I first met Barbara when she came to church on a Sunday morning.
She came not long after my husband, the founding pastor, had unexpectedly died, and I had taken over his job pastoring the church, so I was pretty new at it. (You can read more about that story in my book, Why God Why? What To Do When Life Doesn’t Make Sense.)
Barbara caught my eye because she seemed so unhappy and downtrodden. When I greeted her after service, she looked down as I shook her hand. She murmured “thank you,” then walked toward the parking lot.
It wasn’t until her third Sunday that I finally managed to catch her for a quick conversation, and was able to ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?”
She started to shake her head, but somehow mustered up the courage to look at me and ask, “Could I meet with you sometime?”
I could tell it was a brave step for her. Of course I agreed, and we set up a time to meet.
On the day of our meeting, Barbara was dry-eyed and matter-of-fact as she spelled out a horrifying childhood. From the time she was two or three years old, she had been abused both physically and emotionally by several men in her family.
As a result, her adult life was a mess. Her three children had three different fathers, and none of the men had stayed with her. Now she was struggling not only to raise three children on her own but to form any kind of relationship with anyone, even friends and coworkers.
If you heard her whole story, you would understand why. She had no kind of normalcy in her past, no way of knowing how to engage with people in a healthy way, and it affected every area of her life. My heart broke for her.
“There’s An Answer For Her”
After meeting with her several times, I was at home praying for her one night: “Father, this is so unfair! It’s not Barbara’s fault that she was born into this abusive family, yet her life is a mess because of what those horrible people did to her. How can I help her? It can’t be hopeless. Is there an answer for her?”
And the Lord said, “Yes, there’s an answer for her.”
I said, “I knew it! What’s the answer for this precious woman?”
I was totally surprised by his answer. He said, “Forgiveness.”
That stopped me short. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. I said, “No way! Are you sure, Lord? It doesn’t seem like forgiveness will help her get over everything that’s happened to her.”
And right then, the Lord told me something that I’ve never forgotten. He said, “Forgiveness is how my relationship started with you.”
Wow! When the Lord spoke that to my heart, I realized there was way more to forgiveness than I had thought.
Every one of us started our relationship with God through forgiveness. Colossians 2:13 says, “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions” (NASB).
Think about it. God made us alive together with him by forgiving us! You could say that forgiveness is God’s way of making a fresh start, his way of executing do-overs. After all, it’s how he started you and me over again. He made us new creatures in Christ, where old things passed away and all things became new (2 Cor. 5:17). He transformed us into brand new, born-again, righteous beings by forgiving us.
No wonder forgiveness (and our choice to forgive) is so powerful.
(This is an excerpt from Karen’s book “I Forgive You, But….3 Steps That Can Heal Your Heart Forever.” It is being released on June 13 - you can read the first part here: http://iforgiveyoubook.com/)