Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Restoring the Years

Leslie Basham: What does true forgiveness feel like after someone has carried hurt for decades? Here’s what a woman named Kathy experienced.

Kathy: It was liberating. It was joyful. It was painful too, because it’s like letting go of something that’s been a part of you so long that it almost hurts to get it out. But once it’s out, it feels so good.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Surrender, for Monday, April 15, 2019.

In April here on Revive Our Hearts, we’re addressing some of the really tough issues of life. Last week, you heard Nancy teach a series called "Dealing with Depression and Doubt." Well, if anyone would have a reason to be depressed, it would be today’s guest. We’ll find out how God healed her from incredible hurt.

A panel of friends will join the conversation in a few minutes: Kathy Helvey, Kim Wagner, Holly Elliff, and Maria Johnson. Since this recording, our friend, Kathy Helvey has gone home to be with the Lord. We'll hear them talking with a Revive Our Hearts listener who’s also named Kathy. Here’s Nancy to get us started.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Kathy, we were on a break a little bit ago in our recording session today, and you and I got into a conversation. You were remembering the first time that you came to a Revive Our Hearts session. You sat through a day long teaching on forgiveness. What were some of the things you remember hearing, or what was going through your heart as you were listening?

Kathy: I think the thing that I was focusing on the most was a very hurtful thing that had happened to me in high school that I had never forgiven. I thought I had many times, but deep in my soul they had been buried. God spoke to me and said, “No, you really have not. You have carried this so many years and not told anyone. It has been buried so long that you forgot it for a while, but I’ve brought it back into living freedom, which forgiveness brings. You have to forgive. And the response of the other person is not your responsibility.”

Nancy: I remember at the end of that day you stood at a microphone—we were meeting at the Summit Church. We had a small group of women in the room, and you shared very openly and honestly about some of the circumstances that had happened while you were in high school and what it was that God had brought back to your mind.

Do you feel the freedom to share with us here today what it was that God was putting on your heart there?

Kathy: I do. I was going over and over in my mind an assault I had had in high school when I was sixteen. One of the things that had make it so painful was it was done by boys who I thought were friends, and there was more than one boy. All of the years that I had buried this, I told no one.

I thought, Well, it will go away. It will go away. I did bury it deep. For a long time, in a matter of fact, it did go away, but I would have flashes back. I kept remembering how I hated, how I hated them. I said in my testimony that if I could have gotten away with murder, I would have committed murder. I’m convinced in my heart.

Now whether I would have done that when I got the opportunity, which of course I never did, I don’t know. But in my heart I did commit murder. I felt that against them in my heart. It hurt very hard to go back to school and to think that I am never telling anybody, but they probably told everybody.

So my last year in high school was pretty miserable because of that, because of that time. Because I felt like when people were looking at me that’s what they were seeing, not me. When I said I was outrageous, I guess that was one reason I was a clown. I was all those things to distract from that. I can see all that now. I couldn’t see it at that time.

Nancy: And so now, decades later, the Lord was bringing this back to your mind. Do I remember correctly that one or more of those men are no longer even alive? Is that correct?

Kathy: Two of them are not. There were three.

Nancy: Some would say, “Look, it’s past. Just bury it.” But for some reason God wasn’t letting you just bury it.

Kathy: No, He wasn’t because I had—through a series of very hard times in my life, illnesses that I wasn’t supposed to live from, surgeries I wasn’t supposed to live from—I got extremely close to the Lord. In my heart I really knew for sure that God just wanted to clear everything out. He wanted everything to be right so I could serve Him the way I needed to, and He wanted me to serve Him.

I knew that as long as I had that in my heart . . . I realized more that day when you talked about forgiveness that I never had forgiven. It had been coming up, however, lately. I look back over that now Nancy, and I know the Spirit was preparing me for that day.

Nancy (from previous radio series): When we become debt collectors, ultimately that pathway leads to resentment and bitterness. It’s the pathway of retaliation . . .

Nancy: There had been some things coming up with your husband.

Kathy: Yes. I had never told my husband, but I finally got nerve enough to tell him. The interesting thing was he had already figured it out. You know, our husbands know us so many times better than we think they do. In programs, if something came on TV that had anything to do with assault or if I read anything, by my reaction he figured it out that something had happened.

But he was so wonderful and did not intrude on me or God’s plan really of how this was all to come to fruition, that I was supposed to deal with this. He would let it go and just give me encouragement in a roundabout way about things and the things that happened. We discussed it in the terms of another woman, not me, kind of thing.

But that was an amazing thing that when I did tell him, he had already figured it out.

Nancy (from previous radio series): We’re going to see that when we become debt collectors we actually end up putting ourselves in prison.

Nancy: If someone had asked you a week or a year earlier, “Are you a bitter person?" or "Is there unforgiveness in your heart?” How do you think you would have responded?

Kathy: I probably would have said no because I thought I had forgiven. I think one of the reasons I thought I had forgiven was that two of the men had died and there was nothing . . . That was kind of a question then, “Do I need to forgive? They’re gone.”

I will have to say that by that time the murderous feelings had left because God had worked in my heart enough that I knew that was wrong. But when I talked about that time, I had to confess that at that time I had felt like murdering, that I could have murdered those people.

Nancy: How did you realize that you still did need to forgive, that there was more forgiveness needed?

Kathy: I had been on a spiritual retreat, and God did a work in my heart on that. I talked to Him a long time at an altar. We just had a long conversation about this. Then I began to feel like, “Well, maybe I haven’t totally forgiven.”

We sometimes think we can make this okay within ourselves. But I think and I know now that for me, and this is for me personally, I had to publicly do that.

Kathy (from previous radio series): I have really striven to be faithful to God and to try to do His work. But I know that until I release all of those things, no matter how far past, that I won’t be free. And I say in front of you today, “I forgive those boys who are men now, older than me. I forgive them, and I pray for them.”

Kathy: It was liberating. It was joyful. It was painful, too, because it’s like letting go of something that’s been a part of you so long that it almost hurts to get it out. But once it’s out, it feels so good. It’s a part of you that is there that in some way justifies, I guess, the way you feel.

But once it comes out, then you feel clean, and you feel whole. And you feel like, “That was something I didn’t want there after all.” It was like a crutch, and I got rid of that.

It was glorious. I went home, and I shared with husband. It was just such a wonderful time for both of us.

Kathy Helvey: Just knowing how much God loves you and knowing that He’s sovereign over everything that happens to us—like in Job. Knowing that and then looking back at what you went through, when did you finally reconcile—or how did you do it—that a loving God would allow that to happen to you?

Kathy: Well, I studied Scripture a lot for one thing. Over and over we’re told that things won’t be easy and things will be hard. I finally realized through other circumstances in my life to use the really hard things in my life to draw me closer to God. It had nothing to do with God not loving me. It had to do with sin. It’s the world we live in, the fallen world we live in and the depravity of man.

I thank Jesus for this to this day. This is something that has been a watermark in my life and to even help other people. I realize God didn't do it to punish me; it was the depravity of man.

My sin was harboring it and letting it grow, and getting all that gunk around it. That's so unclean as far as our holiness. I think the greatest thing is the freedom. I have the Scripture written down with the date by it that you gave me that day. I read it and study it really often. It has helped me in other recent months and in feelings that I’ve had.

Nancy: Can you give an example of that?

Kathy: It may be even something my husband did that I didn’t like. I’d carry it around for three or four days. I would say, “I don’t deserve that,” or something. Maybe no one else does that.

Nancy: I’m sure not. (laughter)

Kathy: But I’m trying to be absolutely honest here, because I would have those feelings sometimes. Since that day—that landmark day in my life—forgiveness has been easier to come by. I don’t know if there’ll ever be a time, I don’t suppose that there’ll ever be a time in my life on this earth that I won’t have to forgive somebody for something. I never want to hold it and harbor and smother and feel justified by it again, because that is living in bondage.

Holly Elliff: I notice you have your Bible open to that Scripture that you said God gave you that day. Can you read it to us?

Kathy: I did. Nancy actually gave it to me. I loved it, and I read it often. I underlined it, and I have the date of that day written on it. It’s in Isaiah, which is one of my favorite, favorite books anyway. It’s Isaiah 61. The last part of verse 2 says, “To comfort all who mourn . . .”

Nancy (from previous radio series): “To all those who mourn in Zion [this is the ministry of Jesus with the Holy Spirit in our lives], to give them [this is great] beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3). Think how the enemy thought he had Kathy at age sixteen, and in some ways has kept her. So you’re just a bunch of ashes. But look what God’s doing. He’s making beauty.

“To give the oil of joy for mourning.” Kathy, I think you’ve never experienced joy to the extent that you will in the days ahead. I’m not saying there’s not been any; I’m sure there has been, but probably not like there will be.

“The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” It’s like going to the mall and getting a whole new wardrobe, and one that He makes, one that we could never afford. I love it. A garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

And look at this—the end of verse 3. This is incredible, not only that He would redeem us, give us liberty, heal our broken hearts, comfort us, give us beauty for ashes, give us joy, give us praise. I mean, that’s already incredible enough. But then that He would want to use us. “That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified.”

Kathy, you’re a tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, a virtuous, clean, forgiven woman. And God has incredible plans for your life. I’m not saying none of those have been fulfilled to this point, but I bet there are a lot that you haven’t even seen yet. And what’s the goal for Kathy? That He may be glorified.

Kathy: Perfect Scripture for me. Nancy knew; the Spirit told her, I suppose, what I needed to do. Because out of that I have been able to help other people. And if I have one regret about all of this, it’s that I waited so long.

Kathy Helvey: I think of that Scripture that says, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18). Your testimony is just a glowing example. Sometimes I think when we give thanks, it’s an offering. It’s easy to give thanks; we love God so much. Look what He did for me.

Other times, like with you I’m sure, it was a sacrifice of thanksgiving to work through the pain of that. But you’re still thanking Him in it all and through it all. He’s not finished with it yet. It’s a great testimony.

Kathy: Thank you. I feel that way, too. I have been able to work with young women a lot, and it’s been amazing. It’s so easy now for me to share. It’s still hard; it still hurts in some ways, but now I don’t hold back. It’s amazing to see their mouths drop open. That happened to you? Back when I was sixteen they didn’t think things like that ever happened. And of course we know that’s not true. It’s really quite amazing the different responses that I get from different young women that I work with that had that happen.

Then, of course, I tell them the whole story of how I did forgive and who helped me forgive. But I approach it with young women, it’s in anything you need to forgive, not just something like that.

I’m in a relationship with a young woman right now who she felt like her father betrayed her, not that he abused her or anything. We had a real discussion. “You have to forgive him that. He probably does not realize to the extent that you think it happened.” We had a good discussion.

So I approach it from that incident in my life to use for anything that you need to forgive someone for—your husband, your child, whoever that you need to forgive. There are all kinds of things that we need to grant forgiveness for, not just my circumstances. So I’ve used it as that approach for forgiveness.

I’ve even used it on mission trips that I’ve been on to women who’ve talked to me about things their husbands have done. I tell them that there will be no reconciliation and no peace until you forgive.

Every time there is a blessing. That's the wonderful thing about God, He doesn't stop blessing you. Over and over you feel the blessing from Him through your sharing with other people. It makes you more willing to open up.

I'm going on a mission trip this summer. I've been there before. It is an overseas mission trip. I give a talk. If it falls in with the topic, I will share with these women. I know most of these women at this mission camp. If it works with the topic we are going to be studying, I will use this in my talk with them.

Holly: You know, I can remember Kathy, that day real vividly. I’m sure Kim does too. The thing that was so precious to me about that day was that after you shared that testimony, I just remember you being flooded by a whole crew of women who came and just encircled you and threw their arms around you and lifted you up before the Lord.

It really was God releasing you, not only from your past, but I think preparing you for your future of what He was going to do through that testimony as you released it. He was going to give you a ministry to other women, and you’ve been faithful to do that. It’s just so cool to hear this after the fact now to see how God has carried that out in your life as a result of your obedience. That’s so neat.

Nancy: That is so consistent with the ways of God. What was a horrific, horrendous, heinous crime, something that was ugly, God in His incredible redemptive mercy was able to turn to something of beauty in your life—not the offense itself. Your life could have been, and in many people’s lives would have been just scarred forever. So many people go with those offenses from the past and let it mark them as their identity, who they are; they’re worthless.

Then they become bitter, angry, resentful people. They take those things into marriage and their whole life becomes marked as the horrendous thing. But God is saying, “I want to make your life something of beauty. I want to make you an oak of righteousness.” Only God can take our lives with those past—sometimes it’s our sins; sometimes it’s sins that were committed against us by others, as was true in your case; sometimes we are responsible; sometimes we have no responsibility at all. Regardless, God and only God can take that past and us and deliver us out of that past and put joy and beauty and freedom and grace in our hearts, not only to set us free but to use us as instruments to set others free.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth talking with a woman named Kathy who has been set free through the power of forgiveness. She and Nancy were also joined by a panel of some friends: Holly Elliff, Kim Wagner, Maria Johnson and the late Kathy Helvey.

That interview is part of a series called “Dealing with Depression and Doubt.” It includes Nancy’s teaching on the subject and today’s real-life example. To listen to the entire series. just visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Discouragement and despair are sometimes the result of long and difficult trials. But the Bible gives us direction for how to deal with suffering. One often-neglected way of handling grief is through lament. Pastor Mark Vroegop writes about Biblical lament in his book, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament. It’s a resource Nancy recommends for anyone walking through a season of depression or suffering.

We’ll send you a copy of Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy for your gift of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. To find out how to make a donation and to request Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, go to ReviveOurHearts.com. Or you can call us with your gift at 1–800–569–5959. 

Tomorrow we’ll hear more about this author’s personal journey with lament. Pastor Mark Vroegop will be talking with Nancy about why it matters how we handle our griefs. I hope you’ll be back tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is helping you find freedom in Christ. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries .

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