Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Daddy, Will You Forgive Me

Leslie Basham: Although her father was physically abusive, Marcia Arnel focused on her own sin rather than his. Here's Marcia.

Marcia Arnel: I said, "Dad, I need to know if you got that letter I sent you."

And He said, "Yes, Marcia, I got the letter and I need to ask your forgiveness."

And I said, "But, daddy, I need to know that you forgive me for what I've done against you."

He said, "Yes, I've forgiven you," and I said Daddy, "I've already forgiven you. And God will forgive you to if you allow Him."

Leslie Basham: It's Tuesday, February 3; and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

All last week, Marcia Arnel shared her story of childhood abuse. If you listened along with us, you were probably shocked at the cruelty of Marcia's dad. Today we'll hear what happened in their lives as they both learned about forgiveness. Here's Nancy and Marcia.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Marcia, it has been such an encouraging thing to me over these last several days to hear your story of what for many would be irreparable damage and family dysfunction and chaos.

But how the grace of God came and really rescued you out of a lifestyle of first having been sinned against growing up in a home where there was alcoholism and drug abuse and sexual abuse and broken relationships, and then where you had made some of your own wrong choices getting into immorality and denying your womanhood and were headed down a path that was so much like the home that you had grown up in.

And we can only begin to imagine where that might have led you had the grace of God not intervened in your life. But we don't have to go there because the grace of God did intervene and you came to faith in Christ as you begin to hear about the love of God and what Christ had done in offering Himself for your sins.

You repented of your sin; you confessed your faith in Christ and you began to grow spiritually. You were a new person. A lot of things changed. But as we've been saying, not everything changed immediately.

And I've heard you tell that it was a little bit like the layers of an onion coming off as God began to peal off one layer after another of these things that had built up in your life.

Now you had been sinned against greatly by many different people in your childhood and teenage years. And one of the first areas that God began to deal with you was in the matter of repairing some of the damage in those relationships and dealing with your attitudes toward those who had wronged you. And you began to deal with this issue of forgiveness. How did God first open up in your heart the need for forgiveness and who did you first begin to deal with in that process?

Marcia Arnel: For so long, there had been a part of me that wanted to bring charges against my molesters and maybe possibly get them convicted. But after I was saved, I was in a Bible study and the verse in Matthew [18:6] that talks about those that lead children to sin might as well have a millstone around their neck and be at the bottom of the sea. That verse just really rang in my ears that these men that had chosen to bring me to sin by these acts of molestation might as well as be at the bottom of the ocean with a millstone around their neck, basically going to die.

The Lord just overwhelmed me with a burden for their salvation and to forgive them for what they had done because it was sin in their own lives that caused them to commit sin against me. And I was able at that point to just forgive them for what they had done, all the hurt and pain they had brought into my life, and really to begin to pray that they would come to a saving knowledge of Christ and to realize that what they did to me, that it was sin and be able to repent of it even themselves. So I began to get burdened for their salvation.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Now you just told us that story in about 30 seconds. I'm assuming it took a little longer than 30 seconds for you to actually walk through that process of forgiving those who had sinned against you in that way.

Marcia Arnel: Yeah, definitely. When I first came across the verse, there was kind of actually an excitement or joy inside of me to know that God was going to take care of them for what they had done to me. So my wanting to press charges against them would have been very little compared to what God could do to them.

That was my first initial excitement about reading that verse. But as I pondered it and as I meditated upon it and the Lord, God, finally brought me to a point of realizing, Marcia, these men are going to die and go to hell because they led you to sin unless they realize that it was sin and repent of it even themselves.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Did you ever feel that you'd be glad if they died and went to hell?

Marcia Arnel: Definitely, before I was saved, definitely. After becoming a Christian, after getting that verse, I don't know if I wanted them to die and go to hell; but I wanted them to understand the pain they had caused me. And however God would bring that about, I wanted Him to do that initially.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Was there ever a thought in your heart that if you forgave them that that would let them off the hook and they wouldn't be responsible anymore for what they had done?

Marcia Arnel: You know, Nancy, I don't know that I ever went through that because immediately God brought to mind that He forgave me. I mean there wasn't even a thought that I shouldn't forgive them. It was more that God showed me, Marcia, you've done all this wrong to Me. I hung on a cross and died for you. It wasn't my place to hold that against them.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You know what verse comes to my mind as you're saying that is the passage in Luke chapter 7(verse 47) where Jesus is said, "He who has been forgiven much, loves much."

And God was able to give you mercy and the gift of forgiveness toward those men because you were aware of how much God had forgiven you. Having made the choice to forgive those men, was that like a divine eraser just taking the pain and the hurt and the memories out of your heart or did you find yourself still at times having to wrestle with that?

Marcia Arnel: I think about where it talks in the Bible about forgiving those seven times seventy, and basically what that meant to me was every time the thoughts even come to my mind, it's a choice of forgiveness. I hear people talk about molestation. I hear people talking about different interactions they've had with men, and I have to initially take those thoughts captive and choose again to forgive. I haven't felt anger or rage inside of me since that day but I do have to actively choose to forgive when that situation does come back to mind.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So it's an ongoing process of continuing to live out the forgiveness that God put in your heart at the initial point.

Marcia Arnel: Definitely.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Now there weren't just molesters involved here. There was also the matter of your relationship with your parents. I know your dad, as a drug addict and alcohol abuser and the person you had hoped would love and protect you, had not filled that role in your life and you had come to the point of really, as you said earlier, hating him, being angry toward him. How did God begin to work after you became a Christian in your attitude towards your dad?

Marcia Arnel: After my salvation, I realized that I didn't even really care where my father was. I had become indifferent basically about what he was doing, where he was. I hadn't talked to him for probably about five years and there was a point, when I was about to enter ministry, that I realized I couldn't even begin to minister to those around me if I couldn't minister to my own family.

And I had been burdened for my dad's salvation for about three years at this point, and just really felt the need to seek my dad's forgiveness more than just forgiving him for what he had done, but to seek his forgiveness for what I had done to our family name. I at that point wrote a letter to my father and sent it to him and asking his forgiveness for all that I had done against him.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So your father had sinned against you for all these years in all these ways. Now he had been out of your life for years and you're writing him to ask his forgiveness for your sins?

Marcia Arnel: Yes, because I realized that I had rebelled against my father. I had not submitted to his authority. As wrong as it might have been, there was no submission on my part. I couldn't possibly walk around and try to minister to others when I was holding that inside of me knowing I hadn't sought his forgiveness.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Did he get the letter?

Marcia Arnel: After about three months I just really got burdened to find my father, and began to search for him calling my aunts and uncles, anyone I could that knew where dad might be. And when I finally found my father, he had been arrested for having a crack house and he was on probation at this time.

So when I finally got a hold of him, I said, "Dad, I need to know if you got that letter I sent you."

And He said, "Yes, Marcia, I got the letter and I need to ask your forgiveness. You're not the only one that needs to be asking me for forgiveness."

But I said, "Daddy, I need to know that you forgive me for what I've done against you."

He said, "Yes, I've forgiven you," and I said, "Daddy, I've already forgiven you. And God will forgive you to if you allow Him."

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Now your dad of course was not a believer at this time, but you were burdened for his salvation so I'm assuming this one phone call wasn't the end of your pursuit.

Marcia Arnel: No, actually my dad at this time was living in Florida and the ministry I was with was Life Action Ministries which is basically a ministry that will come into a church for about 2 ½ weeks at a time and will teach revival truths and biblical truths, just bringing the church back to God. And we were going to be in Florida at that time during my traveling with them.

And I told my dad that I wanted to see him and I sent him a bus ticket to come visit and got him a hotel room and my father actually came to visit us on the road. During his visit, he met with one of the men on staff with Life Action and through their counseling times together, my father prayed to receive Christ as his personal Lord and Savior.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Wow, wow. Did he tell you about this?

Marcia Arnel: Yes, he did. He told me that he had decided to make a change in his life and turn his life over to Christ.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: How did God give you the grace to pursue to that extent the man who had wronged you so deeply?

Marcia Arnel: I just had a burden to be all I could for God, and part of being all I can for God is to have a healthy relationship with my own family. In the order of things, God is my ultimate authority and then my father would be next. And if I didn't have a right relationship with him, I didn't think that God could use me to the full potential even in the ministry I was serving in. I just really was burdened for his life.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: And only God's grace could put that burden in your heart and then give you the grace to say, "Dad, I want you to come and be a part of my life. I want you to be a part of having a relationship with the Lord."

And I want to say to everyone of our listeners that the same grace of God that enabled Marcia to connect to her dad, to engage him, to forgive those molesters, that same grace of God is available to you, no matter what the past, no matter what has been done to you, no matter how you have sinned against others.

There is freedom through forgiveness, extending forgiveness to those who have wronged you and where necessary seeking forgiveness for ways that you have wronged others. It may seem impossible. It may seem preposterous but I'll tell you, when the grace of God comes and fills your heart, God will give you the ability, the desire, the power to deal with those issues through the grace of forgiveness.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has written a booklet called Freedom Through Forgiveness. If you've been listening to Marcia Arnel and thinking, I'm not sure I can forgive like that, we hope that you'll call and get a copy.

The booklet will take you through scriptures on sin and forgiveness. It will help you evaluate whether there's unforgiveness in your own heart and it will help you take steps of choosing to forgive. To get a copy, you can call us at 1-800-569-5959.  You can also visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

While you're there, you can get information on Nancy's hour long video called Forgiven, Forgiving and Free. If you know someone struggling with unforgiveness, why don't you invite them to watch it with you and discuss it afterward? Again the address is ReviveOurHearts.com.

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Over the last week and a half, we've heard how Marcia Arnel lived a life of promiscuity, drug and alcohol abuse. Can someone like that be transformed overnight? Tomorrow, we'll hear about God's process of change in her life. Please be here for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a ministry partnership of Life Action Ministry.

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