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Watch for Resistance:
While resistance may come from our own doubts (unbelief) and fears, the greatest fight is usually with the “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10)! Satan often tries to put thoughts in our head after we’ve confessed sin and/or taken a stand against any influence he has been enjoying in a life. He doesn’t like “losing ground” by having us allow God to take that influence away. Here are a few of his attacks that have been shared with me over the years:
- “That counselor doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
- “It didn’t work, you’re the same now as you were when you went in there, and that simple little prayer didn’t/couldn’t possibly change a thing.
- “It’ll work for everyone but you because there’s something wrong with you.”
- “Following God isn’t worth all the work and grief that you have to face.”
- “Sure, God will help and lead you, for a bit, and then He’s going to abandon you when you need Him most and have nowhere else to turn.”
These are all lies (except maybe for the first one!) and can be categorized as “confirmation by opposition.” This is when it feels that we’re getting nothing but grief for our choice to follow God more fully. That means that his attack through these and similar suggestions should be seen as a confirmation that God has indeed done what you asked and that the exact opposite of these thoughts (except maybe for the first one!) is the truth. Thoughts that bring fear, doubts, discouragement, confusion, distrust of God (blasphemy), or that feels like an attack on your person is to be considered as untruth (and quite possibly demonic in origin) and flatly denied.
Here are some ways that Satan tries to make our attempt to move closer to God seem like too costly a price to pay:
The person you just forgave launches a old or new hurtful attack.
- Someone else close to you (or a stranger or acquaintance), who never acted this way before, offends you in the same way the one you forgave did/does.
- Temptation to a sin that has just been confessed comes from all directions and is unusually persistence and/or hard to avoid.
- All manner of problems and inconveniences (with people and/or things) and resource consuming troubles occur, as if all hell has broken out against you.
- You have new or increasing problems at home, work, church…
Remember that the invisible world is equally as real as the one we can see and touch. Just remember how real gravity and the wind are – forces obviously at work that can’t be seen! You know you’re pleasing God and are on the right track the more Satan tries to discourage and sidetrack you. Standing firm in the decisions you made while in the spiritual direction office and not giving up is the best way to combat this opposition. To that end:
Be Proactive: Start your mornings out with similar decisions…
- God, I thank you for revealing my need to forgive ________________________________.
- I choose today to maintain that attitude of forgiveness. I choose to change my thoughts and actions toward them.
- Thank you for forgiving me and freeing me from _________________________________.
- I choose to let go and believe you have done what I asked and needed.
- Thank you for:
- forgiving me for my own unforgiveness and hatred toward _______________________.
- freeing me from _________________________________________________________
- healing me from ________________________________________________________
- exposing the lies of _____________________________________________________
- removing the dysfunctional drivers __________________________________________
- that pushed me to _______________________________________________________
- freeing me from my self-medications and escapes of ___________________________
- bearing the loss that I finally decided to accept and give to You ___________________
- I choose to turn to You when in need instead of to _____________________________
- I choose to live in the light and truth of the past instead of defiance of or ignoring it and trying to compensate/medicate instead of dealing with it.
- Thank you for forgiving future failings.
- I choose not to mope around and beat myself up when I sin. I choose to receive your grace, mercy and forgiveness and get on with life.
- Show me today when I’m responding to people and/or situations like I use to. Help me quickly recognize my old coping mechanism.
- I choose to let You live in me in freedom and health.
- Help me recognize when I’m reacting to old “drivers” (mom-void, dad-wound…) in my life and give me the desire, strength, and wisdom to change.
- I choose to find my motivation, fulfillment and purpose for life in You alone.
- Help me trust You to be my defense and to get me through the hurts in life.
- I choose to slowly and wisely begin to risk being vulnerable with people and to let go of my self-made protections and walls.
- I make these choices knowing that apart from God I will fail. I have turned my back on my own efforts, control, strength, and have chosen to live under the leadership of Jesus Christ, in the assurance that the Father loves and cares for me and has good plan for my life.
Don’t give into the temptation to “re-confess” sins you already prayed through. That’s like saying to God that you’re not sure His promise of forgiveness is reliable or that you’re not sure it was enough to wash out the “sin-stains” and needs another “cycle” of confession. Don’t miss out on the refreshing peace of knowing you’re forgiven and free (even thought you still have old habits that still need to die) by letting doubt and accusation feel condemned again.
Finish the Job:
- Schedule another extended time of prayer and work through the proactive suggestions.
- Go over any lists you’ve made and make sure all hurtful memories (events, words, situations) have been forgiven, by being specific and naming them.
- You may want to symbolically, if that sort of thing helps you, destroy (rip, burn, dynamite!) the list once you’ve finished working through it as a way of bringing closure.
- Make a list of every hurtful relationship that comes to mind as God reveals your need to forgive others. Tell God you’re willing to forgive them also when He says the time is right.
- Consider what, if any, restitution may need to be made between you and the one you’ve just forgiven. CAUTION: It’s best to wait to act on this till you’ve discussed it with your spiritual director. You can cause more trouble then is solved by being too quick or over zealous.
- Watch the videos – those vivid memories with sights, sounds and smells of the offenses you’ve forgiven. Replaying the movies and rehearsing the painful words and events keeps them fresh and leads back into the same bondage you’ve just escaped if they are allowed to run unchecked through your mind.
- When new offenses occur and God reveals to you that you need to process them or that you have instinctively responded with an old and sinful coping mechanism, react appropriately. Start by admitting the new hurt and refuse to excuse or otherwise ignore it. Tell God how it felt . Choose to forgive by placing the new offense on the pile with all the others that you’ve already processed. Ask for forgiveness for any sinful responses of your own that surfaced either consciously or instinctively. If it was an external responses that others observed and/or felt, ask for forgiveness whether it’s the offender or an innocent bystander that was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Restitution generally need only be as broad as the offense and include those who are either part of the problem or the solution and no others.
- A good way to change your heart toward someone that you previously resented is to earnestly pray for them. Not that they’ll wake up and finally apologize and change, but that they’d grow in their relationship with God and know His full love in their lives. Pray for blessing and anything good, anything that you’d want for your own life.
It’s a Process:
Expect it to take time to change those old knee-jerk habits. The presence of an old response doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven or aren’t free yourself but that you have some bad habits that you spent a lot of time establishing and that will take some time to deactivate! Just be willing to correct error as soon as God reveals it. Gradually there will be less time between the commission of the wrong and your realization of it, to the point that it’ll all transpire in your mind and never reach the “outside” world. Then usually we get to the place where it’s no longer an issue at all, either internally or externally. Be prepared to find that you aren’t yet as free as you want, that the transformation hasn’t taken hold as widely as you’d like because there are other issue that you need to deal with. Other people to forgive, other hurts to process, other lies to dispel, other drivers to deactivate. The condition of “holiness” or “sanctification” (big terms in the Christian vocabulary) simple means that you’ve given yourself to God (submitted to His “lordship”), and are willing to agree with Him, even if against yourself, whenever He reveals additional stuff that He wants to transform.
Also, don’t accept anything less than victory. It’s your right as a blood-bought heir of King Jesus to live free from reoccurring, enslaving, debilitating sin and/or Satan’s abuse (Romans 6). Seek additional spiritual direction if you continue to face sin-confess-sin-confess cycles of defeat in your life.