Maintaining Release From the Power of the Past

In last week’s post, I wrote about the importance and power – the necessity – of forgiveness (if you didn’t get a chance to read it, you can check it out here: https://shedancesovergraves.com/2021/01/04/releasing-the-power-of-the-past/).

We talked about how true forgiveness includes the willful choice to forget what has been done against you, just as God has made the choice to forget the sins we’ve committed against Him. I hope you were encouraged and empowered by last week’s post to at least begin the journey of getting free from the power of your past.

This week, I want to revisit the subject of forgiving and forgetting, because I know there are and will be times when memories resist being erased or detained. In such times, it is important to examine the source of their stubborn persistence, before merely sending them back to their graves.

On occasion, especially when I am tired and cranky from a long day of battling with my children’s strong wills, I will adamantly send them off to their rooms – no more ifs, ands or buts about it. More than once, they have dared to re-emerge with a plea for me to just hear them out, and I’ve discovered that – in my haste to be done with it all – there was more evidence I really needed to consider before deciding the case was closed.

There are a number of reasons why memories persist in replaying on the screens of our minds. I’ll deal specifically with three of them today, because they are the most common.

The first reason is the one I mentioned in last week’s post, but I’ll dive a little deeper here: sometimes, the devil insists on rehashing the past. Either he torments us with memories of what’s been done to us, or he assaults us with guilt and condemnation over what we’ve done. In both cases, either the enemy or our own minds are empowered to keep us imprisoned in a lie. If we have been forgiven, and we have made the choice, by God’s power, to forgive, then it is a sealed and done deal, and we have the right and ability to send the memories of the prior offenses to their rightful domain – the grave. When we attempt to do this and find that we are unsuccessful, there may be cause to look at reason number two.

The second reason memories do not just go away when we choose to forgive and forget is that sometimes there is either a re-injury of the same wound, or new information that is brought to light.

Some people do the same things over and over and over again, because they are stuck in their own cycles of sin, and this brings pain and consequence into our lives. We can forgive them, but sometimes – even while one wound is still healing – a fresh one is delivered. Because healing isn’t always a quick process, we sometimes choose to forgive and expect it to be done, but it isn’t.

The fact of forgiveness is true and instantaneously established when it is apprehended and applied by the power of God’s grace, but it takes time and an intimate process for the reality and revelation of that forgiveness to work its way into our minds and emotions. Thus, we can sometimes be standing in forgiveness, and yet wrestling with the pain of having to forgive again. We can insist that we have forgiven and want to forget – doing all we can with God’s help to do just that – but at the same time be confronted with a fresh smattering of hurtful choices someone has made that impact our lives negatively, again.

We can also discover new information about a past sin or wound we have chosen to forgive. This can feel like adding insult to injury, as if the first issue wasn’t bad enough and now the knife has been twisted. I once had to work through a long process of forgiveness toward someone who had slandered me repeatedly. When I finally got to a point where I felt it had been fully laid to rest, a fresh wound of slander was aimed at my heart, and a new motivation became clear that I hadn’t seen – or hadn’t wanted to believe – before. It dug up a lot for me, and I had to be intentional with God and ruthless against the bondage of bitterness in wrestling through it.

It is tempting to lose hope and strength in these kinds of situations. Often in marriages and families where habitual sin cycles and addictions are present, forgiving and forgetting can feel overwhelming and impossible. Disappointments and betrayals can pile up quickly, one on top of another, and it can seem futile, even cruel, to try and keep up with the demand for forgiveness.

It is so important to keep the right perspective in these circumstances. Forgiveness is not a heartless demand, but a gift and a key. It both frees us and helps us to maintain the freedom we’ve been given. When we remain imprisoned by the haunts of our past, life is oppressive, and our experience of God is so limited. This is the enemy’s aim. He will dig up the memories of the past to strengthen and reinforce the fresh wounds of the present, so that you will give in to the bitter hopelessness of staying stuck in unforgiveness.

This is why we must aggressively guard our hearts and persistently insist that memories of the past which have already been resolved must remain in their graves. We deal with new issues as they arise, and we do so diligently, so that they don’t have the opportunity to become attached to anything old. It may seem like a lot of work, but it is work that God empowers us for, and it is worth it!

When once you have tasted true liberty – the freedom of a heart that is no longer bound by sin and offenses – you will fight to maintain it, because it is beautiful! When the Lord freed me from the roots of bitterness and resentment that I had collected throughout my life, I never wanted to return to that prison again. I set my heart to live in a posture of forgiveness, to forgive anything and everything, no matter how wrong and no matter how hard it might be. God has honored that determination, and I have experienced the full power of Heaven helping me to maintain a heart that lives in and extends true forgiveness. Again, it is not always quick, easy, or painless, but it is always possible and always worth it!

The third and final reason why memories of past abuses and offenses tend to stubbornly resurface and tempt us to re-enter the prison of unforgiveness is that sometimes we have the tendency to forget without fully forgiving. Sometimes we want to minimize or deny the things that happen to us, in an attempt to forgo some of the pain involved. We throw it up to God like a hot potato, declaring it forgiven, but failing to realize that it was loaded with things that have left real marks on all different parts of our lives.

When we become emotionally healthy, we become better able to look at the pain we’ve experienced through the things that have been done to and against us – without being crushed. Truly forgiving, and being able to choose to forget, is easier and more possible when we allow God to lead us in examining the wounds for what they really were. Most of them were not just surface wounds. Many of them have hit the core of our identity with a lie that we never even recognized, but continue to live in agreement with – all while we claim to have forgiven and forgotten.

To send an offense to the grave which landed a lie in the foundation of our identity is to send truth into isolation, and to rob our hearts of the key to its own prison.

Sometimes it is God who allows memories to resurface. When He does, He comes with a magnifying glass in His hand, and the grace to dig deep enough to root out the lie we have learned to believe through the stronghold of pain.

I like to use the analogy of wounding sin being like an atomic bomb in our lives. When an atomic bomb hits, it devastates a very large portion of the surrounding area as well as the initial place where it lands. When we attempt to quickly forgive something and move on, we are focusing only on the initial place of impact, and ignoring the rest of the landscape of our hearts and lives. In order to truly forgive and forget, and to move on in a whole and healthy way, we must be willing to address all of the devastation that has occurred. This, yet again, is not a quick or easy or painless process, and it is not to be done from a victim’s position. Rather, it is a journey we take with God, trusting that His agenda in sifting through the ashes is to bring beauty and glory out of all the ruins.

An example of this kind of resurfacing memory that still has roots to be examined would be sexual abuse. No one wants to remember such a tragic and traumatic sin. Many survivors of abuse focus on forgiving their perpetrator for what he or she did, so they can move on. But what was done to them touched the core of their belief system about God, about others, and about themselves. So all of that needs to be examined and healed in order for forgiveness to empower forgetting and true freedom.

Recovery journeys and counseling and specific healing journeys are helpful tools when it is God who wants to dig up the bones and bring memories back to the surface. These are done in partnership and fellowship with other believers, and they help us to remember that God never brings up the past to condemn, but to free and to heal.

So, when memories of past hurts surface in our lives, how do we know the real reason they’re showing up again, and what we should do about it?

The answer is simple: ask God, who gives us His wisdom.

Dear Woman of Breakthrough, if the enemy is dragging memories out of their graves to haunt you and to tempt your emotions into agreement with his bondage again, you have the power in Christ to refuse his agenda and send those memories right back where they belong. Declare the forgiveness you have decided and God has empowered, and move on in faith!

If someone else has dug up the bones of past sin committed against you, either by wounding you again, or by revealing something you didn’t know about before, you will have two battles on your hands: one to keep the past where it belongs – surrendered to God; and one to forgive again. Memories of the past will be triggered, but you don’t have to surrender the power of those triggers to the enemy. Aim your triggers at God, and He will help you to not resurrect the past. He will help you to maintain your release from the bondage of unforgiveness, while helping you to continue to forgive that which is currently being done against you.

A helpful tip for this process is to avoid drawing lines, and to deal with offenses quickly. When you draw a line in your mind that says you will only put up with it for so long, or if it happens one more time you will retaliate, you have removed yourself from the place of power – which is submission to God (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James%204:7&version=NIV). (Let me reiterate from last week’s post that forgiveness does not mean the sin is ok, and it does not always mean reconciliation in relationships. Sometimes, forgiveness frees a person from a situation or relationship that God did not mean for us to keep walking in, so we must invite God’s wisdom in the process of forgiving.)

Keep your eyes and heart fixed on the will of God – which is forgiveness (even over and over again). And when offenses come, run quickly into the Presence of God to deal with them. They grow roots so fast, so don’t give them the opportunity to do so!

I remember more than once when cords of bitterness tried to wrap themselves around my heart through an offense. In one particular situation, the offense had hurt not just me, but my children, as well. It was late and I was exhausted when it landed, but I knew what I had to do in that midnight hour. I got on my face before God in my living room and I stayed there and wrestled until that offense bowed to the power of God. I chose to forgive, and to surrender it to God. I confessed what it had caused, and I allowed God to heal my emotions (which resulted in some healing work that stretched beyond that one night). But when I got up, I was free. I knew I could wake up the next morning and not be oppressed by it. There was heartache, but no power in it. The same kind of freedom and power is available to you when you are confronted with fresh wounds that want to take you back into the bondage of the past.

And if, Dear Woman of Breakthrough, it is God Who, in His great mercy, has allowed your memories to resurface, then trust Him and surrender to a healing journey. Agree to let Him expose all of the damage, and lead you to complete healing and freedom through the appointed people and resources He chooses. The power is not in the particular avenue of healing (whether counseling, Christ-centered recovery, inner healing prayer, or other healing journey studies or groups). None of these is magic, nor is one necessarily more anointed than another. The power, remember, is in submission to God. Go wherever He directs you, and finish the course He calls you to. You will see great fruit. You will walk in deep healing and freedom!

The next time you are struggling with memories that you thought were relegated to the past, simply ask the Lord where they came come from. Once He shows you, you will know what to do, and He will give you the strength and power to do it.

Healing and freedom are not meant for just a season. We are meant to maintain the release from the power our past has held over us. We are meant to thrive in the power and Presence of the God Who loves us and has forgiven us, so that we can also forgive and experience the abundant life He has reserved for us.

What are you waiting for?

{Photo images courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com}


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