Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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The Beauty of Forgiveness

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: According to my friend and co-host, Dannah Gresh, if you’re going to be a good forgiver, you’re going to need some help.

Dannah Gresh: You see, forgiveness is not natural. It’s supernatural.

Nancy: I’m Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, and you’re listening to Revive Our Hearts for Tuesday, December 17, 2019.

And, Dannah, before we start in to today’s program, I just learned that today’s your birthday!

Dannah: It is.

Nancy: Happy birthday to you.

Dannah: Why, thank you.

Nancy: I’m not going to sing, but I know we have a lot of listeners who join me in wishing you a very happy birthday and saying how incredibly grateful we are for the gift of your life, your friendship, and your partnership with this ministry. So, happy birthday to you.

Dannah: Why, thank you.

Nancy: And yesterday, Dannah, we started a message that you gave earlier this year at a Revive Our Hearts women’s conference in Pretoria, South Africa. You talked about—well, it was kind of a heavy subject—the subject of forgiveness. But actually, it’s so important for anybody who wants to be free from the heavy burden they’re carrying to deal with this issue of forgiveness.

Dannah: I found that it’s not very often that we say, “Hey! I want to forgive! I want to forgive!” But we often say, “I want freedom.”

Nancy: Yes.

Dannah: And usually it’s when we want freedom desperately enough we come to a point that we’re willing to do what God instructs us to do in forgiving others.

Nancy: And that can be hard work. It’s not necessarily easy, but it is so liberating.

By the way, if you missed Revive Our Hearts yesterday, you can easily go to to get caught up on this message. 

A number of years ago I wrote a book called Choosing Forgiveness. Listen to the subtitle—it’s what you were just talking about, Dannah—Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom. And there really is a strong correlation between freedom and forgiveness. And the converse is true, too.

Dannah: Yes. There’s a strong correlation between unforgiveness and remaining in bondage or under the burden.

Nancy: And maybe as Dannah is saying those words, you feel that. Maybe your pulse quickens and your blood pressure rises as you look ahead to the holidays, and you realize, “Oh, that’s right! I’m going to have to spend time with that person!”

Bitterness really makes us miserable, doesn’t it? 

Dannah: It does. You don’t have to go through the holidays and to that holiday event miserable. You can go free.

Nancy: That’s exactly what you explained to a group of women at this conference in South Africa, and today we’re going to listen to the second part of that message.

We’re picking up in the middle of a list you gave in response to the question, “What is forgiveness?”

Dannah said, first of all, forgiveness is a choice to obey God. And second, she reminded us that forgiveness involves seeking to clear your conscience. And now, here’s Dannah Gresh with number 3.

Dannah: Forgiveness is canceling a debt rightly owed to you. Maybe your boss did cheat you in your pay. Maybe your mother did abandon you, and it was wrong. Maybe your husband was unfaithful to you. Maybe a friend did steal from you. And they owe you. I mean, they really do.

But the Bible gives us a picture in Matthew 18:21–35 of what it’s like to be a woman who’s been forgiven of much by Christ and then walk around with this unforgiveness in our heart.

It tells the story of a servant who owes twenty years’ wages to a master. And the master sees, “You never ever going to be able to pay this, so I forgive you.”

And right that very day, that servant walks around to somebody who owes them, well, Nancy says in her book that it was a hundred days’ wages. Not quite as much as twenty years’ wages, but they will not forgive. And they throw that person with that little debt against them in jail.

And the Bible says that the master becomes furious when he hears the news of this. He comes back and says, “I forgave you twenty years’ wages, and you’re going to throw them in jail for a hundred days? That’s what you’re going to do with the forgiveness I gave you instead of passing it on?”

Don’t be that! If You, oh, Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness. Pass it on. Pass it on.

There are debts, but you cancel them with forgiveness. Forgiveness is acknowledging that justice, payback is God’s job not mine. When I choose to forgive, I say, “God, it’s not that that person doesn’t owe something, but You get to decide what they owe. It’s not my job anymore.”

Let me tell you what your job is: it’s in Romans 12:17–19. It says, “If possible, so far as depends on you, live at peace with one another.”

Say, “Peace is my job.” (Audience responds: Peace is my job.)

And then it says, “Vengeance belongs to the Lord.” Say, “Vengeance is God’s job.” (Audience responds: Vengeance is God’s job.)

Don’t get that mixed up! Your job is not vengeance, it’s God’s. Forgiveness acknowledges God’s job. Let Him do His job. He’s much better at His job description than you can ever be.

Forgiveness (here’s a big one for the married ladies) is accepting that the person who hurt you has no ability to heal you. Ladies, it drives our husbands crazy when we ask them to be our healers.

Do you know what I spent the first year of marriage doing? (Did I mention high-conflict couple?) We are also a high-fun couple, a high-love couple, a high-adventure couple. We did everything high. (laughter) I remember in that first year . . . You know how you have a fight with your husband, so you leave him in the bedroom, in the dark, to be miserable.

You go into the other room, and you lay there wide awake, waiting for him to come on his white horse, like a hero. (laughter) Oh, you’ve done it, too! (laughter) And he doesn’t. You wait fifteen minutes. You wait thirty minutes. You wait forty-five minutes. You wait an hour.

And then you think, Oh, I’ll just go in the room, and I’ll help him. If I’m in there, then he’ll say, “I’m so sorry, Honey.” (laughter) And you go in the room to the melodious sound of snoring. (laughter) Right?

I started to grow up one day. Instead of walking into the other bedroom, I said, “Jesus, I hurt right now. I don’t think my husband is supposed to be my healer, but can You help heal us? Will You be our Healer?”

I am my husband’s forgiver. He is my forgiver. But I am not his healer, and he is not mine.

Forgiveness is accepting that the damage is 100% my damage to deal with.

Okay, do you see those doors back there at the back of the building? Let’s say that you’re standing on the outside of the door. And I am so excited about what God’s doing in here that I want to run out there and shout and tell everyone.

So I slam through the door, and your beautiful face is right there to meet the metal. Your nose is bleeding. Your eye is watering. And you looked so cute right before I hit you. And I apologize, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” And you forgive me.

Is your nose still bleeding? Is your eye still watering and maybe going to be black and blue tomorrow? Is maybe your nose broken? I can’t go to the hospital for you. As sorry as I am, the damage—even though I feel really bad about it—is your responsibility to fix.

The person that you need to forgive can’t fix the damage in your heart. Who can? Who can?

Isaiah 53:5, “By His wounds we are healed. By His stripes we are healed.”

Married women, let your husband off the hook. Don’t make him your healer. Don’t make him fix your damage. He may be a part of it in the right time, but unless you start with Jesus, it will never work.

Here’s a big one—you ready for this? Ladies who are having a problem with a friend at church, forgiveness is no longer demanding that whoever hurt me should be hated by those on my side. (Go ahead. Write it down. I know. Somebody said that to me once. I’m passing it on.)

Forgiveness is promising never to bring that sin up again to control or hurt that person. (Do I need to say that again? Okay, I will.) Forgiveness is promising never to bring that sin up again to control or hurt that person.

In her book on forgiveness, Nancy calls that pressing the delete button.

When I finally got the courage to confess my past to my husband, I expected rejection. I expected more shame. But I found out it’s true—James 5:15, “Confess your sins to one another, and you will be healed.” In his arms I felt forgiven for the first time. I felt the forgiveness of God. He was arms and voice of Jesus in affirming my forgiveness. And in thirty years of marriage, not one time has he ever brought my sin up as a weapon against me. He is a great forgiver.

I stand before you today, in part, because my husband is a great forgiver that God used to give me courage to be transparent. What a beautiful thing to give that gift to someone. What if you would give that gift to your offender? What would their life look like?

That’s what forgiveness is. What is forgiveness not?

Forgiveness is not minimizing or making small the offense of the debt that you are canceling. In fact, if anything, it is not forgiveness if we don’t acknowledge what it really is. We cannot minimize.

One of the places as I’m praying with women where we are very tempted to minimize forgiveness is when we’re praying for forgiveness for damage our parents have done to us. We say things like:

“They didn’t know any better.”
“They had worse parents than I had.”
“They did the best they could.”

You know what I encourage women when I’m praying with them through forgiveness, no matter who it is? I tell them—this is the word I use—“Girl, we’ve got to vomit it all out.”

That’s not a very pretty picture, is it? Not very lady like at all, as I stand here up in my dress. But it’s got to get out of you. Forgiveness is getting it out of you. If you’re going to cancel the debt, you’ve got to get it out.

And so I say, “Listen, I just want you to take a minute, and you’re going to say: ‘I choose to forgive ____ (and you plop in the name).’ And then whatever God’s Spirit, whatever memory God’s Spirit brings to your mind, just say it out loud: ‘I forgive them for abandoning me. I forgive them for embarrassing me. I forgive them for that night in May of 2006 when I expected them to come and get me and pick me up after school, and they didn’t come for three hours because they forgot me.’ And you just get as real as you can.”

And I sit there, as if I’m spiritually holding a can for them as they pour it all out. And then I say, “All right, sweet girl, that was good! I’m taking the trash out. The work is done.”

But you cannot minimize the pain. You have to use the real words.

Forgiveness is not forgetting. I don’t know about you, but like God, I do not have a sea of forgetfulness. Do you have one?

As I was looking at Nancy’s notes on this, she wrote the sweetest thing about this, and I love it. She wrote, 

If we forget all wrongs committed against us and all the pain we have experienced, we would not be merciful or empathic towards those who are also experiencing that pain. You see, we don’t have to forget. And remembering, if it is covered in and clothed in forgiveness, gives us mercy and empathy to help those who are still working out the forgiveness.

Isn’t that beautiful?

Another thing forgiveness is not is this: A single event—I sure wish it was. I sure wish I could say, “I choose to forgive ____ (fill in the blank)” and it was just done. But more often than not, I have found that the enemy says, “Eh, you’re not . . . you didn’t really, did you? Why would you? Look what they did today!” And he stirs up . . .

So what I choose to do is I remember. I chose forgiveness, and I’m choosing it right now. I might not yet feel it, but I will one day in the future, and it’s going to feel great!

The Lord brought up to my mind, as I was preparing these notes for you, the fact that I have recently been struggling (not recently recently, like today, but not too far long ago) with bitterness in my marriage. And I didn’t even know, really, what bitterness was. I didn’t understand it. I just knew that there was a piece of pain that wasn’t fixed from something old.

That word bitterness kept running through my mind. And I thought, I don’t think I’m a bitter person. That sounds so awful. Please tell me, Lord, that I’m not bitter. But I had my ear tuned to that word for the Lord to teach me.

I heard a message from a pastor who said, “Let me tell you how bitterness shows up: It shows up as a lack of compassion and kindness.”

And I realized when it comes to the big things, I’m good at forgiving. But when it comes to my husband leaving his socks in the middle of the living room floor, I have no compassion. I become very angry and unkind. And the Lord was showing me that I was covered in bitterness.

Here’s the irony: It was a little remnant from a painful period that we walked through where we both needed to extend a lot of forgiveness to one another. During that period of time, I walked around with a little Rolodex book of Bible verses. As the Lord would give me instruction on how to respond to my husband and how to pray for him as he was working things out with the Lord, I was working things out with the Lord.

The very first Bible verse in that stack was Hebrews 12:15. I was praying it for Bob because him being so sinful and all . . . (laughter) It says, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble and by it you will become defiled.”

Imagine my shock when the Lord said, “Girl, you weren’t praying that for him! You were praying that for you! It was you I didn’t want to fall from My grace. It was you I didn’t want to fall into bitterness. And here you are! What are you going to do about it?”

You know what I said? I said out loud, “I chose forgiveness, and I’m re-choosing it right now. I don’t know how it works, but, Lord, teach me.”

Forgiveness is an event that is followed by many events as you work it out. Give yourself grace. When you find yourself making up those speeches in your head again, go to Psalm 7. Read it and repeat: “It’s an event and an ongoing process.”

And here’s the fourth thing I want to tell you about forgiveness: Forgiveness is really hard. I know that’s super theological, and you can probably hardly understand what I said. (laughter) So let me say it again: Forgiveness is really hard. How many of you agree that that’s true? It’s hard.

I have a friend I’ve been working with for two years who was deeply abused by two family members—emotionally, physically, and sexually. I’ve been trying to pray her through some of the healing, but she keeps getting stuck at forgiveness. And I understand because it’s hard. But here’s what I know.

You even have to forgive an abuser. Not because the abuser deserves it, but because my friend, I want her to be free from the control of that abuser. I want her to be free. That abuser does not deserve to control her life, and she deserves the freedom.

And so I’m excited because we’re getting close. It’s been hard. It’s been hard work, but we’re almost there! She’s almost about to break through. And when she chooses forgiveness, the healing is going to spring forth in her life. Forgiveness is hard.

And this is where I come back to that whole thing about it’s not natural. It’s natural for me to want to be free. It is not natural for me to forgive the people that contributed to my lack of freedom, my pain, and my bondage.

I met a woman yesterday—her name is Crystal. She walked into my hotel room to help me get ready for the event, and joy exploded all over the place. She’s from Victoria. To me, she sounded like Mary Poppins, (laughter) with a very, very happy, joy. Flowers like scepters laid on my counter, and joy and joy.

As she began helping me, she started telling me more of her story. I was shocked to discover how deeply painful it was. How could such joy come from a woman who’s experienced so much pain?

She told me that twelve years into her marriage, she was driving to Johannesburg, and she was shot by strangers. She, of course, recovered. Her husband was shot, and she used these words, “They shot him dead.” She lost her husband after twelve years. Her two little boys, six and eight years old, were also shot. One of them has a lifelong condition as a result.

And so as I listened to this tragedy, I said, “How do you have so much joy?”

And she said things like, “I had twelve beautiful years of marriage.” And she just went on to explain how wonderful her husband was, how wonderful her marriage was, what a gift those twelve years were.

And then she went on to say, “I have so much empathy for people who are in pain.”

And then, with the sweetest voice, as if she was just telling me, “There’s the sun shining today,” she said, “That’s the beauty of it, isn’t it?”

I said one more time, “I need to understand something: How can you be so joyful?”

She said, “I forgave them. I forgave them. The joy came out of my choice to forgive them. That’s the beauty of it.”

I wonder if today we could find the beauty of forgiveness? I kind of think if she did, well, my battles aren’t nearly as hard as the ones she’s faced. My pain hasn’t been nearly as deep. My loss is not so great. And if she can walk in the beauty of forgiveness and feel joy and obey God in that task, so can you and I.

You know what the secret is? She said, “I couldn’t do it, so I asked Jesus to do it through me.”

You see, forgiveness is not natural. It’s supernatural. If you do not rely on the Holy Spirit to do it through you, you’ll never be able to do it.

So how about we take some time today and ask Him for some help and find the beauty in forgiveness?

Nancy: That’s Dannah Gresh speaking at the first Revive Our Hearts conference that we held in South Africa. And, Dannah, at that point in the conference, I got up and took some additional time to walk the women through a process of: “How do you forgive? How do you deal with the hurts of your past?”

I know that some who have been listening to this message today are thinking, I want that question answered. I’m not sure how to go about experiencing this.

Dannah: Yes. “How do you do it?”

Well, if you’ve thought of someone that you needed to forgive, you probably have some work to do, and you probably don’t feel like doing that work. It probably feels like we pressed on a wound today. I promise, when God does that, it’s so that He can heal that wound.

So, Nancy, you got up and guided women step-by-step through that process. And we want to make some resources available for you to do that same thing. So at our website today we have, I think the best resource is your book Choosing Forgiveness, which is available at the Revive Our Hearts online bookstore. 

But also some past teaching as well as other things that might just help answer some of those questions of, “How do I do this? What steps do I need to take to really let forgiveness sink in and take?”

Nancy: Yes, it’s all available at You’ll find links there.

And in the first part of this message, you may recall from yesterday, Dannah asked people to stand if there is someone they need to forgive. Maybe if you’d been in that room, you would have been one of those women standing. And maybe in your heart you know right now, “There is someone I need to forgive.”

So Dannah and I want to just encourage you, don’t try and drown that conviction, that sense of the Spirit working in your heart with holiday festivities or busyness or stuff you’ve got going on. Stop. Push pause. Take time to get with the Lord, and say, “Lord, would You give me the grace (and He will) to walk through the process of extending forgiveness?”

Dannah, one of the things I’ve seen the Lord do so beautifully over and over again through this ministry is help women walk into new freedom—like a whole new life—as a result of being willing to extend grace in the forgiveness they’ve received from the Lord.

Dannah: Yes.

Nancy: So there are amazing, precious stories of the power of forgiveness and how God has used this message to set women free.

Dannah: There truly are. You know, Nancy, none of it would be possible without support from listeners like you who see that God is at work in this ministry and want to get involved to help us share the ministry, to pray, to give. We’re so grateful to you, and we want you to know that we especially need that kind of involvement here in the month of December.

The donations that arrive right now at the end of the year have a big effect on fueling the ministry for the year ahead. And that’s why some friends of the ministry have set up a matching challenge. So right now, in December, they’re doubling every gift up to a generous challenge amount.

Nancy: Yes. I’m so grateful for that. It’s the largest year-end matching challenge we’ve had in the history of this ministry. And we’re asking the Lord to help us meet that entire challenge and even beyond so we can keep helping women experience the power and the freedom of Christ in their lives through the grace of forgiveness.

And we’re asking the Lord to help us meet this entire challenge so we can keep sharing with women around the world life-giving truths like this one on forgiveness that really does set captives free.

Dannah: Your gift of any size will help meet this goal, and we sure hope you’ll get involved in some way. To support the ministry, visit, or call 1–800–569–5959.

Now tomorrow, Nancy, you’re going to help us prepare our hearts for Christmas by providing some fresh insight into a familiar passage on the birth of Jesus. 

Nancy: That’s right. It’s the most detailed account in the Bible of the birth of Jesus, found in Luke chapter 2.

Dannah: I am certainly looking forward to it. I’m sure you are, too. I hope you’ll join us tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminds you to forgive as you’ve been forgiven. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Teacher

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.