Kia Hadaeghi, Iranian FamilyLife Coordinator, writes movingly about his experience of being set free from years of emotional pain and suffering, and how his Christian faith helped him.
Something was not right. I was unsettled by guilt and there was no peace in my heart. I knew this kind of disquietude often comes from an unwillingness to forgive ourselves for the wrongs we have committed.
I was in that place.
I knew that I needed to make peace with God and others, but I hadn’t realised that I must also be willing to forgive myself.
That was a hard job to do.
I understood that God had forgiven me. I may even have forgiven all who had ever wronged me or persecuted me in my life. As a Bible teacher I talk to others about how important it is to forgive people and to make a personal decision about letting these hurts go from their own life. But in my own heart the true power of forgiveness and its freedom was not evident; no sign of it whatsoever.
Remembering my pains and sorrows became the habit by which I drew comfort.
I could see the unjust behaviour towards people, but I kept silent.
I could see the ungodly manners even in my Christian ministry environment, but I kept silent.
In my own personal life, my mistakes and sins were flashing in front of my eyes. Why was I keeping silent and not standing up for what was right?
My question for many years was, “Is there any chance for me to be free from this and to be free to fly with no guilt weighing me down?”
The answer was YES.
God in his mercy had a very strange way of setting me free from my own pain and guilt. I had to go through another season of suffering to help me see that in order to forgive those who brought the pain into my life I had to be ready to forgive myself too. What a strange way to deal with my problem of forgiveness in my own heart.
I started to write the whole tragedy and suffering down on paper. I mapped the whole journey, from start to finish and put it up on the wall. Remembering Christ and His suffering was helpful to read from Isaiah chapter 53.
I forgave those who had wronged me, acted unjustly towards me and others and showed ungodly manners, but what about myself?
I still felt trapped in guilt. When would I be free?
I felt I had allowed people to cross boundaries and hurt me. It was my mistake not theirs. My mind was going over and over it regularly. I was often talking about it at home and felt pity for myself, thinking “I shouldn’t have done that, and I shouldn’t have acted like this.”
I wrote all of my thoughts, shortcomings, mistakes, feelings and emotions on paper. Acknowledging my own mistakes was not easy, especially if you think others are responsible for them. But I did, trusting the Lord in His guidance for the next step. I read Genesis 16:11 “The Lord has heard of your misery,” and Roman 8:33 “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” Realising that God sees and watches our pain was reassuring and knowing that I am a child of God who has been chosen was wonderful news to hear.
As I was wiping the tears from my eyes, I collected all the paper and went to the park one morning. I found a bin and put all the paper in it. But after a few minutes, I took them out again, looking carefully at them and said to myself, “I want to hear the sound of ripping paper.” I started to rip and tear them apart and replaced them in the bin again. In this act I found a freedom. I could see the dark side of my guilt and pain disappearing into the bin forever.
I realised that if I wanted to be released from feelings of guilt, I needed to change my thinking. No more thinking, “I know I need to forgive, but…” Every time I include a BUT, I place one more bar on my prison of guilt. I need to get rid of the bars. I need to break out of the prison.
If you are struggling with forgiveness, I found these steps were helpful to me:
- Recognising the problem: I knew that I had not forgiven myself because I was still carrying hurt. I had become imprisoned by it and I felt guilty for not being able to let it go.
- Change direction: I knew I needed to turn away from unforgiveness, as not forgiving myself was not in keeping with God’s Word. God has already forgiven me for all my sins, past, present and future.
- Reaffirm trust. I knew I needed to reaffirm my trust in the scripture. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)
- Choose to receive freedom. I believed that God had already forgiven me so I can choose to forgive myself because he has already done it. I chose to accept forgiveness, and I chose to be freed from all that I had held against myself.
If we will follow these steps, not only will we be set free, but the healing process will begin.
NOTE: for further reading – Life Issues, Guilt. Charles Stanley, Navpress.1991.