by Patrick & Dwaina Six
Several years ago, we faced a difficult and stressful situation. Feelings of hurt, fear, and frustration festered and ultimately turned into anger. As the anger took root, it threatened to change us into bitter, disillusioned people. We had to make a choice. Holding on to the anger meant risking damage to our marriage and our effectiveness in ministry. “What happened?” you wonder? Glad you asked! We want to share our story and what we learned.
I was the pastor of a small, wonderful church when God called us to another church as the Associate Pastor to Families. This was our dream ministry and we embarked on the new assignment with great excitement. We knew God was in this move through our devotions, prayers, and circumstances. That assurance was crucial, because the situation turned sour quickly.
The new church was much larger than anywhere I had served. Making adjustments to a large, corporate-type church staff was difficult and compounded by differences in ministry philosophy which weren’t apparent beforehand. I experienced disdain from the senior pastoral staff regarding my ideas, ministry philosophy, and spiritual gifts. After only a few months, I’d fallen short in producing the number of programs they expected.
As a result, I suffered derogatory emails, cutting remarks, and threats in meetings. I was deeply hurt by this lack of respect and felt intimidated by the forceful nature of the two executive pastors. By nature, I am a very loyal person. When I didn’t sense loyalty from these men, I felt very insecure and fearful. I began to question if or why God called us to this place.
Meanwhile, I began teaching in the Women’s Ministry. I was enjoying new friends and excited about the church’s programs for our children. The situation with Patrick created mixed feelings for me. I hurt for him as I observed the disrespect treatment. I knew this was especially hurtful to Patrick, whose personality type craves to “help” and experience cooperation. But I also felt frustration. Why wasn’t he “fitting in” on the staff? As he told me more about what was happening …the belittling and ridicule…my frustration grew. Why didn’t he stand up for himself? As the situation deteriorated, our children became affected as well. Then I felt fear. If Patrick was let go, what would we do? I struggled with what was going on, the effect it was having on our marriage and family, AND with Patrick’s response to the situation.
The critical environment took a toll on me. About 4 months into the new position, the stress of everything manifested itself in a condition called Alopecia. My hair fell out in patches and grew back void of any pigment so I better take a treatment with the best laser hair removal vancouver. I also began doubting myself as a husband and dad, my spiritual gifts, and my calling as a minister. After about a year, I was transitioned to another ministry within the church. My new office was more like a closet than a room. Each day became more difficult as I dealt with more and more anger—anger at myself for not being more assertive and anger at those who were intimidating me.
We tried to shelter our children, but when my ministry transition was announced at church, I thought our 11 year-old son was going to go into shock. He immediately commented, “But God has called you to be the Family Minister!” Our son was angry – with the church leaders who hurt his daddy and with God. Why would God send us here and why doesn’t He DO something? Dwaina and I spoke to him about the importance of forgiveness, but he didn’t take our instruction. We were struggling with walking this path of anger and forgiveness ourselves.
Finally, after 18 months of disparaging treatment, I was told to find another place of service. Immediate dismissal was threatened if I spoke of this to any church members. Eventually, we found a new place to serve. Thankfully, it was a place of healing, and respect, and love.
After our move, Dwaina and I came to a fork in the road of our journey. We could choose the road of bitterness or we could choose the road to forgiveness. We knew the direction we chose would impact our lives, our relationships, and our children for years to come. We chose the road to forgiveness.
Lessons we learned while facing three very important questions:
“WHY should we forgive?” In light of all we endured, why forgive those who hurt us so badly? Shouldn’t we seek some retribution for our pain?
- The most important reason is Jesus Christ forgives us! Ephesians 5:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” If God is willing to forgive me for all I have done, who am I to refuse to forgive someone else?
- Believers are commanded to forgive others. In Mark 11:25, Jesus said: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” This is a clear and specific command to forgive others.
- Forgiving others is an opportunity to be a blessing and an example to others. Just as Jesus is our example through His sacrificial death on the cross, we are an example to a lost and watching world.
Disobeying God by refusing to forgive would be a bad example for our children as well as others watching how we handled this situation. One couple at the church stopped us and said, “We don’t know what’s going on, but we know you’re struggling right now. We want you to know the way we have seen you respond has been a blessing to us.”
“WHAT happens if you don’t forgive?”
Refusing to forgive affects your relationship with God. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Refusing to forgive means God will refuse to forgive us.
- Refusing to forgive leads to bitterness, which destroys our relationships with others! Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
- Tragically, not forgiving has an ill effect on your family members. Exodus 20:5-6, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
- Refusing to forgive has a detrimental effect on your health. One study notes a strong element of failure to forgive in 60% of chronic pain patients. Various studies in recent years have determined that anger contributes to heart disease, strokes, headaches, etc. Anger is the root of an unforgiving spirit.
“HOW do you forgive?” We discovered these principals for forgiveness:
- Choose to obey God by forgiving.
- Don’t pretend that nothing happened and don’t excuse it as “okay.”
- Release the person and the circumstances to God.
- Refuse to be imprisoned by bitterness.
- Understand that forgiveness is not weakness, it is the power to overcome Satan’s grip!
- Trust that God knows all things and that He will set things right in His way and in His time. Romans 12:19 states, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Understand that forgiveness is not weakness, it is the power to overcome Satan’s grip!
Our Personal Applications:
Patrick: I chose to forgive the senior pastoral staff at the church. But I needed to nail down that fact. I needed something concrete—a reference point for my forgiveness of those who hurt me and my family. I finally wrote out a statement something like this: “On this date __________, I choose to forgive ____name(s)___ for ___(the specific offense)___. I free them; therefore, I am free!” Then I signed my name.
Dwaina: I chose to forgive them as well, for the hurt they caused my husband and our children. But I also came to realize I was harboring resentment toward Patrick for not dealing with the situation the way I would have (or wanted to!). I needed to accept him the way God wired him and not harbor bitterness toward him for not meeting my expectations. I acknowledged that I was angry and then confessed that “stuffing” my angry feelings was sin (Eph. 4:26-27). Then I chose to release my husband (and the ways he is different than me!) to God. That’s what forgiveness really is: Choosing to release that person or situation to the Lord and His sovereignty.
Our son: It took many years and we wish we’d gotten him professional counseling earlier, but Tanner has also begun traveling the road to forgiveness.
The Journey Continues: At times, our enemy reminds us of those hurtful days. We find ourselves rehashing conversations and reliving those days, as the anger tries to resurrect itself. Whenever this happens, we remind ourselves that we have CHOSEN to forgive. We do not say, “I want to forgive,” or, “I am forgiving,” but, “I HAVE forgiven!”
We realize many of you have experienced situations much more painful and difficult than ours. Please, do not go another day walking in anger and bitterness. We encourage you, if you haven’t already, to choose the road to forgiveness. God declares to us in Deuteronomy 30:19, “…I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life…” Choose to forgive! Choose to be free!