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5 Facts that Helped Me Choose Forgiveness

Written By Ching, Singapore

We all react differently when people hurt us. Some of us lash back, some of us brood quietly, and some turn to other sources of comfort for solace. Sometimes, we can become bitter after being hurt, and it eventually destroys our relationships.

Are there any broken relationships in your life? Is there anyone you cannot forgive, such as a family member who has said hurtful words?

I know what it feels like; bitterness and unforgiveness are the norm in my family. To cut a long story short, it took me all 28 years of my life to learn to forgive my own family members. Over that time, I discovered a few things about my inability to forgive:

A. Not forgiving is a choice.

A mother once scolded her child for holding a grudge against his sister for years. He retorted, “If it’s so easy, why don’t you forgive your own brother?” Shocked at his impetuousness, the mother exclaimed, “Never! Do you know what he did to me?” The child then asked, “Then how would you expect me to forgive my sister?” The young boy was simply mimicking his mother’s decision to not forgive.

Consciously or unconsciously, we often choose to withhold forgiveness as a way to “punish” the person who has hurt us. Unfortunately, this ends up becoming a poison to ourselves.

B. An unforgiving spirit chokes us.

An unforgiving spirit is a weed that saps our strength and drains life out of our souls. It wears on us physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. However, so often we still choose bitterness over forgiveness, and so fertilize these weeds that end up choking us.

C. An unforgiving spirit feels awful but is almost impossible to let go

Isn’t it strange that we hate to be bitter (after all, it describes the most repugnant taste!) but find ourselves drawn to it? Why do we want something that saps our energy and “dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22)? If bitterness and an unforgiving spirit are so unpleasant, why are they so hard to let go of?

Jesus preached a radical message of forgiveness. He told His disciples to forgive people who sin against them over and over again (Matthew 18:22). This message jarred with the prevailing worldview then, as it is now—payback was and still is the norm. But Jesus was a model of forgiveness to the end, and even gave His own life so that we can be forgiven and can in turn, forgive others.

In my own journey to forgiveness, here’s some things I learned that helped me:

1. Forgiveness is impossible on our own.

Throughout my life, I had come across countless sermons, books, and conferences about forgiveness. But I could not—and did not want to—forgive the people who had hurt me. Over the years, I would make feeble attempts to forgive them, but each attempt lasted only a few hours before bitterness came back with a vengeance.

Forgiving others on our own is not only difficult, it is impossible.

A supernatural outcome requires supernatural means. When we cannot accept that our offender deserves to be let off with forgiveness, ask the Holy Spirit to help you overcome. Rely on Him and surrender your inability to forgive.

2. Forgiveness is easier in a safe environment.

In her book, Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores, Christian psychologist Diane Langberg wrote that she was once asked why a woman who was still living with her habitually violent husband could not seem to get over the trauma of his abuse. Langberg replied, “You cannot ‘get over’ something still happening.”

We know that when we go through a bout of flu, all we can do is to keep the fever, chills, and sniffling from getting worse. We must wait until the illness is over before we can begin the work of recovery and regaining our strength.

Likewise, if our bitterness stems from a traumatic, abusive or violating relationship, seek safety and stability. This may involve living separately or taking other actions to ensure our safety, such as seeking protection orders or reporting to the appropriate authorities. Living in a safe refuge, away from the trauma, will make it easier to begin the healing process of forgiveness.

But it may not always be realistic or practical to move out, especially when there are other loved ones in the picture. Also, the bulk of us may not face such extreme situations. More often, it could be a matter of us struggling to forgive our loved ones for their unreasonable behavior. In such instances where we cannot pluck ourselves out of the situation, seek help from a trusted friend, a professional counsellor or qualified pastoral staff who can aid us in our journey.

 3. Forgiveness is best done in a community.

Bitterness can deepen and fester when we remain isolated. But in a Christ-centered community, we can learn from our spiritual mentors or fellow believers who have forgiven others. A spiritual mentor can help us identify where the bitterness stems from and keep us accountable as we resolve to break the unforgiving spirit in our lives.

This however, requires us to be vulnerable and authentic. It takes courage to open up to another person but this may be a necessary step.

If we’ve yet to find such a community, let’s pray that God will be gracious to provide us godly individuals who can journey with us.

4. Forgiveness is a daily choice.

We all have times when we attempt to forgive, but then something triggers a memory and we experience the hurt all over again. Forgiveness is a constant, conscious, daily choice. Each time I am tempted to withhold forgiveness and choose bitterness, I need to surrender again and let God’s Spirit work in me.

Walk with Christ daily. Pray for the desire to forgive. And rely on His strength in forgiving.

5. Forgiven people forgive.

“Hurt people hurt” is a common saying in the social service sector where I work. It means that sometimes people who have suffered some form of hurt pass that hurt on to others, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Christ came to break this cycle, and in fact, to reverse it. His death and resurrection redeemed broken people and enabled them to become forgiven people, and to use their lives as a blessing and a channel of forgiveness for others.

Forgiven people forgive.

 

Sometimes, those closest to us are the hardest to forgive. My mentor used to say that “ministry starts at home”. I would like to add that ministry at home can be the most difficult.

But at the end of the day, I know that bitterness and an unforgiving spirit can lead to a lesser life and immense pain. I also know that by God’s grace, we are able to forgive the people who have hurt us, and to live a life free of bitterness.

There is sweetness in forgiving. It may take years or decades, but let God help you let go, as you embrace your identity as “forgiven” and then a “forgiver”.

I have started this process, and am still in the middle of this beautiful journey. Will you join me?

 

 

The following works are where a lot of my ideas for this article came from. I encourage you to read these articles in your own journey to forgiveness.

Battling the Unbelief of Bitterness” by John Piper. The article offers good theological grounds for not being bitter

I Am Forgiven” by Mark Driscoll. This is a very practical and biblical sermon series on the theme of forgiveness.

Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores, by Dr. Diane Langburg. This is a fantastic book by a veteran psychologist and counsellor about trauma and suffering.

I Didn’t Choose to be Gay

I did not choose to be attracted to people of the same sex.

I had an ordinary childhood in an ordinary home. My father and mother, along with my grandmother, loved me and did their best to provide and care for me. I have a younger brother, but had always wanted an older brother when I was growing up. In upper primary, I looked up to an older boy in my class as a big-brother figure.

I first realized I had these feelings when I was going through puberty in secondary school and found myself having a crush on a guy in my class. In junior college, I was similarly infatuated with a male schoolmate. That was also when I identified myself as “gay.”

There wasn’t anyone I could talk to about this area of my life—not my family nor my friends—so I looked online for local communities of people who were gay, and I found some. I distinctly remember the first time I chatted online with another gay person; I was very nervous and excited.

Initially, curiosity led me to these communities. Over time, however, it was loneliness that drove me to seek out others like me. As I began to struggle more with loneliness, I started to desire a romantic relationship.

Because I hadn’t gone to church since I became a Christian in primary school and wasn’t discipled in God’s truths on sexuality, I mistakenly concluded that it was okay with God for me to pursue my gay desires. And I did so, for the next 10 years. I tried many ways to look for a gay relationship and, regrettably, also fell into sexual sin with other guys many times.

A few years ago, the Lord convicted my heart that it was not part of His will for me to act on my same-sex desires. Since then, He has led me on a journey of deeper healing and pursuit of holiness.

Though I no longer identify myself as “gay,” I still experience attraction to men. There isn’t a day I’m not aware of it. I know in my mind that it is not to be acted upon, and I choose with my will to obey God. But the attraction still feels “natural” and instinctive to me.

If I had a choice, I would make these desires disappear once and for all. That would make my life so much easier. I don’t know if I will find complete healing on this side of eternity or I will receive full restoration, along with my transformed resurrected body, only when I see the Lord.

To borrow the words of Wesley Hill, a same-sex attracted Christian writer who has chosen to remain celibate, I now live in a state that is “washed and waiting.” As a Christian, I’m “washed. . . sanctified [and] justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11), but I’m also “wait[ing] eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23-25).

Meanwhile, I know that while I have no choice in my sexuality, there are choices I can make that would please the Lord. I believe that experiencing same-sex attraction is not itself a sin; surely a just God would not take me to account for what I cannot choose. But how I respond to it makes the difference: it can either be a doorway to sin, or an opportunity for worship and deeper healing.

I hope that what I share here can also help you to make choices for God’s glory and your good when you find yourself in situations not of your choosing.

I can choose to trust God’s heart for me

There was a time I was angry with God for allowing me to have same-sex attraction, yet forbidding me from pursuing it. It felt cruel, and I blamed Him for putting me in what felt like an impossible situation.

Over the years, however, as I began to understand who God really is—how good and extravagantly loving the Father is, how self-sacrificial a Friend and Savior Jesus is, and how trustworthy a Comforter and Teacher the Holy Spirit is—my anger was slowly replaced with awe, gratitude, and deeper love for the Lord.

I still don’t exactly know why God allowed me to have same-sex attraction. I may know only when I see Him face to face. But until then, I choose to take God at His word that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). I know that His heart is for me and He is personally committed to walking this journey with me for my good.

I can choose to depend more on God

Each time my eye or heart is drawn inappropriately to a guy I find physically attractive or whom I might desire romantically, I have to remind myself to turn away from that and toward God. During a period of time when I found it especially hard to battle the lust of my eyes, I asked the Lord why I was struggling this way. I heard Him say, “Your eyes are wandering because your heart is not anchored on Me.”

Indeed, whenever I intentionally made more time to spend with God—to worship Him in song, to meet Him in His Word and prayer, and to be in fellowship with other Christians—I was much more able to turn away from acting on my same-sex desires. Through this, I understood why the Bible tells us to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh” (Galatians 5:16-17).

I remind myself that “[w]hoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8). Whenever I’m struggling, I can make the choice to walk by the Spirit, sowing to please Him, so as to reap eternal life.

I have also learned to consciously bring my pain and my need to God. The Lord led me to understand that beneath my same-sex attraction lies a relational brokenness that seeks the male identity, attention, and affection which I should have received in healthy ways when I was growing up. (I know this may not necessarily be the case for others.)

So whenever I feel the draw of same-sex desires, I choose to bring this longing before God, asking Him to help and comfort me, and to bring healing to my wounds. I remind myself that I am defined by God’s standard of masculinity as revealed in His Word, and not as taught by our culture. And I ask Him to show me how I can seek and receive male attention and affection in healthy, platonic ways.

In these ways, my same-sex attraction has given me rich opportunities to depend more on God. I choose to draw closer to Him and receive more healing from Him by preferring His higher ways above my broken ones.

I can choose to use this for His purposes

Recently, the Lord led me to see how I can choose to use my struggle with same-sex attraction for His kingdom’s purposes.

God has been putting in my path several Christians who also experience same-sex attraction and are seeking understanding and help. I’m very much burdened to reach out to them, and I’m aware that my personal experience was what drew them to open up to me in the first place.

On the one hand, my own experience of same-sex attraction helps me to identify with them. As someone who knows the pain and longing of same-sex desires, I can understand how they feel. That empathy builds a bridge of connection between us, and allows me to share with them what God has taught me in my journey. On the other hand, I have to be conscious of the need to draw healthy physical and emotional boundaries, so that neither of us would be at risk of falling into sin.

As I learn how to balance these two considerations with wisdom, it enables me to use my struggle with same-sex attraction to help others and point them to God, for His glory and their good.

I can choose to hold on to what God says

Many in our culture today would think that I’m not being true to who I am and that I should be free to be myself. They believe that freedom means having the ability to express my sexuality by acting on what I feel.

But as American theologian Erik Thoennes says, “There’s this idea that to live out of conformity with how I feel is hypocrisy; but that’s a wrong definition of hypocrisy. To live out of conformity to what I believe is hypocrisy. To live in conformity with what I believe, in spite of what I feel, isn’t hypocrisy; it’s integrity.”

God has taught me that who I am is not what I feel, but who He says I am in His Word. I choose to live with integrity when I hold on to that truth, regardless of how I feel. This is how I choose to be true to myself. “In the Christian tradition,” says writer Richard John Neuhaus, “being true to yourself means being true to the self that you are called to be.”

God has the ultimate authority and final say over my life. And I can trust Him because He who knows best loves me deeply and is able to shape me to become the best self He has called me to be.

I can choose to love God with all I have

I often didn’t feel like I had much to offer God. I wondered how much more easily I could obey Him and how much more effectively I could serve others if I didn’t struggle with same-sex attraction. However, I now believe that God actually cares much more about my heart of giving than how much I can give Him.

There are two stories in the Bible I hold dearly. One is the story of the widow’s offering (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4), and the other is the one where Jesus was anointed by a woman with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9). Jesus commended the widow even though she donated just two small coins, because “she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark 12:44). Of the other woman, He said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mark 14:6). Jesus valued the poor widow’s offering just as much as He cherished the woman’s lavish act.

These two stories tell me that God is pleased whenever I give Him all that I have, no matter the quantity, and He finds this to be a beautiful thing. All He requires of me is to trust and love Him wholeheartedly and to offer all of my life—my strengths and my struggles—to Him.

In this journey of trusting the Lord with all my heart and submitting to Him in all my ways, I know that He will direct my paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). Although I have no choice when it comes to my sexuality, I can make choices to obey and love Him. As I do that, I know my choices will bring delight to God, lead me into deeper worship of Him, enable me to receive more healing, and allow me to help others with the same struggles.

I await with much longing the day when I can finally see the One I love face to face. And I want to live a life of godly choices so that when the Lord looks at me, He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! (Matthew 25:23) You gave everything you had (Mark 12:44). You have done a beautiful thing to Me (Mark 14:6).”

It would all have been worth it for the One who is worthy of all praise and honor.

CHOICES | Themed Contribution

In His great love, God has given us as Christians the privilege and responsibility of sharing in His work, of telling others about Him, through our words and our lives. This is a weighty thing, more important than any earthly occupation we’ll ever have. I think that can be quite overwhelming sometimes, so I’m very relieved and grateful that the next words out of Jesus’ mouth, after he gives his disciples this responsibility, are these: I will be with you as you do it. Always, not just on earth, but in heaven too.

10 - October

5 Choices every Student entering University must make

Title: 5 Choices every Student entering University must make
Materials: Illustration
Description: University could very well be the best time of your life. It’s where you learn independence, gain new experiences and build long-lasting friendships that journey with you beyond graduation.

Whether you are currently in university or heading that direction in the near future, we thought to highlight some of the key choices you would have to make during this phase of your life. These choices could determine whether you come out of university: spiritually stronger, spiritually weaker or perhaps even, no longer a follower of Christ.

Regardless of our choices, let’s remember that ultimately, God can change our situation. Let’s put our faith in Him, seek His help and take the right precautions.

Be-reckless-or-be-responsible   You are free, alone and unmonitored. It’s the first time you’ve tasted unbridled freedom. Will you set boundaries and responsibilities for yourself?

Stand-out-or-Blend-In

You meet people from all sorts of faith backgrounds with differing views. You want to accept people for who they are and appreciate diversity. Will you stand for your faith when it’s challenged?

 

 

Be-busy-or-be-still

You’ve got a tight schedule to follow and unending amount of work to complete. You strive to excel, get organize and be systematic.Where does God factor in?

 

 

Give-in-or-Stand-Firm

Work aside, university life can be a lot of fun. It’s where we come of age and try out new things. What will you choose and why?

 

 

Go-solo-or-join-community

Like any new environment, you’d have to make friends from scratch. You may be all alone, because you’re in a new city or town, or simply because you didn’t attend orientation week. Will you seek a church/fellowship group you can be a part of?