. The death of a father or child (my dad passed away six years ago), or relationships that have become estranged due to divorce or family conflict can turn this day of celebration into a day of sadness and remorse.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are a couple ideas that might help:

1) Surrender the situation to God. Allow God to comfort you, as you experience feelings of sadness, frustration, or even remorse. Pour out your heart to him; after all, he gave you the ability to feel those exact feelings. Remember that the one who has infinite wisdom understands your situation perfectly and cares about it deeply.

2) Watch for God’s hand in your situation. While it may seem difficult to imagine, God specializes in healing those who are hurt and in bringing something good out of something painful, in his own time. Be attentive to ways that God may put on your heart initiate reconciliation or to show his love to others who are hurting.

Father’s Day can mean something different to each of us, but we have a loving heavenly Father who did not even shield himself from grief, and promised to walk with us through our most difficult moments.

TODD CARTMELL is a child psychologist who practices in Wheaton, Illinois. He received his doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary and is the author of several parenting books, including 8 Simple Tools. His parenting workshops have been enjoyed by thousands of parents throughout the country. Visit Dr. Todd’s website at www.drtodd.net and follow him on Facebook.

How The Church Can Care for the Childless

I’m excited to have Chelsea Patterson Sobolik offering a guest post today about being sensitive to the needs of the childless mothers.  She has also graciously given me a copy of her book Longing for Motherhood to give away to one reader.  To be entered, simply comment on this post.  I will draw a winner on May 24th.

 

Sitting in the pews of every church are men and women struggling with the excruciating pain of childlessness. For some, it might be infertility, trying month after month with no success, to finally get pregnant. For others, it might be a miscarriage, the death of their precious anticipated little one that’s left them heartbroken. Regardless of the particular circumstances, the trial of childlessness is one of the most difficult and devastating that someone can experience. Living in the nightmare that is infertility cuts to the very core of the way humanity was designed. One of the first commandments the Lord gave Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply. When a couple struggles to bear babies, they can quickly feel guilt and shame over their inability to fulfill that commandment.

I’m all too familiar with the ache to be a mother, but natural motherhood won’t come. With a tear stained face, I’ve entered into the greatest wrestling match of my life with the Lord. “God, I don’t understand!” I’ve cried out in prayer. “You’ve placed this longing on my heart, only to leave me with an unfulfilled desire!” Over the years, I’ve shared the cries of my heart with close friends and trusted companions at my church, as they’ve helped me walk through my sorrow.

The Church is God’s household, filled with God’s children. It should be a beacon of comfort and hope. A place where people will feel cared for, heard, understood and unconditionally loved. Christians know that they will face trials, and they must be armed and equipped to care for the wounded and the hurting among the Saints. Below are a few suggestions for pastors, elders, and church members on how to care for the childless in your congregations.

Remind People that Grief is Godly

Those grieving childlessness are grieving a dream deferred. Proverbs 13:12 tells us that hope deferred makes the heart sick. Come alongside the childless and grieve with them. Remind them that it’s okay to feel the hurt, pain and loss. That they don’t have to quickly “get over” their sorrow, but they have a Savior who’s well acquainted with grief, and was the man of all sorrows (Isaiah 53:3). Encourage them to take their grief, and press into the arms of the Beloved who knows their pain.

Preach Good Sermons

Make it a point to regularly incorporate the childless into sermons. Remember that the Bible is full of women that have struggled with the longing to be a mother. (Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth) Dive into these passages, and preach Gospel-centered sermons that will encourage the souls of the weary.

Pray With and on Behalf of the Childless

David was bold in his prayers before the Lord. He knew where to take his questions, his grief, his pain, and his longings – straight into the heart of his Father. Prayer should should be the first thing Christians do with and on behalf of the childless. In the Psalms, we see that David’s most trusted companion and friend was the Lord, but we also see that David wasn’t afraid of sharing exactly what was on his mind and heart. In Psalm 13, he bluntly asks the Lord how long he’ll have to suffer. David felt forgotten, and bent the ear of the Lord in his sorrow and frustration.

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2)

Hannah, a woman who intimately knew the pain of infertility, wasn’t shy to bring her pain and tears before the Lord in prayer. The Bible says that “she was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.” Hannah’s prayers were so fervent that Eli, the priest thought she was drunk.

We should take the charge to weep with those who weep seriously and come alongside the suffering with words of comfort and truth. Never underestimate the power of prayer.

Point Their Eyes To The Lord

The most important thing the church can do is redirect the gaze of the childless to Christ. Give them room to grieve the loss of their dream, or the loss of their baby. Please don’t feel the need to swoop in, and slap Bible verses on their suffering. Yes, the word of God is inspired and inherent, but shouldn’t be viewed or used as a quick fix. Learn how to sit with someone in their grief, and how to gently point their eyes to the Lord in the midst of their trials. One of the most comforting verses in the bible is found in Revelation 21:4, where the Lord promises to wipe away every tear from our eyes. Until that day, remember that the Lord is present as each tear falls. Suffering is inevitable while we live in a fallen world, but may we ensure that no one suffers alone.

Chelsea Patterson Sobolik is the author of Longing for Motherhood, and has worked for the U.S. House of Representatives on issues such as child welfare, religious freedom, adoption, and foster care policy. Chelsea was adopted as a newborn from Bucharest, Romania, grew up in North Carolina, and then graduated from Liberty University. She and her husband Michael live in Washington, D.C.

Written by Chelsea Patterson Sobolik author of Longing for Motherhood, Moody Publishers 2018