The Hiding Place– Corrie ten Boom Learns to Forgive

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“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Ephesians 4:32, NLT

Great hearts are often shuttled through experiences with intense forgiving. The Father tutors us through out our earthly lives, with many visits to this classroom. It is here we get our learning. It will happen several times in our walk, and we carry different nuances, or slants. Each time we are required to forgive authentically. The course is set for us. We can’t choose to skip these lessons without injuring ourselves, and harming others.

We are learning to love– it is our calling and destiny. There are no “accidents” or misaligned ‘drop-outs’ here. We step into our classroom, and the Teacher and Comforter begins His instruction. Many things will strike you as diabolical. Deep inside us we have simply no idea of how “this” will turn out for good. And you’d be right. But the power of God steps in, and “all is well”.

Corrie ten Boom-- Writer, speaker, Christian
Corrie ten Boom– Writer, speaker, Christian

Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch Christian. After her release from a Nazi concentration camp, she began traveling the world and speaking to any who would have her. The needs of postwar Europe were desperate. She traveled as an evangelist telling people who Jesus is and spoke about His redemption. She gave many people hope.

Through her travels she came in contact with a few of the guards that had been a part of the Nazi regime and had to practice forgiveness that only Jesus can bring. The first encounter with one of her previous jailers proved to be most difficult.

Here is an excerpt from her book, “The Hiding Place”.

“It was a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,” he said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.

She then took his hand and the most incredible thing happened.

From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”

Corrie’s Wisdom for Us

  1. There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.
  2. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
  3. It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability, that counts.
  4. When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.
  5. Faith is like radar that sees through the fog-the reality of things at a distance that the human eye cannot see.
  6. Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.

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Thoughts from Other Believers

Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.    Author Unknown

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.   C.S. Lewis

There is such a big difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. It takes two to reconcile, so it is not always possible to be reconciled. But it takes only one to forgive. So if people do you wrong, forgive them, whether or not they ask for forgiveness. You cannot cancel their sin. Only God can do that, and He will only do it if they repent. But what you can do is set aside your own anger, bitterness, and resentment towards them.   Philip Graham Ryken

Forgiveness may be described as a decision to make four promises:

  1. “I will not dwell on this incident.”
  2. “I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”
  3. “I will not talk to others about this incident.”
  4. “I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”  Ken Sande

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For her efforts to hide Jews from arrest and deportation during the German occupation of the Netherlands, Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) received recognition from the Yad Vashem Remembrance Authority as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” on December 12, 1967.

“The Hiding Place” and her many other books can be purchased at Amazon.com. It really must be read and there is a movie out with the same name.

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Frozen

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The all-glorious Mr. Freeze

 Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Colossians 3:13, ESV

Remember “Mr. Freeze?” (Not the rapper, but the supervillain.) He was a DC Comics ‘evil-bad guy.’ He wreaked terrible havoc using ice. It was his specialty, his weapon of choice. In the later issue comic books he wore a cryonic suit and used a “freeze gun” and his victims would be turned into an instant icicle.

But “freezing” people happens far too often. We don’t need a suit or a special gun. We do it with our words, attitudes, actions. It is called unforgiveness, or stigma, or just plain contempt. It locks another person in a place were they will stay forever, and you won’t ever have to deal with them.

We glaciate others with extraordinary ease. Someone offends me, or irritates me and I blast them. In my mind I solidify them into one spot, and there they are locked. Sealed away, and out of my thinking. (And I can avoid those pesky urges to humble myself.)

I have been frozen by others— and I have been the ‘freezer’ as well. The sad part is that we ourselves are so far from perfect. When we zap someone we will never, ever ‘receive’ from that person. We can even preclude them as outside of the grace of God. “You offend me, and I will never forget it, and you will never be more than an evil miscreant to me.” My rationale is “life is too short for hassling with jerks like you.” But I can’t fully accept that idea. That is not God’s will for me, and I know it.

We end up debasing ourselves by our own unforgiveness. We restrict others from the Holy Spirit’s transforming ability. In our mind’s eye, the wicked person will never be able to offer up anything of value. We freeze–locking them into a place. And a vast amount comes from an unforgiveness that is ‘fallen’, and an unbelief in God’s grace and power.

Mr-Freeze-1Perhaps all our personality conflicts are merely chances for us to learn how to love and receive special things from God. But we get confused with ‘our difficult people’ and situations. In our immaturity, we simply put them away where they cannot hurt us again. We may even encourage others to do the same.

Furthermore, any use of our ‘freeze gun’ freezes us as well. Unforgiveness turns on us (which we didn’t count on) and the effect is cumulative. We can only absorb so much and we get hard and cold.

One more thing. We do this to whole groups of people. The alcoholics, the mentally ill, other races. This can be called prejudice or stigma. Ask yourself this–have you ever been stigmatized or demonized?  You will usually know it. But we cannot afford to be controlled by our unforgiveness. There is far too much at stake.

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop.”

Mark 11:25, AMP

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Judging Others: A Dangerous Post

Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.”

Matt. 7:1

This is probably the most common sin that people commit. We stand in judgement more often than we realize, and it turns into an automatic response over time. The pointing of the finger has become an art form, and we can be deliciously mean and be applauded by others at the same time.

Our culture has been steeped in the judging of others. We point our fingers and focus our attention on the things that are not appropriate. Christians have a built-in knack for doing so and are tailor made for practicing this sin.

Repeatedly we are told not to judge others. And we repeatedly we do so. The Word tells us we are not to point our fingers, and Jesus was clear on this issue, stating that our own forgiveness would be nullified if we wouldn’t forgive. This is a little too much truth for us and we look for detours that circumvent so we spare ourselves the act of forgiving.

On the other hand, we demand that we be treated fairly by others. We expect leniency and a fair shake. We become hypersensitive to any perceived slight or a voice inflection. We wince under unjust judgments. We resent unkind fault-finding. We demand that people shall judge us fairly. We claim forbearance and charity in our derelictions in duty and for blemishes in our character. But can we expect other people to be any more lenient towards us than we are toward them?

We squabble and position ourselves into the best light possible. The words of Jesus get nullified or interpreted so repentance is avoided. We say we have a gift of discernment, and Jesus is begging us to drop every particular issue.

37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Luke 6:37-38, NLT

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Sins That Stick to Your Heart

It is often quite difficult for people to forgive themself from their past sins.  We have a tendency to hold ourselves to a stricter, more accountable level then other people.

I usually don’t have a big problem forgiving others.  But for many people they will struggle through their entire Christian walk with both self-forgiveness and its cousin, self-acceptance.

 Self-forgiveness is:

* Accepting yourself as a human who has faults and makes mistakes.
* Letting go of self-anger for your past failures, errors and mistakes.
* No longer needing penance, sorrow and regret over a grievous, self-inflicted, personal offense.
* The act of self-love after you have admitted your failure, mistake or misdeed.
* The spiritual self healing of your heart by calming self-rejection, quieting the sense of failure and lightening the burden of guilt.
* The act of letting go of the need to work so hard to make up for your past offenses.

Negative consequences of the absence of self-forgiveness
In the absence of self-forgiveness, you run the risk of:

* Unresolved hurt, pain and suffering from self-destructive behaviors.
* Unresolved guilt and remorse for self-inflicted offenses.
* Chronically seeking revenge and paybacks toward yourself.
* Being caught up in unresolved self-anger, self-hatred and self-blaming.
* Defensive and distant behavior with others.
* Pessimism, negativity and non-growth oriented behavior.
* Having a festering wound that never allows the revitalization of self-healing.
* Fear over making new mistakes or of having the old mistakes revealed.
* Being overwhelmed by fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of non-approval, low self-esteem and low self-worth. 

Signs of the absence of self-forgiveness.  Lack of self-forgiveness can result in:

* A loss of love for yourself.
* Indifference toward yourself and your needs.
* An emotional vacuum in which little or no emotions are shown or shared.
* Chronic attacks or angry outbursts against self.
* Disrespectful treatment of self.
* Self-destructive behaviors.
* Self-pitying.
* Chronic recalling and reminding of past failures, mistakes, errors and offenses.
* Suspicions about others’ motives, behaviors, attitudes and beliefs when they are accepting of you.
* Chronic depression.
* Chronic hostility, sarcasm and cynicism.
* Self name-calling, belittling and self-demeaning behaviors.
* Unwillingness to change and/or unwillingness to seek the help necessary to change.
* Resistance to doing what is necessary to heal within and recover from low self-esteem.

 Irrational thinking preventing self-forgiveness

* I hurt myself so much; how can I ever expect to be forgiven for that?
* No one deserved the treatment I dished out, and I do not believe that forgiveness is deserved in this situation.
* I am sick over what I did; how can I ever forgive myself?
* I must be inherently evil, and I am despicable. No forgiveness will ever change that.
* I am vicious and cruel, and I always need to be on guard because of that; so why try to forgive what I have done?
* It is a sign of weakness or softness to forgive myself. I must always keep my guard up so as never to repeat my wrongdoings.
* There are some things I can never forgive myself for.
* Only God can forgive me, though at times I don’t believe He can for what I have done.
* What has happened in my life is God’s seeking revenge for all the evil I have done in the past.
* I have done too much for which I can never be forgiven.
* I am just seeking my forgiveness so that I can come back and hurt myself again.
* I do not deserve any self-kindness, self-compassion or self-forgiveness for what I have done to myself or others; I’ll see to it that I am never able to forget it!
* All people who do wrong deserve the worst that life has to dish out.
* I resent myself for hurting myself or others. It is better for me to be hidden behind my wall so I don’t hurt anybody again.
* If I could treat myself or others that way, then I am undeserving of being forgiven, loved or cared for.

 New behaviors needed to create self-forgiveness.  In order to forgive yourself you need to practice:

* Letting go of past hurt and pain.
* Trusting in God’s goodness. Trusting in the goodness and mercy of God to take over the burden for you.
* Letting go and letting the Holy Spirit  lead you during a hurtful time.
* Believing in the infinite justice and wisdom of the Lord                                                                                                                                                                                                                    * Letting go of fears for the future.
* Allowing yourself to be vulnerable to growth.
* Taking a risk.
* Letting go of self-hostility, resentment and self-destructive behaviors.
* Working out your self-anger.
* Overlooking slight relapses or steps backward and getting back on the wagon of recovery immediately.
* Developing a personal spirituality.
* Developing an openness to the belief that you can change.
* Developing trust in yourself.
* Open, honest and assertive communication with yourself concerning hurts, pains and offenses experienced.
* Identifying and replacing the irrational beliefs that block your ability to forgive yourself.

 Two Steps to Develop Self-forgiveness.
 

Step 1: In order to increase your ability to forgive yourself, you need to recognize what this behavior involves. Answer the following questions.

A. What do you mean by “self-forgiveness”?
B. Have you ever forgiven yourself before? How did it feel?
C. Have you ever brought up something from the past to remind you how you hurt yourself or others? How did that make you feel?
D. What role do you feel self-forgiveness has in your growing down? How could you improve?
E. How has the absence of forgiving yourself affected your current emotional stability?
F. What are the signs of the absence of self-forgiveness in your relationship with your family of origin, current family, significant others, spouse, children, parents, relatives, friends or co-workers? With whom do you experience a wall or barrier behind which you hide your past real or perceived failures, mistakes, errors or misdeeds? What feedback do you get about this wall you have been hiding behind?
G. What beliefs block your ability to forgive yourself? What would be necessary to change these beliefs?
H. What new behaviors do you need to develop in order to increase your ability to forgive yourself?
I. What role does the existence of spirituality play in your ability to forgive yourself? The lack of it?
J. For what do you need to forgive yourself?

 Step 2: Now that you have a better picture of what is involved in self-forgiveness, you are ready to work on a specific past failure, mistake, error or misdeed.

A. List a failure, mistake, error, misdeed or event for which you are unable to forgive yourself.
B. How much energy, creativity, problem solving capability and focus on growth is sapped from you whenever you recall this past hurt?
C. What feelings come to mind as you recall this past hurt?
D. How would you describe your role in this past event? In what ways were you the victim, perpetrator, enabler, martyr, bystander, instigator, target, scapegoat, distracter, peacemaker, people pleaser or rescuer?
E. Why do you feel strongly over what happened and how you treated yourself or others?
F. What did this event do to your self-esteem and self-worth?
G. Who was responsible for your reaction to the incident?
H. Who was responsible for your feelings about the incident?
I. Who was responsible for your inability to forgive yourself?
J. How can you forgive yourself?
K. How can you put this incident behind you?
L. How can you avoid being so hurt when something like this happens again?

 ybic, Bryan

 

Dreaming of Forgiveness

This article was originally posted on my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog, here. When Pr. Bryan asked me to contribute to Broken Believers, I knew this was one post I wanted to share here.

Important caveat: In this article I am not suggesting that unforgiveness or other unrepentant sin is the root of all depression. There are many causes of severe depression. Sometimes the depression of a person can have multiple causes and exacerbating factors. This is just my story, and I believe I’m not alone in the root of my struggle. I write this for those who, like me, have been hurt and have hung onto the bitterness that such wrongs can cause.

As I write this, I’m sitting in the Portland, Oregon airport waiting to board my flight to Boston with a layover in Houston. It’s 10:47 p.m. and I’ll soon (I hope) be on the red eye, trying to get some sleep. I doubt it will be the kind of deep sleep that leads to dreaming.

For the past couple of days a blog post idea has been flitting around in my head that has to do with dreaming. Or more accurately, it has to do with a specific dream. I decided this was the perfect opportunity to write that post.

This is a true story of a dream I had 13 years ago, but it is as vivid in my memory today as it was the moment I awoke from it. But before I get to the dream, a little background (some of which those who have read much of my blog will already know, some of which I’ve only shared one-on-one with people I know).

I had been struggling with major clinical depression for almost 7 years. There had been some good days, weeks, maybe even a month here and there, during that 7 years. But never any lasting relief. Even before that I had dealt with low grade depression for a long as I could remember. Through it all I blamed one person for all my misery. I’d been blaming him for almost 20 years. I was sure what he had done was the reason for my depression and that there was nothing I could do about it. I had become convinced that I would always be miserable. My regular mantra was that he had ruined my life.

So you might be wondering what he did that was so terrible. I’ve thought a lot about whether I would include that piece of information here. I’ve shared it with friends, but I’ve decided not to do so in my blog. I believe that this post will have a greater impact if I don’t because the principles I learned through this story aren’t dependent on the wrong that was done to me. Just as we don’t know what the thorn was in Paul’s side that he asked the Lord to remove (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), so that his story has a universal message that Jesus’ grace is sufficient for any suffering, I think my story will have more universal appeal if the reader can fill in the blanks with whatever wrong has been done to them.

You might also be wondering if my life really was miserable during this time so as to warrant being depressed. I assure you it was not. I was (and still am) married to a wonderful man who loves me and would do anything for me. We lived in a nice house. I had graduated from law school cum laude and had a pretty good job. My sweet, loveable son was also born during this time. I actually had, as George Bailey would say, “a wonderful life.”

Still, I was in utter despair and medication was not helping. I mentioned in a previous post about my friend June who invited me to my first Bible study, which happened towards the end of my 7 years of major depression. It was while I was attending this Bible study on a weekly basis that I had the dream.

Okay, now to the dream. It started out with me standing at the checkout counter at the grocery story. I paid for my groceries and turned to leave. There he was, on his knees, asking me to forgive him. But I walked away. Suddenly I was at the post office mailing some letters. I finished my business with the postal clerk and turned to leave. There he was again, on his knees, asking me to forgive him. But I walked away. This scenario was repeated at the bank, the library, and several other of the regular places one goes in life.

He was everywhere in my life in this dream, but not trying to ruin it. He was always asking for forgiveness. I awoke from the dream and knew immediately what I needed to do. God had been trying to tell me this very thing in various ways for quite some time, but I hadn’t listened. I couldn’t ignore this clear message of forgiveness.

So that is what I did. It wasn’t easy, and I had to pray for God to help me, but I forgave him. Suddenly a flood of names came to my mind. People who had “trespassed against me” in some way or another over the years; people I was holding a grudge against. All the bitterness I had been holding in my heart came pouring out and I began to cry. I asked God for forgiveness for my failure to forgive for so long.

The effect on my depression was not immediate, but it didn’t take very long compared to how long I had been struggling. Within just a few months I was off antidepressants and have not had to take them since. There are still days, sometimes weeks, when the darkness returns (though not as deeply as it had consumed me for those 7 years). For me, I can usually trace the lurking threat of depression to someone I’m angry with, someone I need to forgive. I’m reminded of the lesson of dreaming of forgiveness.