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I Thought I Would Never Forgive

Written By Deborah Lee, Singapore

When I got married and moved in with my husband’s family, there were many conflicts. I was immature and hot-tempered, and exchanged many harsh words with my in-laws. I continued to anger my in-laws for days after heated quarrels, and eventually my mother-in-law called me a “nobody’s child,” emphasizing how unwanted, unloved, and unwelcome I was.

After a year of this—my husband often siding with his parents—I left the house on a bad note. My departure supposedly marked an end to the verbal abuse I had suffered. However, I carried with me a lot of anger and hurt. These had been accumulating since the day I got married and left my parents’ home to stay with my in-laws, all the way to the day I was called a “nobody’s child.” The insults left a deep wound in my heart. In my darkest moments, I even wished misfortune upon my husband’s family.

During this time, I stayed with a church friend. My pastor and mentor continued to follow up with me concerning my family struggles, and they constantly urged me to bring them before God. In the quiet home where I now was, I began searching through God’s Word. The more I searched, the more I was captivated by God’s promises for us during bad times, He was constantly reminding me of how He keeps track of my tears (Psalm 56:8) and how His plans for me are good. In those times of desperation where I felt extremely vulnerable, God’s assurance of my future held me close to Him. Through His Word, God continually led me to a place of repentance and surrender.

But I still struggled internally. Even though I was no longer staying with my husband’s family, phone calls with my husband triggered memories and anger again. My husband continued to side with his parents and insisted that I owed them an apology. It felt like everyone accused me of being the problem.

 

God Is My Defender

Through all this, I wrestled with God. I kept telling Him, “It’s not fair that I have to go through all this. I did not marry to be bullied. Everyone has a defender except for me. Who will hear me? Why can’t I just escape it all?” I wished that I had a different battle, something I could either manage or escape. But so often in life, we cannot choose our battles.

As I wrestled with God, I was reminded of Romans 8:31-32. If God is for me, who can be against me? He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for me—how will He not also graciously give me all things? As I read those words in the Bible, I felt as if it were God speaking to me, assuring me that He is with me, and would give me the strength I needed to overcome this situation. As I continued reading in verses 34-35, I was reminded that there is no condemnation in Christ, and nothing can separate us from God’s love.

I began to see that God was not being unfair. I began to sense that He was indeed with me. Even if everyone in the world were to condemn me, because of Christ’s sacrifice, God does not condemn me. Nothing can separate me from God’s love. As I leaned into the words in Romans 8, I began to see my situation in a different light. I began to see the purpose in my hurt. Through my hurt, I experienced God’s assurance and comfort. Even if I was condemned by people around me, I found hope in God.

God had allowed these events for me to see His love for me. If I had not been failed by men, I would not have turned to God. God in His faithfulness had used events in my life to draw me back to Him and show me His blessings. I could not deny God’s sovereignty throughout these events.

 

My Struggle to Forgive

While Romans 8 comforted me, Matthew 7:3-5 convicted me. In this passage, Jesus reminds us to get rid of the plank in our own eye before accusing others of the speck in their eyes. These verses spoke to the heart of my situation. If I were to say that I was not at fault, I would obviously be lying to myself. I shouted at my in-laws instead of showing them respect. I was rude to them, and that was not pleasing to God either. These verses reminded me that, all along, I had been pointing fingers at others without paying attention to the plank in my own eye. I owed my husband’s family an apology.

I knew I needed to repent. But truth be told, it was hard for me to do so when neither my husband nor his family showed any remorse for their actions against me. They continued to insist that they were not at fault. Surely, it wouldn’t be fair if I pretended like nothing had happened and allowed them to continue to bully me.

 

Enabled by God’s Love to Forgive

Over time, God encouraged me and renewed my mind. As I continued reading the Bible, I increasingly realized that I was God’s precious child, not a defenceless “nobody’s child.” In my broken moments, I learned to anchor myself in God. I no longer needed to walk in the brokenness of unfairness, anger, and despair. Instead, I could see my situation through God’s eyes—filled with hope and purpose. I was determined not to fall back into my old self, enslaved to self-pity and hopelessness.

When I first tried apologizing to my in-laws, they remained aloof and continued to hurl words of insult and condemnation. But I held on to the promises that God had given me and persevered. And through a long period of endurance and patience, my husband and family eventually softened their hearts and accepted me as family once again.

This process involved a lot of self-denial, heartache, and pain, but God showed me that we should overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). The famous words of Martin Luther King, Jr. resonate with me. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” The only way to experience forgiveness and be able to forgive is to first experience the love of God for ourselves and show others His love.

Our reconciliation eventually moved my husband to purchase a new home with me, and we had the blessing of my in-laws to live as a married couple. But more important to me than even this reconciliation, is realizing that having God in my life is the greatest good, especially in the face of conflicts or trials. None of this would have been possible if not for God’s love for me, compelling me to live a life worthy of Him and radiate His love to others. Nothing surpasses the worth of knowing God. As I see the goodness of God working in my life to redeem me from the darkness, forgiveness is made easier.

What Difference Does Jesus Make?

Cover artwork by Abigail Jeyaraj (@handsxpens)

Written By Paul Wong

Paul is the campus pastor at Singapore Management University’s Christian Fellowship (SMUCF). Prior to that, he was a ministry trainee at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate, London, where he spent two years in full-time ministry training, having previously worked as a corporate lawyer in the City of London. In his free time he enjoys photography, reading popular history, and spending time with his family. He is presently thinking about exercising more.

 

Jesus doesn’t really make life better

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him. (Philippians 3:8-9, ESV)

The man who penned those words wrote them from a cold, lonely prison cell in about AD 60, chained 24/7 to a Roman guard. As he writes the letter, his reputation and good name are being dragged through the mud by rivals, jealous of his influence over the churches in Asia and Macedonia. Indeed those very same churches he planted, including the one at Philippi to whom he’s presently writing, are under the threat of persecution or apostasy. In short, much of what this man has labored for, and achieved, in the last decades of his life is under attack and at risk of being destroyed.

So, what difference does believing in Jesus make to Paul of Tarsus (c.5–c.64/67)? Well, in one sense you could say: quite a lot. But not in a good way.

When Paul writes that he has suffered the loss of all things, he really means it. Status, security—all of it gone. And all because he has spent much of his adult life in the single-minded proclamation of salvation through faith in Jesus.

So the big, gaping question for us has got to be: How could he consider that “gaining Christ” was of “surpassing worth” when compared to the loss of literally everything? Why does he describe his previous comfortable life as “dung” (as the old King James Version translates it), when he now languishes in jail? Those are extraordinary things to write.

I think Paul would have said that it has all to do with his deep assurance of the love that God has for him, and how that love was ultimately displayed when Jesus showed up. Paul knows something which, for him, changes everything. ‘Tis the Season, so I’ll try and explain it in Christmassy terms.

 

 

Christmas I: Forgiveness and relationship

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea (today’s West Bank) that first Christmas, He came for a reason. The events surrounding His miraculous birth attest this. One eyewitness record of His life tells us that He is named Jesus (meaning “God saves”) “because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). That means that His singular purpose on earth was to rescue men and women from the punishment that we deserve for our rejection of God.

I wonder what you think of that. Perhaps the concept of a creator is so alien to you that you think this is all hogwash (in which case I’d encourage you to read some of the other articles in this series). Perhaps you think you’re a good person at heart—so this idea of punishment for “sins” is just ridiculous.

But Paul of Tarsus would look you in the eye and ask you to be honest with yourself: are you truly “good”? Who gets to decide anyway? Paul would say to us that in virtually everyone’s books he was a good person—blameless under his understanding of the Jewish laws (Philippians 3:4-6)—and yet a total failure in the eyes of a holy and righteous God.

Here’s why: God doesn’t merely view “sin” as the bad stuff you and I do wrong every day. What he says is far more offensive. He says that we are living in darkness and in rebellion to Him. Humanity is living in His world (trashing it even), using His stuff and breathing His air, all without any reference or deference to Him. And that’s a problem because if God is holy and just and good, and if I’m living as if He’s a nobody, then that kind of behavior deserves judgment—just ask any parent.

But God, in His deep love for His creation and His desire for a relationship with His people, administers the antidote Himself by sending Jesus. God provides forgiveness and a way out from our otherwise inevitable judgment. And the way that happens is by Jesus dying on a Roman cross, taking on our behalf the punishment that we deserve for living in God’s world as if he didn’t exist. Jesus’ sacrifice secures our forgiveness. He stands in our place—condemned as a sinner so that we might be pardoned. Christmas happened for Easter, as my old pastor puts it.

Trusting in that sacrifice means that God now sees us as He sees Jesus. The Bible describes Christians as being “hidden with Christ”. Incredibly, God no longer sees our sin, but the righteous perfection of His Son instead. Crucially, repentance (turning from our rebellion) and faith (trusting Jesus) bring us into relationship with God. As a Christian I can listen to Him speak in His Word, the Bible, and speak back to Him, knowing He hears me because I trust in Jesus.

This is the knowledge that changes everything.

Because he is a Christian, Paul of Tarsus can be sure that he need not fear the judgment of God. He is certain of the forgiveness won on his behalf at the cross. So even as he sits in a dirty jail cell, incredibly, he cannot help but rejoice at the receipt of this free gift. He might die condemned as a criminal, but ultimately he knows that he has been made right with his maker.

What difference does believing in Jesus make? He offers forgiveness for our rejection of God, and a relationship which begins now and lasts forever. And that is everything.

 

Christmas II: A different time frame

For Paul though, that’s not the end of the story (though there is plenty to cherish already!). The rest is all to do with the time frame.

Before Jesus died, He promised to return. There are two Christmases if you like, and the second is still to come.

Jesus promised that when He returns, He does so as judge of the world. And for those who trust in Him, there is a promise of eternal life—but not here on this broken world. In a place where the frustrations of this life will be a distant memory. A perfect heaven without sin, suffering, or pain.

Now here’s the thing. Being a Christian doesn’t make your life better now. In fact in all sorts of ways it makes your life more difficult (just ask Paul!). But what being a Christian does is to radically shift your time frame. It stretches this idea of “life” past our short 70-90 years on earth and into eternity.

Crucially what Jesus promises is a relationship with Him that is satisfying and soul-quenching because it is not temporary. It’s a relationship with the God of the universe which begins now but stretches on beyond your death, which means that Christians are those who will eventually be satisfied forever. That is knowledge which changes everything.

That has been my experience. Living life as a committed Christian in the world today isn’t a walk in the park (I doubt it has ever been for any Christian through the ages). The fight against sin brings me to my knees in prayer.

My work as a campus pastor is often very busy, and sometimes stressful and discouraging. Some of my non-Christian family continue to describe my job as useless. There seem to be challenges and discouragements at every turn. I do sometimes wonder how life could be more stable and secure if I had stayed on as a corporate lawyer. In fact, I have no doubt that it would be, humanly speaking!

But these wobbly moments are steadied in the face of the glorious truth that I am already forgiven, and headed for a better, brighter, eternal future with my savior. If the Bible is true (and I encourage you to test its veracity), then the frankly infrequent difficulties of being a Christian are but a blip on God’s eternal timeline.

The words of Paul are comforting: For I consider that the sufferings (if you could even call them that!) of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18, ESV; parenthesis mine)

So, what difference does believing in Jesus make to Paul of Tarsus? Well, in one sense you could say: quite a lot. And in the best way possible. When Paul writes that knowing Jesus is of surpassing worth, he really means it. Forgiveness assured, relationship with God secured, and an eternal happiness to look forward to. And all because of salvation through trust in Jesus.

Can I ask: will you consider putting your trust in Jesus this Christmas?

 

Editor’s Note: This is the last article in a four-part series on who Jesus is. Read the first article, “Why Do We Even Need A Savior?” here, the second article, “Why Did Jesus Have to Come As A Human?” here, and the third article, “How Was Jesus Both God and Man?” here.

How Do I Get Past My Disappointments and Hurts From Church?

Written By Karen Kwek, Singapore

A lifelong scribbler, Karen enjoys the company of friends, a great cup of tea and seeing the gospel transform hearts and lives. She worked as a book editor until she and her husband traded peace and quiet for parenthood. It seemed a good idea at the time.

My friend came to our breakfast meeting downcast. “I’m having a hard time,” she said. “How long does it take you to forgive someone?”

I stirred my tea and thought about it. “It might depend on the offence…and on my relationship with the person. I could probably forgive a small insult faster than a huge betrayal. And the more I trust the person, the easier it is for me to forgive him or her.”

My friend, frowning, shook her head. “Okay, I can understand the point about how big or small the wrong is, but the more you trust someone, the more it hurts if they fail or disappoint you, right?”

I acknowledged that this could be true. “But if I really trust them, I’d also know they have my welfare at heart and wouldn’t hurt me intentionally.”

“Sometimes that’s not much comfort,” she said candidly. “It’s not that I’m out to blame anyone. I get that Christians aren’t perfect, but when someone you trusted isn’t who you believed them to be, you’re still left to deal with the pain. I’m not sure I want to see the person every week, let alone trust them again.” She suddenly looked like she’d lost her appetite. And I knew how she felt.

 

What the world says

When I thought more about our conversation, I realized my replies had been somewhat superficial. There is something hollow, something like positive self-talk or pop psychology, about merely excusing the fault (“It was only a small thing”), the intention (“I didn’t mean it; don’t take it personally”) or human limitations (“Nobody’s perfect”). Some other common ways of dealing with hurtful situations are reflected in sayings like “Don’t sweat the small stuff”, “Time heals all wounds” or “Manage your expectations”. Perhaps you have come across more.

I’m not saying that all positive self-talk is uselessit has probably given me perspective that I lacked at the timebut if we had only the world’s wisdom, our focus would remain on analyzing our disappointments and getting by on our own strength. While we might brush off the “small stuff”, deep and damaging wrongs that happen even in Christian communities might scar us permanently: neglect, bullying, gossip, malicious attacks, jealous competition, racial or class prejudice, emotional abuse, sexual harassment or abuse, adultery…the list goes on.

Sin hurts people, and there really isn’t any excuse for causing pain in that way, especially to the people we’re supposed to love and protect, like our brothers or sisters in Christ.

 

It’s not okay

The most helpful conversation I’ve ever had about a deep hurt was when my wise friend Sarah listened to my experience and then said, “Wow, I’m sorry you had to go through that. It’s not okay for someone to do that.” Sarah knew that I knew the Bible verses about forgiveness and that I would try to let my hurts go. But in caring for me and acknowledging that wrong had been done, she helped reflect to me the fact that we have a God who upholds justice, hates sin, and defends the weak and defenseless.

Why was it so important for me to see these aspects of God’s character clearly? Well, my knee-jerk reaction to feeling hurt is getting defensive, severing the hurtful relationship, retaliating, or taking matters into my own hands despite my limited knowledge and ability. Hurt people, so the saying goes, hurt people. What hurt people need first is a refuge, a safe place.

Although Sarah had no power or authority to “fix things”, her standing up for justice“It’s not okaypointed me to the One who does right wrongs, and does so with perfect knowledge and ability. I remembered then that God, the Creator, whose power and understanding is limitless, “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”. The wicked will suffer His punishment some day, but as for me, I am safe with God! (Psalm 147:2–6)

 

Where does my hope come from?

Being honest with a trustworthy listener about my hurts and taking refuge and comfort in God’s righteousness were the first steps for me in letting go of disappointment. It is natural, even commendable, to admire Christian brothers and sisters who are role models of faith and love—Paul encourages the Corinthian Christians to follow his example, as he follows the example of Christ. But we sometimes forget that our human heroes make mistakes and inevitably let us down. When Sarah helped point me back to God, I was able to ask myself if I was putting my hope in people more than in God.

The church exists to bring God’s love to His people, but the church should never replace God as our sure foundation. In fact, it is God who makes our church relationships more than just social friendships. Jesus died for each of us, making every believer a part of His church. This means that every believer’s worth is in Jesusno less, and no more. Learning to see past even the strengths of our mentors and role models, and see the work of God’s Holy Spirit in them, frees us from idolising them. It also frees us to recognize their weaknesses and forgive them when they fail us.

 

Freedom in Christ

How is it humanly possible to forgive great wrongs? Well, it isn’t! Justice would demand the payment of a suitably great price, such as the penalty of death for our rebellion against God. Yet our Father did the unthinkable:

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  (Romans 8:3-4)

Jesus’ death in our place perfectly satisfied the demands of justice, releasing us from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2). But even more than that, this has been done for us so that we can now live according to the Spirit!

Paul goes on to share the awesome truth that our very nature has been changed. We are now God’s children, no longer governed by the need to sin but destined for eternal glory with Jesus. This transformationa self renewed as I know God and become more like Himis what enables us to forgive. We may not always feel enabled, but Christ in us is the reason that Paul can say, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:10, 13).

Our Lord on the cross did the most humanly impossible thing ever: he pleaded the cause of his killers. He was not simply excusing them on grounds of diminished responsibility. In their rejection of him, he did not nurse his own hurts but lifted his eyes to the only One who could grant their greatest needGod’s forgiveness.

 

What about the wrongdoer?

Are there situations in which the wrongdoer should be confronted? Absolutely. Where God’s people sin in a Christian community, Jesus Himself commands that the wrong be addressed, first in private, but if the wrongdoer does not change, before one or more people to witness the confrontation.

Recently, a number of high-profile scandals surfaced, showing that as God’s church we have not done enough to protect the vulnerable and ensure that people are not repeatedly allowed to fall back into sinful ways. Church leaders must be prepared to step in and take action to stop sin (Matthew 18:15-17).

This action could take the form of treating the offender as an unbeliever. In treating him or her “as you would a pagan or a tax collector”, we are not necessarily to cut off all contact with the person. Instead, considering someone an unbeliever is to recognize and keep on offering the person their greatest needthe gospel and a relationship with God through Jesus.

In Eugene Peterson’s rendition of verse 17, “If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love”. That is, grace is not the covering up of wrongdoing but the revealing of sin, so that the sinner might one day repent and be reconciled to God.  

But it may be that most of our disappointments in the church are not as clear-cut as to require the discipline of authorities. Maybe someone brushed aside your opinion, or a clique made you feel unwelcome, or a cutting remark showed snobbery. As we deal with strained or broken relationships, seeing Christ brings freedom from knee-jerk reactions.

In practice, this freedom could take a variety of paths. For example, getting together to explain your position (gently!) and restore friendship; maintaining different opinions on matters of style and preference but working together for the gospel’s sake; finding godly support (para-church or in the same church); and so on. These are not mutually exclusive paths; all are humanly difficultwe may never hear a longed-for apology or get complete closure, but we depend on the Spirit of God to keep on relating to and serving others.

What or who in the church has hurt or disappointed you? As followers of Jesus, we will certainly experience some of His suffering, perhaps even the pain of being betrayed or attacked by someone trusted. But we are those who have known God’s forgiveness and continue to experience it on a daily basis. Because we are being renewed as we know God and become more like Him, we can ask God to free us from bitterness, grudge-bearing and score-keeping, to love Him and His people as He has loved us.

 

To answer my friend’s question again, in a different way, how long I take to forgive someone depends on how long it takes me to see Him clearly. Sometimes it is a long journey. If you are struggling, may you be assured of your safety and worth, demonstrated to you on the cross. May you be strengthened by God’s Spirit, to show previously unthinkable love for your brothers and sisters in Christ. As His people we can do much to helpfully point one another back to the God who deals with our hurts with righteousness as well as tender compassion, and who will one day right all wrongs.

I Was Abused: My Journey Towards Forgiveness

Written By Madeline Twooney, Germany

For as long as I lived with my parents, they abused me physically and mentally. They decided where l went, what l did, and with whom l spoke to. Depending on their whims, they would either lavish me with generosity or violently beat me in the name of discipline. Any achievements l gained were accredited to them. My failures and weaknesses were scorned.

l learned at an early age to fear my parents. l felt helpless and unprotected at their harsh treatment of me, painfully aware that l didn’t have another adult or a sibling to turn to for comfort.

Even the neighbors, who must have been privy to the fighting and acts of violence, refused to intervene. I remember my father hitting me on one occasion, when l was about nine years old. I fled the house in panic and bolted across the road to the neighbor’s house, screaming all the while. As I desperately thumped on the neighbor’s front door, l saw the front curtain twitch, but no one opened the door.

It was another reminder that l was alone. Trapped in a mental and physical prison of despair, fear, and depression, I mentally retreated into myself for years, as a means of survival.

Despite their volatile inclinations, l still sought affection from my parents, hoping that deep inside they loved me. Sometimes I attempted to hug my mother, but she kept her arms to her side and held herself stiffly.

And when I made cards for my father on birthdays or Father’s Day, he would throw them away without even glancing at them. My heart plummeting to my feet, l would turn away from my father, vowing to myself that l wouldn’t allow him to disappoint me again.

I dated my first serious boyfriend when I was 17. We dated in secret, as my mother was against our relationship. With my friends’ help, Nathan and I went to the annual school dance together.

But my mother suspected something. She found me at the school dance and dragged me home. After that, she went to the homes of each of my friends and gave them a severe scolding. My parents even called up Nathan’s family—whom they had never met—and yelled at them with curses and profanities.

After this, school authorities requested to meet my parents, since Nathan’s family had contacted them out of concern for me. Although my parents refused to seek counseling, at least my father acknowledged that they had mistreated me.

Needless to say, Nathan and I broke up within a few months. My heart was broken. My friends forgave me, but there remained a division between us, and we ended up drifting apart.

l finished my final university exams just after turning 22, and informed my parents that l was leaving home. I wanted to start fresh in a place that was far away from my parents and the painful memories of my childhood. Since I spoke German fluently and was familiar with the country and its culture, l decided to move to Cologne, Germany.

My mother was offended by my decision to leave, so much so that she walked out of the house without bidding me farewell on my last evening in Australia. My father blamed himself and let me go. Since leaving Australia 19 years ago, l have not seen them in person again.

Though we were on opposite ends of the globe, tensions between my parents and me continued. I tried to phone them regularly. However, their resentment, anger, and open hostility left me emotionally depleted, and l dreaded having to contact them. After a particularly heated discussion, which concluded with my mother cursing me, the depths of my gaping emotional wounds were too evident to ignore any longer. l resolved to seek professional help with a psychotherapist.

With the help of therapy, l realized that l suffered from severe depression as a result of childhood trauma. Despite making progress in therapy, the situation with my parents escalated to such an extreme, that l broke off all contact with them for 10 years. It wasn’t the right thing to do, but l just couldn’t cope with them anymore.

I continued with my life: I became a teacher, moved into my first flat and acquired two cats, whom l loved dearly. However, l was constantly depressed and developed an eating disorder in a desperate attempt to exert some control over my life. l started taking anti-depressants, yet l remained unhappy: l was either too fat or too thin, too overworked and too poor. I formed unhealthy friendships out of an inferiority complex and an innate fear of rejection. I hated myself.

I am deeply grateful for the day that Jesus pulled me out of the darkness and gave me new life. I was born again as a new creation, where l discovered the mercy and loving kindness of God, as well as His grace and peace which transcends all understanding. l began to believe that l was worthy, because God said l was. The aching wounds in my mind and my spirit began to heal.

When l became engaged to my husband four years ago, l knew l had to try and reconcile with my parents. Colossians 3:13 spoke to me: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” l wanted to enter my marriage in right standing with God by forgiving my parents for their transgressions, as God had forgiven me for mine. It wasn’t easy talking to my parents after many years of silence, but l knew l had made the right decision in calling them.

I would like to say that since resuming communications, my parents and l have sorted out our differences. The truth is, things are just as bad as ever.

The last time we spoke was in September last year. My parents, who are not believers, had sought the advice of a psychic to predict my future, and had shared their misinformation with my husband and l during a Skype call. Since the Bible warns against seeking the advice of mediums (such as in Leviticus 19:31), my husband and l conveyed our discomfort to my parents.

My father reacted aggressively, and suddenly announced that he didn’t want to talk to me ever again: l should leave him and my mother alone. Then he hung up the phone.

I have not known how to move forward since then. There are times when l am sorely tempted to just let the entire matter with my parents rest. And yet, l find myself in a dichotomy between the woman who strives to honor God, by forgiving and putting the past behind her, and the daughter who struggles to lay aside the grievances she has towards her childhood abusers.

My love for my Savior wins. As a result, I try to practice forgiveness and acceptance. I pray for peace in my family and hope that one day, my parents will come to a knowledge of Christ.

Despite my efforts, l arrive all too soon at the boundary of my capabilities. My inability to let go of memories of my parents’ abuse leaves my emotional equilibrium imbalanced. Instead of putting up with their weaknesses, I condemn myself for my impatience at my parent’s pride. Rather than being peaceful, l speak to my mother and father in anger.

I can’t forgive my parents with my own strength.

Maybe confronting this impasse is exactly what l need to do. For it is only when l experience the outer limits of myself, that l can best encounter God.

When my strength wanes, His power surges me forward.

When l lose my patience, His peace revives me.

When my heart is afflicted, His Truth sets me free.

Whereas in the past, l believed that I was unable to make peace in my family, now l have come to realize that when l am weak, God is strong. l confess my limitations to God and give the situation over into His hands.

Hebrews 4:15-16 has provided me with great comfort in the knowledge that we have a High Priest in Jesus, who empathizes with our frailties and understands our temptations. It reassures me that l have the right to confidently approach the throne and receive Jesus’ mercy and grace during this family crisis.

Though I have never experienced unconditional love and delight from my parents, that’s okay. I have a great Dad, who adopted me as His own when my parents rejected me (Psalm 27:10). My husband is my greatest supporter and his family have embraced me with open arms into their fold. I have loyal friends and a counsellor with whom l can talk to about the gritty stuff. I am truly blessed.

Still, my hope is that my parents and l will one day heal, and that our relationship will evolve at least into one of mutual understanding and respect. I know for my part, that l will keep on trying to make that a reality by continuing to trust God.

And when, during my journey towards forgiveness, l reach the brink of my own abilities, l know that my Father will be there at the edge, ready to catch me.