Do you know an adult or a child suffering hurt, depression or bitterness?
Here are some encouraging words to those in need of inner healing due to mental, physical or spiritual abuse.
In Due Season
Copyright 2003, 2011, Nancy Berntsen
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The eldest of four sons, Joel, at age nine, was a lanky, happy, energetic boy. That is, until traveling out of state with his family, when he had a short but inappropriate encounter with a 78-year-old man next door. The neighbor, unbeknownst to the vacationing family, was a pedophile on parole.
Thanks to a Disney educational video, Too Smart for Strangers featuring Winnie the Pooh and company, and frequent parental reinforcement that he and his brothers report any inappropriate behavior to them, Joel was quite willing to describe the situation to them and authorities as soon as he realized the man had a problem.
Nevertheless, Joel wasnt the same after this experience. Gone was the energetic bounce to his step and the sparkle in his eyes that earned him the affectionate nickname, Tigger. It was as though Joel were in some kind of emotional hibernation. He was depressed and hurt.
His mom felt the problem was that Joel was unable to forgive the man who emotionally hurt him. She carefully approached this subject of forgiveness on occasion when Joel seemed receptive to the subject.
Because they were a Christian family, the Bible was their basis for understanding what forgiveness is. However, the principle of forgiving others is universal regardless of ones faith.
Joel could not forgive until he was ready, and his mom never pushed him to do so. But she did what she could to help Joel understand what forgiveness meant. She had forgiven that man the day after the awful discovery about him. But she had years of practice at this already! Joel knew in his head that this was something he must do. But he also knew it would be meaningless if he could not forgive him from the heart.
He was very young to process the idea of forgiving an adult who hurt him. His mom was actually relieved that he did not rush into forgiving this man because that could have meant that Joel was doing it just to please her or God.
Being a nurse, she felt strongly that Joel see a highly recommended psychologist specializing in these cases. He willingly met with a psychologist several times over a two-month period. Then the visits ended. Nothing more could be done at this point.
In her final evaluation, the psychologist told his parents to beware of the teen years as this is typically when any hidden problems start to emerge. Sadly, the visits with her did not restore the characteristic bounce to Joels step or that once familiar gleam in his eyes. The psychologist never discussed forgiveness with Joel.
The patient mom herself continued to counsel her son, explaining to him that the man didnt deserve forgiveness for what he had done. They did not need to come up with a rational explanation or excuse for his behavior. He had no excuse. But they needed to forgive him because God wanted them to forgive others as he said to in the Lords Prayer.
She recalls explaining, We do not deserve Gods forgiveness for our sins because we have all sinned and can not be perfect like He is. Yet God forgave us, even before we were born so that we may live forever with Him someday.
She also explained that forgiving him didnt mean that the man shouldnt be punished. On earth, some things must be punished even when we forgive.
She asked her son if he would mind if she checked on him occasionally to see if he was ready to forgive him and he agreed. Shed observe his behavior. When the opportunity seemed appropriate, she would just ask if he was ready yet. She would remind Joel that though forgiveness comes from the heart, it is not based on feelings but rather readiness & willingness, hoping he would eventually recognize when he was ready to do so.
One sunny spring morning, just four months after the incident and one month after the professional counseling ended, Joel flew down the stairs into the kitchen for breakfast. After exchanging greetings, his mother asked Joel if he had thought any more about forgiving his offender. Smiling, he replied, I already did. She knew because his eyes were sparkling once again, and he was bouncing all over the house like Tigger.
Joel wrote a statement that he had forgiven this man. He put it in the family safe box as a reminder of his decision. So in due season, like a butterfly in a chrysalis, Joel emerged from his spiritual darkness, into the light, revealing a glowing confidence, liveliness, and inner joy and peace beyond expectation. His mom hoped God would use his experience to help others some day, believing He allowed it for a purpose.
That incident occurred over ten years ago. Joel has since grown into a mature, fun-loving young man always ready to help others and honor God in what he does. He wrote a paper for college about forgiveness and used his own example in it. This led to a discussion with a fellow classmate (a father) whose child was in need of inner healing. Joel says that during his adolescence, he was extra cautious around men he didnt know well but now feels his level of caution is more appropriate.
I am Joels mother. I wrote about Joel because I care about anyone hurting like he once did. Each situation is unique, and I do not wish to give advice other than I hope parents in a similar dilemma will take great care in choosing a counselor for their child. I also hope that they be alert to any need to forgive the unforgivable, as this seems key to getting on with life.
Just as true love is a decision, not a feeling, so is forgiveness. In fact, true forgiveness is one of the greatest forms of love, regardless of ones faith.
In closing, I have provided Bible verses about forgiveness my family has found both practical and inspirational.
12 And forgive us our
debts, as we forgive our debtors.
36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(All scriptures are from the King James Version)
by Nancy Berntsen
If you know a child who has suffered from involvement with a pedophile, or you know any person finding it difficult to forgive someone and you think this writing might be helpful, please feel free to pass this link or a printed copy of brochure along to his/her parents or that adult you have in mind.