Be freed from your past!
Heavy experiences and memories of the past guide people’s lives and self-image. Read how you can get rid of the burdens of the past
Many people have a spirit of heaviness (Isa 61:3) resulting from earlier experiences. Inside, they carry memories of events that occurred years ago and they have not been able to forget them. These might be related to sexual abuse, emotional rejection or physical violence; perhaps their parents did not want them, or they suffered some other traumatic injuries. These memories can still weigh very heavily inside a person and affect his or her present life.
However, we should not allow ourselves to be prisoners of our past. If we receive Jesus Christ into our life, our inheritance comes from Him, not from our past; we are saved from our past by Jesus' redemption.
There are mainly two ways in which we can obtain freedom. Firstly, we play our own part: we give up our bitterness and stop our accusations so that we can forgive those who sinned against us. Secondly, we come to understand our place and identity in Christ. If we understand the place we have in Christ, and in this truth, then we will experience freedom from our past.
We will discuss these matters and the steps that we must take in order to be free from our past.
The question of how you have been treated is important. This is because someone can have an oppressed mind and be depressed as a result of earlier experiences. The past can be carried along in the present and one can still be bottling inside all those negative events that happened to him or her many years before.
However, it is good to note that if we have been bruised by the past, our experiences are not at all unique. Instead, they are actually quite common, and if we only look around us we can see many who must have gone through similar or even worse situations. For example, Donald Bubna noticed this in his own ministry. He observed that he was not the only person in the world who had suffered in this way:
Later, as a young adult in my first office as a priest, I made my largest finds concerning encouragement. First I supposed that my painful struggles in my childhood were unique. I did not understand that other people had similar wounds. Only when people started coming to me because of pastoral care did I understand that my experiences were not completely exceptional. When I started talking about my past to people, it seemed to help them as they saw that they had a possibility to choose. Instead of having pity on themselves, they could let the comfort of God come into their lives so that they could comfort and encourage other people. And so I noticed, almost by accident, that my own problems and answers that I had received from God had in fact become a source of assistance for other people. (1)
If we still cling to the most difficult and painful experiences of our life, there may be reason to study the following list. Common and especially difficult situations that some people have gone through in their childhood and youth are described below. You may recognize your own experiences from the list:
- Were you an unwanted child or "an accident"? Did your parents or mother not want to have a child? Or has it been said to you that if you had not been born, your parents would not have needed to get married?
- Perhaps you were of the wrong sex: your parents hoped for a girl instead of a boy, or vice versa? Maybe you were also subconsciously forced in to the role of the other gender.
- Were you brought up in a home where there was continuous quarrelling and fighting between the parents and where you experienced continuous fear and distress as you waited for the next argument?
- Was one of your parents an alcoholic and violent when he/she was drunk? Did you feel ashamed of the conditions at home and the fact that your parent was an alcoholic?
- Was the attitude of your parents the kind that included loud shouting, cold looks and tones of voice, irritability and aggression?
- Did you suffer from continuous absence of your parents? Were they completely tied up in their work so that they did not have time for the family? Or were your parents totally indifferent towards your going out and everything else you did? Or perhaps you have lost a parent or two through divorce or long-term illness?
- Were you the victim of incest, i.e., sexual violence by a close relative?
- Were you compared to your sister or brother or somebody else and told "why can't you be more like him/her"? Was your brother or sister favored over you?
- Did you often hear statements such as, "You can't do anything, you are good for nothing and you will never become anything"? Were you also shouted at and abused whenever you failed in something? Were your performances or grades in school never enough for your parents?
- Were you left without hugs, pats, and affection and did you never get to be in your parents’ arms?
- Remarks about appearance and being called names are common at home and at school. These can remain in the mind of a person for many years.
- Did other kids despise you at school, or were you bullied? Or perhaps you were unpopular in the eyes of your teachers?
- Some may also experience blows as adults, perhaps at work or in the form of sexual abuse or other forms of violence.
If a person has bruises from the past, those bruises can shape everyday life. They can make a huge impact in the person’s perception of life and how their life turns out.
In this area there are generally three main causes or influences in which the past has made a strong impact. Behind each issue there are almost always traumatic experiences and rejection, especially from important people. These areas are:
1. Not fully understanding the righteousness of faith and the grace of God
2. Inability to forgive others, feeling bitter
Many people engaged in pastoral care have observed that people have problems specifically in these three areas. The following quotes, among others, address the matter:
Leanne Payne: There are three huge obstacles to personal healing and to that of the emotional life – the inability to receive forgiveness, incompetence in forgiving others and the failure to accept oneself. We will win these obstacles by repenting wholeheartedly, receiving forgiveness, and by wanting to dissociate ourselves from the devil and all his works. (2)
David A. Seamands: Years ago I came to the conclusion that revival-Christian believers have principally two reasons for problems in their emotional life: not being able to understand, to receive and to live the unconditional grace and forgiveness of God in reality, and the inability to show this absolute love, forgiveness, and grace to other people. (3)
Sven Reichmann: Above, we spoke about how sin can have deep roots in the life of a man. Bitterness and judging oneself are two typical roots of sin that we can both see in the prodigal son's brother. As a matter of fact, these roots appear quite often together. Bitterness produces rebellion and anger towards the environment, judging oneself bears the same emotions towards oneself. (4)
So when these three areas – the relationship with God, bitterness towards one’s neighbors, and a distorted attitude towards oneself – come up, there is a reason to consider each one separately. They should be studied so that we would not have a distorted view on any of them.
1. THE Relationship with God. In the relationship with God – when man turns to God – a traumatic past can cause a person to have difficulties in believing God’s love for him; he can believe that God loves other people, but not him. For when he feels that he has not gotten approval from his parents or it has been conditional and depended on performance, he may also think that God treats people in the same way.
This view of God as being harsh and demanding can sometimes lead to the so-called state of legalism. This condition entails, among other things, a person confessing the same sins over and over again without understanding that after receiving Christ these sins have already been forgiven. A person may also continuously hear an inner voice compelling and demanding him or her to do things through which the person wishes to get approval, “Why don't you testify more, why don't you pray more, God doesn't accept you if you are unable to do better,” and so on.
The remedy for this kind of a legalistic condition is the grace of God – absolute and full forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Understanding this and believing it will certainly release a person from this condition.
What is interesting in this matter is that in
When I was searching for an answer to this odd phenomenon, I noted African mothers who always carry their children with them. When the mother hoes the field, the child remains on her back. The child acquires a feeling of security and acceptance. When the child grows up and turns to God, it is easy for him or her to believe that also God will accept him or her. (5)
2. Bitterness. When a person has gone through painful experiences and encountered rejection perhaps by some people close to them, the second consequence is usually bitterness and anger: bitterness, grudges, and accusations against those people who have hurt him/her. This person may continue to brood about matters that happened in the past and are connected to the past.
The main problem with bitterness is that a person does not often notice it or does not admit the fact that it is a sin. We may think that after being treated so badly, we have the right to be bitter. But it is just this bearing of a grudge that prevents us from becoming free. If we only learned to forgive we would be freed not only from the past but also from other things. Sven Reichmann has a comment about this:
A compliant, patient heart is free from all bitterness, and such a heart is, according to Salomon, the life of the whole body. Because bitterness sprouts from our lives, an incredible amount of illnesses, suffering, and misery have subsequently resulted. When the sprout is torn away, man will be freed from many sins, all those for which he has lost hope a long time ago. (6)
One side of bitterness is that it can be transferred as anger toward and distrust of outsiders, to people who have never even hurt us. This can happen in marriage, for example.
If a wife has had a bad relationship with her father, for example, she can transfer these negative feelings to her future spouse (a man might act similarly as a result of having a strenuous relationship with his mother). Perhaps she does not consciously want to be against her husband but she may deep in her heart feel distrust and anger towards her spouse because her father did not care for her. Also, if a woman has experienced sexual violence and incest as a child, the abyss can be deepened even further. It can prevent her from creating a good sexual relationship with her husband, and even cause the sexual desire to be quenched. The past can thus badly disturb the relationship.
However, there is hope in such situations, and this hope is forgiveness. As a person realizes his/her anger, its roots, and wants to forgive, the past cannot disturb him/her in the same way. The person will have to give up any accusations against his/her parents – and also against the spouse – in order for the marriage to work out.
3. JUdging oneself. The third consequence of having been treated badly in the past and not being accepted as you are is a person starting to despise himself/herself. We may start accusing and looking down upon ourselves, meaning that the anger turns towards ourselves. Accusations such as, "You are nothing,” “Nobody loves you – not even God,” “Who do you think you are?” or, “You have no right to live!” and so on can be quite ordinary. If a person has not been accepted, it becomes difficult for him or her to learn to accept him/herself, and this can be expressed as self-accusations like those described above.
Some researchers have spoken about the self-image — the image that each of us has of ourselves. It has been stated that our self-image very strongly directs our behavior and our thoughts. So if we have a positive self-image that may have been formed through positive feedback, it is easy for us to get along with ourselves and with others. But if we have a bad self-image gained through experiencing negative influences, it will be much more difficult. It is unfortunate that we are often prisoners of a negative image that was formed by bad early experiences than by what we are experiencing now.
If after some painful experiences, a foundation of self-accusation and criticism has been formed, different actions can sprout up. They may only be the consequences from our not valuing ourselves. Some common behaviors have been listed below.
- Nervousness with other people.
- Fearing what others think.
- Being annoyed about our own appearance and body.
- Trying to make up for our own deficiencies by accomplishments and achievements.
- Feeling worse than others.
- Suicidal thoughts.
- Having difficulty believing that anybody could seriously love us.
- Fear of the future and expecting the worst.
- Fear of intimacy and fearing that people will not accept us as ourselves.
- Workaholicism can be a consequence of not accepting oneself. For example, the Finnish priest Kalevi Lehtinen told how he noticed his own struggling with this issue:
Driving back home Kalevi noticed that he was not at all uncomfortable with the idea of cancer. To his surprise, he experienced a curious sort of relief as comes to cancer. It would be a glorious way to be freed from everything, especially from fatigue and the continuous feeling of inadequacy, he thought.
While discussing about such times with Kalevi, one understands the many issues he has gone through with himself after that.
He realizes that his anger towards himself has a clear connection with his working tempo. This anger has been his sin and temptation ever since childhood.
Workaholicism comes from anger towards oneself, Kalevi believes nowadays, after having already distanced himself from his own experiences.
Man must destroy and punish himself by working, and at the same time, he buys acceptance: of oneself and others.
Having anger towards oneself has no borders, which is why it is so closely tied with death. This is why many people die. Kalevi encountered his limit seven years ago when he understood that he was more than willing to die of cancer.
He really hated himself, even though his public image did not give any outward implications of it. He despised himself because of his never-ending depression and pain that he – in vain – tried to drown with an absurd amount of working. All of this only added to his stress and stomach aches, however.
Kalevi himself realized his condition. He knew he was carrying his burden of guilt and shame from his early childhood. He was also aware of a deep drive towards self destruction that had already earlier made him want to die and finally put out the pain inside. (7)
- Eating disorders can be a sign of not accepting oneself. Eating too much can be a sign of yearning for love and acceptance and of feelings of inadequacy.
Similarly, anorexia nervosa, that mostly appears in teenage girls, is a similar symptom. In this, a person's image of herself is so distorted that even if an anorectic looks at herself in the mirror when she is like a skeleton, she will see herself as too fat. This may often be because of other people's injurious remarks like, "You are too fat." This can lead to excessive loss of weight:
I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa when I had just turned 14. It started with dieting. I was too fat: I weighed 60 kilos (132 pounds) and was 159 cm tall (5.2 feet). The boys teased me and told me that I’m a fatso…
I was in the 8th grade of comprehensive school when the public health nurse noticed that I had put on a few extra kilos. I took it as an offense.
It was the last push towards anorexia nervosa.
Immediately, I started a diet and I decided that nobody would ever tell me something like that again. In my opinion, my body was sturdy but others were of another opinion. (…)
I kept feeling like nobody accepts me. When you don't value yourself it is hard to believe that anybody else could either. I didn't let anybody near me. I did listen to my friends talking but I didn't open up to them. (…)
It seemed that my own value depended on the grades I got from school. I didn't want to be proud of my grades but whenever I didn't do as well, everything seemed to come tumbling down. After a test, I would always weep as I was afraid that it went badly. Self-criticism was hard. (…)
Probably one reason for my illness was that I’m sensitive. The sensitivity just happened to appear as anorexia. "(8)
- Escaping to fantasy worlds and dishonesty are powerful.
- Alcohol or drugs may also be means of escaping. Through them, one may try to rid oneself of feelings of worthlessness, uncertainty, and insecurity, even if just for a moment. The following text written by a woman is an honest example of this:
The answer of the woman was like an echo of Job's despair, "I just simply don't like myself! There is nothing good in me!” And most of us alcoholics and drug addicts feel the same! They use drugs and alcohol only to be able to live with themselves. It is not because of society, the congregation, or parents that they have sunk so low – it is only because of themselves. (9)
- Homosexuality can also be a result of not accepting oneself and of certain backgrounds that one has had in his or her life.
If we have been treated badly in the past, we do not have to grieve over it. We can be freed if we give up our life to God and Christ. Then our emotional life can be healed so that old and unpleasant experiences no longer bother us.
However, this requires us to make a choice: we need to want to forgive and we must stop accusing others. Before God, we are not only victims but also guilty. Therefore, we cannot justify our bitterness and other sins by the fact that we have been treated badly, because our attitude is just as wrong as our opponents' acts towards us.
So forgive and give up all accusations of others so that your emotional life can be healed!
Why should we forgive? If we search for reasons why it is worthwhile to stop accusing others, to forgive and have mercy on people, at least three important reasons can be mentioned. Certainly there are other reasons as well, but these may be the most important ones:
Not forgiving can prevent God's forgiveness. The most important reason to forgive is that it is the will of God and it is right. God wants us to forgive people and not to bear grudges. Jesus required us to forgive; in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught that our forgiveness of others is also a prerequisite for God’s forgiveness of our sins. If we refuse to forgive others, God will not forgive us:
- (Matt ) And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
- (Matt -15) For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
- (Matt -35) Then his lord, after that he had called him, said to him, O you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you desired me:
33 Should not you also have had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you?
34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due to him.
35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
Making yourself miserable
- (1 Cor 13:4-5) Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity braggs not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil
Another reason to forgive is that we make ourselves miserable by not forgiving. If we are always brooding, bitter, and angry, and remember all injuries, we make ourselves wretched and miserable.
However, peace cannot be received by listing sins or by complaining about the evils of the world. This only makes people more miserable and depressed, and by doing this they do not take into consideration the fact that the world is in a fallen state and will be going in an even worse direction towards the end. Therefore, look at Jesus and not at imperfect people, and follow him:
- (John 21:21-22) Peter seeing him said to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
22 Jesus said to him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you? follow you me.
Healing and forgiveness. A good reason to forgive is that not forgiving can prevent healing. If someone has an unnoticed root of bitterness in his or her heart that has not been confessed to God, healing can be delayed. (This does not mean that it is the underlying reason in every case; this is by no means meant as a generalization.)
Obviously, this goes for mental illnesses as well: underlying factors in mental illness are very often deep traumatic experiences caused by other people. Also in this case, forgiveness can lead to healing and becoming free. Below, there are a few statements from different authors relating to this topic. These examples indicate well how important forgiveness is:
David A. Seamands: I had asthma as a child. In my youth, it developed worse and my first year in college was so hard that I wasn't able to take part in the spring term exams. I continuously prayed for healing, other people also prayed for me and once they even anointed me with oil and laid their hands on me. These prayers were not answered.
Years after that, early in the morning, in the middle of a sentence in the prayer book, God showed me that my memories needed healing. This meant that I had to forgive someone on a deeper level than ever before. For several days I had to examine my heart and pray. I didn't pray for my asthma at all. I simply let the Spirit remove all grudges and bad memories. It is difficult to believe but since that day I haven't had asthma! So, many prayers had been said because of my asthma but I was not ready to receive God's answer before my deeper problem had been sorted out. This also goes for many areas in life where our prayers are not answered. (10)
Nicky Cruz: Is there hope for these innocent victims?
Let me tell you about a young girl, Sharon, who came to our center for help.
As she walked through the door, there was clearly a dark cloud of guilt and shame hanging over her.
She came with her school curator who introduced her to our workers. I sensed a deep lack of confidence. It was almost impossible to maintain eye contact with her.
We all sat down and tried to relieve Sharon's tension. When she looked at me, her face was full of distress and her eyes swollen from weeping.
"I hate my father,” she said angrily.
I knew immediately that Sharon was a victim of incest. I felt pain in my heart, like I had been stabbed with a knife.
I had seen too many nice girls like her destroyed from the inside because of "their fathers’ bad deeds". We prayed for her and asked God for a miracle.
Any less would not have been enough.
For many days, we tried to win Sharon's trust. One
evening, the Holy Spirit finally made the breakthrough. As
Sharon asked Jesus to come into her heart, she started to
cry uncontrollably. At that moment, the face that used to be
full of shame began to radiate the joy and peace of Christ.
Forgiveness is the only way to be completely healed from these kinds of emotional injuries.
Immediately after Sharon had received the love of Christ, love was born in her.
And from this love came forgiveness.
I have seen that the victims of incest may be bitter towards their molesters. They cannot be cured until genuine forgiveness takes the place of bitterness. (11)
Neil T. Anderson: I met Daisy after I had just graduated and when I was working as a student for a very large church. (…)
But when the leader of the group heard that Daisy had been in a mental institution three times over a period of five years because of paranoid schizophrenia, he felt he was completely inadequate to help her. He asked me if I could meet Daisy. Even though I have not had any formal training in pastoral care, I agreed to speak to Daisy. (…)
We started meeting every week. I assumed that her difficulties were the result of her moral fall or her being the subject of something similar or of her having practiced occultism. I asked her about moral issues and I did not find any problems. I asked her whether she had ever practiced occultism. She had never even read a book about it. Now I was really beginning to scratch my head as I was not able to find the source of her serious and clearly spiritual conflicts.
Then one day we started speaking about her family. (…)
"Let's talk about your father.” I suggested.
"I don't want to speak about my father,” Daisy said. "If you speak about my father, I’ll scram."
"Wait a minute, Daisy. If you won’t speak about your father here, where can you then? If you do not deal with these questions here, where can you?" (…)
Daisy started facing her unresolved emotions towards her father, and to work with forgiveness. This was the root of her problems. In a few months, this young woman with whom the psychologists had lost all hope showed enormous progress and started doing child work in our church. (12)
How can we give up accusations? If we want to stop making accusations, that is, to forgive, we can do it. The next issues are worth noting here:
A decision, not a feeling. Firstly, forgiveness is always a decision, not a feeling. We do not need to wait for any special feelings of love; we can immediately choose to forgive. The feelings can follow later on, but they are not necessary. In Matthew 18, a person was called the wicked servant because he did not want to forgive. It was not because he had no positive feelings but because he did not want it in the right way:
- (Matt -33) And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and sought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.
30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
31 So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told to their lord all that was done.
32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said to him, O you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you desired me:
33 Should not you also have had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you?
Wait for a miracle! Stopping ourselves from making accusations can be quite difficult to do by ourselves, even impossible. The accusations surface again and again so that we continuously brood over the same issues.
However, if you are in this situation, the grace of God will help. This is because God can do what is impossible for us. We must, turn to Him and then wait for a miracle, wait for Him to take away the accusing thoughts from our mind. The following practical example describes this very well:
Are you bitter? Can you not forget the wrong things that were done against you? Let Christ fill your heart with forgiveness. Own it through faith and act accordingly.
The deceased brother Magnusson told about a certain teacher who, in spite of his Christianity, lost his patience with his unruly pupils. However, he would have wanted to shine true light on his students and he suffered from this weakness by praying and fighting. Once, he was again losing his patience and he sighed to the Father. Then the lovely, bright truth became apparent to him: Christ is my patience. He believed this and acted accordingly, and victory followed. This is the righteousness of life that comes from God by faith, Phil 3:9. (13)
Search for the root!
- (Hebr 12:15) Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled
With bitterness, the problem is that we often do not notice it and confess it to God. We may have an accusing and uncharitable attitude without even acknowledging it. We may have a similar attitude as the wicked servant in Matt 18, who said, "Pay me that you owe" (Matt ).
Thus, children can in their hearts judge their parents, a husband judge his wife and a wife judge her husband without understanding they must repent from this. This kind of a demanding and uncharitable mindset is described in the Letter to the Hebrews as the root of bitterness; it certainly produces no good fruit. Only if we see this diseased root and confess it as a sin to God, can we be freed. The next example well describes how judgmental actions caused by bitterness can affect a person's life:
“Suddenly, my heart was filled with gratitude because of my husband,” she said. "The strangest thing was that I had always thought that my husband was at fault. I was angry because he never apologized or said that he was sorry about anything. Only now do I realize that I had misunderstood the whole thing. I was selfish and demanding and I needed forgiveness." (14)
Choose gratitude! It is very common to become bitter and start accusing people when something insulting has happened to us. We actually choose to be bitter instead of being grateful.
So, if it is possible for someone to choose to be bitter, it is also possible for someone to reach out for a grateful attitude. We can opt to feel gratitude instead of our normal emotional reactions. Whenever a bitter and an accusing thought comes up, we can strive for a grateful attitude. This is certainly true regarding past rejections, and also for present situations and worries. We can all choose gratitude and thankfulness for the past and present troubles, and begin to bless people instead of continuously complaining about their faults. Gratitude in the Bible is important and it is referred to in the following verses:
- (1 Cor 10:10) Neither murmur you, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
- (1 Thess 5:18) In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
- (Eph 5:20) Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
- (Ps 50:23) Whoever offers praise glorifies me: and to him that orders his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God.
- (Ps 118:24) This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
7 Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
In the previous chapter, we studied bitterness and judgment of others.
However, this anger can turn against us. It is possible for someone to start despising and hating himself because of past injuries and abandonment. This can manifest itself as internalized expressions like, "Nobody cares for you,” “You are a mistake,” “You have no right to live,” “You disgusting rag,” “Who do you think you are?”, “You are the most miserable man in the world,” and so on. Often these two issues -- bitterness and self-judgement -- walk hand-in-hand, and spring from past experiences. Sven Reichmann’s description below illustrates them both:
It is easy to associate the experience of the prodigal son's brother to religious disappointment. The same can happen inside a person's mind after all kinds of disappointments. It is common for a person who has not been loved as a child to feel bitterness towards his or her parents. Often the person also judges and rejects himself, like others have rejected him or her earlier. Bitterness and judging oneself live simultaneously in the mind of that person, and form a vicious circle there from which it is difficult to be freed. (15)
But how can we get rid of this root behavior of judging ourselves? We will try to find an answer to this problem below.
Judging oneself is a sin
- (Rom 14:10) But why do you judge your brother? or why do you set at nothing your brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
Before we can be freed from judging ourselves, we must see that it is a sin. As the Bible encourages us to love and respect our neighbors and not to despise them, then it is certainly not right to accuse and to despise ourselves. It is only natural that if despising and cursing our neighbors is wrong, it must also be wrong for us to despise or curse ourselves. We must – in addition to God and our neighbors – love and respect ourselves as well (pride and selfishness are different characteristics altogether).
- (Matt -39) Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
So, if you have thoughts of self-anger, self-pity or suicide, you must see that they are sins before God. You must confess these so that you can be freed. Then, you can immediately receive forgiveness:
- (Ps 32:5) I acknowledge my sin to you, and my iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD; and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
Grumbling about or gratitude for our appearance? Many people feel completely miserable. They are too fat, too skinny, too ugly, too silly, too nervous, or completely ungifted. Few people are pleased with their appearance, personality, and abilities.
However, the Bible says that we are not responsible for ourselves: God has created us. He wanted us to be born – even if we were unwanted – and intended us to be just like we are, already in our mothers' womb. Our appearance is part of his plan:
- (Rom ) No but, O man, who are you that reply against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus?
- (Job 40:2 / 15) Shall he that contends with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproves God, let him answer it.
15 Behold now behemoth, which I made with you; he eats grass as an ox.
- (Jer 1:5) Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet to the nations.
So, if we start to criticize our own appearance or the appearance of others, we are in fact criticizing a creation of God. Therefore, can you be grateful and give thanks in front of a mirror, for example, for God having made you just like you are?
- (Ps 139:13-14) For you have possessed my reins: you have covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise you; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works; and that my soul knows right well.
Does everybody have to like you? Perhaps the main reason for us making ourselves so miserable is that we want to feel that others appreciate us, and we too-eagerly seek others’ approval. We may think that all people must like us and value us, and that it will be the end of the world if they do not. The following example clearly illustrates this common way of thinking:
I have tried to be accepted my whole life. I am always searching for love. I can never get enough of it. I devote all my attention to getting acceptance from other people. I fear that I am not accepted. That is why I must deserve it. I try to smile at people, appease them, be kind to them, serve them. However, what I am really afraid of is being rejected and that is why I must be sure all the time that other people like me. But this all exhausts me to death. I have no energy left. (16)
But must all people really like us? The belief that we cannot be happy unless we get their approval is certainly a lie in which we believe in vain. Even if you did not get approval from anyone, could you still rejoice and be satisfied with your life? Paul, who had many trials in his life, encourages us to rejoice and not to complain about our destiny. He wrote:
- (Phil 4:4) Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.
- (Phil 3:1) Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.
In addition, it is a sin if we seek honor and commendations from people in our life. Whenever we only think about receiving admiration and appreciation from other people, we are not thinking about God:
- (Matt ) For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
- (John 5:44) How can you believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comes from God only?
- (Luke 6:26) Woe to you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
Think about others as well!
- (Rom 12:3) For I say, through the grace given to me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.
If we are inclined to judge ourselves, it is very probable that we also think too highly of ourselves – we are too self-centered. We may think that no one has had the same experiences we have had, no one has been treated as badly; no one possesses as many faults as we have. But these beliefs are not true; we certainly are not the only persons suffering in the world. There are millions of people who have similarly suffered and been insulted and injured. They, too, may be thinking similar thoughts and may belittle themselves just as we do.
Falling into disfavor, being mocked, or feeling depressed are actually very common experiences. We only need to look at the Bible to see how others suffered. Job and Jesus, for example, were also mocked, centuries before we were even born. The following verses, among others, describe this treatment:
- (Job19:17-19) My breath is strange to my wife, though I entreated for the children’s sake of my own body.
18 Yes, young children despised me; I arose, and they spoke against me.
19 All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me.
- (Matt 27:31) And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.
As our problems are not in any way unusual, we should not let any unnecessary self-pity ruin our lives. Instead, we should seek the kingdom of God and pay attention to people who do not know God yet, because many people will be damned if we do not care about their souls.
We should, at least, start praying for them. Even if we are not good speakers or witnesses, we can at least pray for these people. When we pray for other people, we also gain from not concentrating too much on ourselves all the time. Paul, for example, had the right kind of attitude; he often thought about the salvation of others. Because of this, he was engaged in a lot of prayer for them:
- (Rom 9:1-3) I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh
- (Rom 10:1) Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
Forgive yourself! It is very common for many people to be unable to forgive themselves. They blame themselves again and again about things that happened in the past and do not concentrate on the future.
However, if something has already happened, what good does it do to brood over something that we cannot change? Grieving is, therefore, only a futile waste of energy and time that we could use for something more useful. We must speak to ourselves "sensibly," just like David did:
- (Ps 42:5) Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted in me? hope you in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.
- (Phil 4:6) Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
- (Luke 12:25-26) And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
26 If you then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take you thought for the rest?
If we refuse to forgive ourselves, even though God has already forgiven us, it is just as wrong as to bear malice toward other people. We must forgive them just as we must forgive ourselves:
- (Col 3:13) Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you.
- (Matt ) Should not you also have had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you?
The following example describes how we have good reason to forgive other people and ourselves, since God has already forgiven us. Therefore, forgive yourself and bring an end to self-accusations:
Guilt shone from the girl's face. And to make the situation even more difficult, her husband sat in the back seat of the room and waited for his wife. I had no idea what he thought about our conversation.
- I have good news for you, I told the girl.
- Do you know what Christ did to sin when he died for us? I asked.
- He forgave them, the girl answered.
- How large a part of sins? I asked.
- How many of your husbands' and yours were included? I asked.
- All, the girl replied.
- Well, if God has already forgiven you and your husband, don't you think that you too should forgive yourself and your husband?
- I have never actually thought about it like that, the girl said. - Now I will certainly forgive. Praise the Lord! (17)
What is extremely essential in our spiritual lives is that we understand our right position through Christ. Many self-judgmental people can neither find a new self-image nor form a relationship with God because their own past blinds and cripples them. The Bible teaches us to understand our identity as children of God through Jesus Christ. When we come to see ourselves as Christ sees us, we begin to improve our spiritual lives.
Unfortunately, though, when we help people we too often act in the wrong way; perhaps we try to change their behavior even before they know what their foundation really is. Thus, the foundation must be solid -- after having received Christ we are under the grace of God and, as such, fully acceptable. Only when we know that will solutions follow.
In any case, if you have received Jesus Christ into your life, the following list is true for you. It is true in spite of your feelings right now. Read this list carefully, stop accusing yourself, and believe the word of the Bible when it speaks about your place in Christ. If we believe this word that is the truth, it will – according to the words of Jesus – also make us free (John ,32).
Passages CONNECTED WITH salvation
You have been saved by grace:
- (Eph 2:8,9) For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
- (Eph 2:4,5) But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ, (by grace you are saved;)
- (Acts 15:11) But we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
In addition to having have been saved by grace, you are also under grace all the time. This means that you are as acceptable when you pray eight hours a day as when you have fallen. Neither your accomplishments nor your falls will not change this:
- (Rom 5:1,2) Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
- (Rom 6:14,15) For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
- (Phil 1:7) Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of my grace.
- (1 Peter 2:10) Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
- (1 Peter 5:12) By Silvanus, a faithful brother to you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein you stand.
The law, with all its accusations and damnation, has been removed:
- (Col 2:13-14) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross
- (Gal 3:13) Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree
- (Rom 6:14-15) For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
- (Rom 7:6) But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
- (Rom 8:1) There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
God does not accuse you any more; He is on your side. Satan can and will blame you, but he is a liar:
- (Rom 8:31-34) What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies.
34 Who is he that comdemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
- (1 John 2:1) My little children, these things write I to you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
- (Zec 3:1) And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.
Christ has redeemed you:
- (1 Cor 6:20) For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
- (Gal 3:13) Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree:
being in Christ
- (1 Cor 1:30) But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made to us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
- (Eph 2:13) But now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes were far off are made near by the blood of Christ.
- (Eph 5:30) For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
According to the Bible, if you have received Christ into your life, you are in Him, like the verses above show. Your being in Him does not depend on yourself but it is from God – as, for example, 1 Cor 1:30 indicates.
But what does all of this mean in practice? In practice it means that everything that is true in Christ is also true in you. So these matters are true in you:
God is pleased with you as with Jesus:
- (Matt 3:17) And see a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
You are as righteous as Jesus, because you are in him. Therefore, you do not need to try to be righteous by yourself:
- (1 Cor 1:30) But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made to us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
- (Rom 4:25) Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.
- (Rom 5:1) Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
Through Christ, you are as holy as He is:
- (Phil 4:21) Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers which are with me greet you.
(1 Cor 3:16-17) Know you not that you are the
If any man defile the
Belonging to THE family of God. You belong to the family of God because God is your father, just as He is the father of Jesus:
- (Mark ) And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what you will.
- (Rom 8:15) For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
- (Gal 4:6) And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
You are a child of God because you have received Jesus into your life. You are also a co-heir with Christ:
- (John 1:12) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
- (Gal 4:5-7) To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Why you are no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
- (Rom -17) For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
- (1 John 3:1,2) Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not.
2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
Jesus is your brother:
- (John 20:17) Jesus said to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brothers, and say to them, I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
THE nature of God. It is common for people who have suffered a difficult childhood, and especially those who have had a bad relationship with their father – an abusive or distant father – to think about God in the same way as they do of their earthly fathers. They actually transfer past experiences to their relationship with God.
However, if we have received Christ into our life, God is, through Christ, a loving and merciful Father and a God of comfort, like the following verses indicate. You can believe that these verses are true in your life:
- (2 Cor 13:11) Finally, brothers, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
- (Eph 2:4) But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us,
- (1 Peter 5:10) But the God of all grace, who has called us to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.
- (2 Cor 1:3-4) Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
4 Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God.
The best example of the Heavenly Father is Jesus himself. He said that anyone who has seen Him has seen the Father as well. He was and is the perfect picture of his Father (Hebrews 1:3) and His representative on Earth. Thus, when you read about Jesus in the Bible, you can also see through Him what your Heavenly Father is like:
- (John 14:7-10) If you had known me, you should have known my Father also: and from now on you know him, and have seen him.
8 Philip said to him, Lord, show us the Father, and it suffises us.
9 Jesus said to him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known me, Philip? he that has seen me has seen the Father; and how say you then, Show us the Father?
10 Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak to you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwells in me, he does the works.
Other verses THAT concern you. There are numerous verses in the Bible that concern you, providing that you have received Christ into your life. We will go through these verses now:
God has loved you:
- (Eph 2:4) But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us,
- (John 3:16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
- (Rom 5:8) But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
- (1 John 4:10) Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
God has chosen you:
- (Eph 1:4) According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
- (1 Cor 1:28) And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are:
God wanted you to be born into this world:
- (Rev 4:11) You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for you have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were created.
You are a friend of God:
- (John 15:15) From now on I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known to you.
Nothing can separate you from the love of God:
- (Rom 8:38,39) For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God is with you:
- (Ps 23:1-4) The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.
- (Hebr 13:5) Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.
God is your protection:
- (Ps 56:3-4) What time I am afraid, I will trust in you.
4 In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do to me.
- (Acts 23:11) And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as you have testified of me in Jerusalem, so must you bear witness also at Rome.
Jesus is your defender, intercessor, and shepherd:
- (1 John 2:1) My little children, these things write I to you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
- (Rom 8:34) Who is he that comdemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
- (John 10:11) I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.
You will get new glory in the resurrection of the body:
- (Phil 3:21) Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like to his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things to himself.
You will spend eternity with God who loves you:
- (Rev 21:3,4) And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
- (Rom 8:18) For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
- (2 Cor 4:17,18) For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
In the previous chapters, we talked about how many people may have a spirit of heaviness (Isa 61:3) resulting from past experiences. They may carry inside them events that happened years ago and from which they have not been able to get free. These can be sexual abuse, emotional rejection, physical violence, parental rejection of them before they were born, a traumatic experience at birth, a difficult accident, or an experience of war. These may still be very heavy memories and affect a person's everyday life often causing nightmares and raising fears for which there seems to be no apparent reason.
(Strong fear of heights, dogs, elevators, etc. can also spring from past experiences. In her book The Broken Image, Leanne Payne describes a man whose fear of open places arose from a traumatic experience at birth where he almost suffocated and felt severe physical pain. This man was freed by prayer.)
In the same way, many people who are schizophrenics or mentally ill belong in this category. Many of these people have suffered a lot of burdensome experiences and are brokenhearted. (Isa 61:1).
When people have had such heavy experiences in the past, there is reason to pray about each of them individually, that is, to give in and give them up to God. If you have bad memories and nightmares bothering you, this can be very necessary. The following passage describes how bad memories can bring a man down. Perhaps you are faced with a similar situation:
Very often, when I have a discussion with people who have been hurt deeply and who are full of anger and pain, they just look at me coldly, with no emotion on their faces. But it all changes when I look deeper into the issue and ask, "What is the worst memory that you can remember? What is it that usually pops up into your mind and causes pain?" At first, they shiver a bit, then their eyes begin to water, soon their cheeks are wet with tears, and before long even strong, sturdy men tremble with pain and anger. (18)
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life
Grap to eternal life!
The Truth shall make you you free. Understanding the truth is a key factor in a relationship with God. When a person understands the truth about his position in Christ, it brings freedom into his life